By Janet Goetze
For the Hollywood Star News
Resilient is the word for the Irvington Bridge Club, which formed in 1905 as a ladies’ auxiliary to the then-newly organized Irvington Tennis Club.
It held teas and luncheons and raised funds to promote youth activities at the tennis club. Besides cards, the club program might include folk dancing and book reviews. Membership was restricted to 100, and a waiting list formed.
After nearly 109 years, the club has undergone many changes in name, meeting place, program and membership, which now includes men, said president Lois Bergstrom. The group no longer limits membership. In fact, Bergstrom said, the card players would welcome new faces for the games scheduled from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month at the Salvation Army’s Rose Center, 211 N.E. 18th Ave.
Only 17 dues-paying members are part of the Irvington Bridge Club these days, Bergstrom said, and all are over 80 years old.
Like a lot of things that were popular in the United States between 1930 and 1960, bridge seems to have gone out of style among young people. But, several of the club members asserted, “It’s the best game in the world.” Many of them play two or three times a week in friends’ homes or other venues. Ken Johnk, who plays frequently at the Hollywood Senior Center, has taken lessons and read books on bridge.
Nevertheless, with a twinkle in his eye, he said, “I don’t play by the rules. I play by the seat of my pants.”
Ruth Fox, sitting next to Johnk, said, “You have to take lessons. I don’t know how you could play without them.”
“It’s a challenging game,” said Bud Brocksen, who estimated he and his wife, Alice, have been playing at least 55 years.
Jeanne McKichan said, “I learned to play bridge in high school in Klamath Falls. A friend’s mother sat us down to teach us, and was she picky!”
Fred Meyer’s offered lessons in the 1950s, Alice Brocksen said. The Irvington group offered lessons, too, when it had more members. Now the Eastside Bridge Club, 8383 N.E. Sandy Blvd., offers lessons at varying skill levels.
However, club members can’t provide simple explanations about some of the game’s terms, such as a contract or a trick or even how the game is scored. That, apparently, is why players take lessons and study books. The game, the players concede, can be complicated at first.
Nevertheless, they say, it’s satisfying on many levels. For McKichan, the socialization is as important as the game itself. For Bergstrom, the absorption in the game has recently helped her through a rough time.
“I had a death of a loved one,” she said. By playing bridge, she had to concentrate on the game, “staying in the moment,” she said. “Later, I could say, ‘Gosh, I had a good time today’, “ Bergstrom said.
The current Irvington group is informal, compared to past years when bridge included a lovely luncheon on white table cloths. Between 1956 and 1990, it raised money for the Portland Police Bureau’s Sunshine Division, assisting low-income families.
After the tennis club remodeled in 1978, the meeting room had heating problems. The club moved to the Portland Bridge Center with a new name, Women of Irvington Bridge Club. The center’s building was sold in 1985, and the card players moved to the Masonic building at Northeast Alameda and Sandy Boulevard. Later, they went to Grace Memorial Episcopal Church.
In 2000, the renamed Irvington Bridge Club moved back to the tennis club where men joined the women. Nearly two years ago, new heating problems drove the group to the Rose Center.
McKichan, who has played bridge for nearly 70 years, joins a game with friends several times a week.
“It keeps me out of the pool halls,” she said.
Irvington Bridge Club
When: Meets 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month.
Where: Salvation Army’s Rose Center, 211 N.E. 18th Ave.
Dues: $20 per year, with $15 going for a Salvation Army membership and use of the room.
Contact: President Lois Bergstrom (503) 236-3569.