For York club, playing bridge helps form friendships, sharpen memory
When the White Rose Bridge Club dives into the card game, the result is a blend of competition, brain power and social fun.
On Tuesday, the concentration of more than 20 players — serious glares, glasses on their noses — was so intense at times that the room fell silent.
During one break, Spring Garden Township resident Edie Small said she's played the game for about 50 years.
Her doctor says patients who play the game are aging better than those who don't, she said.
"You've really got to remember the cards," Small said.
"And by doing that in your head, your mind is staying healthier," added Dorothy Newcomer, also of Spring Garden Township.
History: The club's history dates back to the 1960s, when players would know the game as they graduated from college, said club manager Nina Nicolaisen.
"So the ones who began it are gone," she said.
Young people would play it mostly in the evenings, but now day games are the norm, said Nicolaisen, 79, of Spring Garden Township.
The club's building is in the township, on Lancaster Avenue near Penn State York.
The mostly female club is affiliated with the American Contract Bridge League, which keeps track of how well players do in a database, she said.
Memory game: Bridge is played among four people — North, South, East and West — in two competing teams, and the club rotates anywhere from three to 12 tables of four, Nicolaisen said. A typical game takes about three and a half hours, she said.
The thick book of rules is "like a lawyer wrote it," but it's an important skill to remember the cards that are played, Nicolaisen said.
"It is a game of memory. It is a game of deduction," she said. "There's nothing lucky about it — you're competing."
Although "bridge is dying" as clubs lose valuable members, York's players love the game, bring in food and make a social event of it, Nicolaisen said.
"It's my social life," she said. "These are my friends now."
Social game: On Tuesday, Mickey Zuckerman celebrated her 98th birthday at the game. She was the oldest player in the room, although the club has its share of players in their 80s and 90s, Nicolaisen said. The youngest player at Tuesday's game was 64, she said.
Holding her cards with freshly manicured hands, Zuckerman said she's a longtime card player but relatively new to bridge — she started about 25 years ago.
"My friends here are my favorite part," she said. "I like my friends as much as I like bridge."
Ann Collie, 87, of Stewartstown has been playing bridge since she was a kid. She said Zuckerman is an inspiration and wants "to go on like she's going on."
"I look to her as a mentor," she said.
— Reach Mollie Durkin at firstname.lastname@example.org.