Judy Kay-Wolff

A Welcome Change of Pace ….

While furrowing through some bridge memorabilia stashed away over fifty years, I came across a poem I don’t even recall penning, but the circumstances are self-explanatory.   I don’t profess to be Emily Dickinson or Elizabeth Barrett Browning — but considering the vintage, I thought some might find it amusing.   The background first …. and I have to confess I cannot remember for which male chauvinist it was intended — but this is what provoked my verse (written through the eyes of my male bridge partner — but obviously all in jest):

Back in the mid-fifties, there was a bridge game in Philly every Monday night in the back room of a restaurant called Maxwell Fried’s.   It was “the” game in the suburbs.  In fact, it was the site of the first time I ever played with Norman Kay in 1961 — but this story takes place four years prior when I first learned the game at Junto (a Night School specializing in many subjects – with bridge having been a very popular class taught by Bennett Disbrow).   The name Disbrow is meaningless to most of you readers — but he was known for collaborating in some bridge point count projects with Charlie Solomon whom many will remember as President of both the ACBL and WBF back in the Sixties.  

Armed with the scant knowledge gleaned from my formal six-week course, I would mosey over to the game — merely to sit and watch those who were worshipped as the experts.   (Since then I have learned a new interpretation of the word “expert” — although in 1957 — everyone appeared to fit the bill to me).   In those years, I was young, had a cute figure, and bubbling with enthusiasm for my newfound play toy called ‘bridge.’  Eventually several of the better players offered to partner me and, of course, I was flattered that they wanted to help an obviously struggling neophyte.   Most of my mentors were kind and gentle (far from haughty), but there must have been one macho man who played with me on a fairly regular basis (with none of the obvious strings attached) for which I was most grateful!   He had a great sense of humor and though his name escapes me —  the proof of the pudding is in the poem.  

Considering it was over half a century ago, you will have to forgive my attack of Half-Heimers (that means you are not quite there – but certainly on your way)!

From the tone of my poem, he turned his nose up at most FEMALE bridge players — and regardless of all the chatter about the terrific women players in Philly back then — the only true expert was someone few have heard of (Sally Young) who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2001 and incidentally was Life Master #17 and the first woman to achieve that status.

Here is the poem as seen through the eyes of my sweet (but pompous) male partner:

Advice to My Female Partners

I have seen the fumes of anger — accumulate en masse

Appearing very starkly — in the bidding and the pass

The voice is raised an octave — the warning (oh so clear)

Unless you deviate your course — the price you’ll pay is dear

Avoid the common pitfalls — hark to what I say

Forget your early training — and start anew today

I will set the contract — I will choose the spot

You will follow blindly — That is a ‘woman’s lot’

The majors and the No Trumps — off limits and taboo

But if it’s clubs or diamonds — I’ll let you play a few

Conduct yourself quite meekly — Adhere to every speech

And concentrate completely — on the bridge lore that I teach

And if I play a contract — that happens not to make

Praise at once my efforts — and “mourn a rotten break.”

If you become declarer — (unlikely though it be)

Inform both your opponents — they’re lucky it’s not me

And should you heed my warnings — I’ll guarantee for you

A partner who is talented — and very modest too!


10 Comments

JodyApril 15th, 2010 at 6:48 am

Eddie Kantar (i think) tells a funny story about George S Kaufman, (I think), Broadway producer playing, as was his wont, bridge backstage. He said to his partner, a lovely young lady, “And when did you learn to play bridge? I know it was yesterday, but what time yesterday?”

JUDY KAY-WOLFFApril 15th, 2010 at 9:26 am

Hi Jody:

Yes, that is a great line.

It is amazing how many players in all walks of life were addicted to the game (or at least played bridge when time permitted). I recall a pre-tournament exhibition up at the Host Farm in 1972 when Norman, Edgar (with Robinson and Jordan) took on in a friendly match with some great sports stars: Jim Bunning, Timmy McCarver, Richie Ashburn — and I can’t remember with certainty their fourth (but I think it was Frank Beard). However, I do recall, it was such an amusing exhibition that the locals encouraged their guests to exchange hands before the play –and it still didn’t help much — but made for a delightful couple of hours.

Bobby, upon seeing this, reminded me that the Aces had a similar match with Eddie Kantar coaching the sports personalities at the same tournament. It seems Bobby and I had crossed paths many times over the years — but were practically oblivious to the other.

I am sure most of you know that Helen Sobel (Smith), unquestionably the greatest female player of all time (who could play rings around most of her male counterparts) took up bridge to kill time between exciting performances when she danced as a Rockette at Radio City Music Hall. Bridge has laid claim to multitudes of other famed celebrities who adored the game — with all ranges of talents.

I have boxes and boxes of poems, articles, stories, notes, personal correspondence, photos, clippings, etc. involving some of the most famous personalities of our time. Oh, if I only had the time and energy to devote to putting them together and sifting them out for posterity. My ‘discoveries’ come about every time I make an effort to straighten out, discard or condense the boxes stacked high in my storage room but it appears I keep spinning my wheels as I hate to part with anything. Amazing how I have amassed this intriguing collection — much of which I only have vague memories. That is what comes from being a proverbial pack rat — reluctant to detach myself from the warm, fuzzy delights of my past. The older one gets, the higher the stack.

It’s always nice to hear from you, Jody.

Cheers,

Judy

A REALISTIC OBSERVERApril 15th, 2010 at 1:56 pm

Judy:

Your humorous poem was your style of kidding on the level — and amazing that you had the foresight to accumulate your efforts over the years. However, many a true word is spoken in jest and I truly do believe, most male players do thrive on superiority complexes over the fairer sex. Of course, it depends upon the individuals involved. But few men would (in all honesty) take a back seat to their female counterparts. It is the nature of the beast. And, though your blog was obviously another wonderful trip down your personal memory lane, I think we must all acknowledge that times have changed radically.

Bear in mind, here we are sixty years later and how can anyone deny how so many marvelous women players have emerged universally. A great many are not such easy targets in tough competitition and have both won and placed high in impressive events! The era of the proverbial LOL (except perhaps at the club level) is vanishing rapidly. Welcome to the 21st Century!

But don’t be deterred. I love hearing your tales (and poems) of yore.

JodyApril 17th, 2010 at 8:08 am

You know, Judy, you need a secretaryish type of friend, computer friendly, who will put all your collection of things on CD’s. Make a video type thing of it, organized maybe chronologically. THEN, you can write your book! It doesn’t have to be a novel type thing, maybe just essays, under different headings. I hate to think of it just deteriorating. Of course, it’s only possible because you are a writer. Hoping!

JUDY KAY-WOLFFApril 18th, 2010 at 9:20 am

To: Realistic Observer

Yes, the fairer sex in the bridge world has ascended rapidly in the last half century. Still no Helen Sobel’s in the offing — but a far, far cry from the understated talents of the potenetially good ones on the horizon at that time. In my day the assessors were called Male Chauvinist Pigs — but the terminology has been been toned down to Macho Men in our modern world. Whatever!

JUDY KAY-WOLFFApril 18th, 2010 at 9:33 am

Hi Jody:

I am flattered. However, as I have been known to plead my case before — after five non-stop years working 24/7 on The Lone Wolff, I have served my time in spades. It is fun, when I find time, to sort through my ancient writings and post one I think might be appreciated. However, as to the CDs, when I am ‘history’ I will leave that to my daughter Robin who was endowed with her dad Norman’s great card genes and sense of humor) who is a ‘retired bridge player” and spreads herself thin between her ebay business and poker (both live and on line). At this time in life, hectic though it still is for me, I just couldn’t attack a mammoth project like that. Maybe some day down the road ……. it will be accomplished — but not by me.

Michael GarnerApril 22nd, 2010 at 9:51 pm

Hello Judy,

Here’s how to organize stuff:

1. Microsoft has a program called “OneNote”. It comes with Ms Office and also available separately.

You import scanned documents into it, as a printout, and it makes a searchable index and you can find anything very easily.

2. Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500 Instant PDF Sheet-Fed Scanner for PC for about $420 from Amazon.

It scans both sides of a page automatically at an amazing speed.

It gets rave reviews and things that used to take me 20 minutes to scan now take 20 seconds.

Michael Garner

Judy Kay-WolffApril 26th, 2010 at 8:25 pm

Hi Michael:

Sorry for the tardy response. I hadn’t checked this site lately as I have been caught up with other demands on my time.

Thanks for the information and taking the time to detail its operation (but not for me — at least in this lifetime). I am not big on computers and had I not been a legal secretary and a fairly reasonable typist way back then, I wouldn’t have even accepted the challenge of this blog site.

By the way, I suspect there is more than one Michael Garner in these here parts. Any chance of your being the same one who exhibited the patience and fortitude to play bridge with me back in the sixties and seventies in Philly who had a sensational sense of humor. (To partner me in those days — you needed one)!

Judy

Michael GarnerApril 30th, 2010 at 4:59 am

Yes, we’re now living in Atlantic City 😉

Michael O' ConnorJune 30th, 2010 at 10:16 am

Hi Judy,

I would like to include this in an article I’m writing for the Irish Bridge Journal on bridge and poetry and would appreciate your permission. No royalties will accrue but a copy of the article can be supplied free of charge.

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