Judy Kay-Wolff

TRASH OR TREASURES?

As I continue to pillage through the stacks of mile high boxes in my storeroom, every now and then I spot aged ones worth saving.   They are usually labeled Norman Kay, et al.   When Norman and I first started going together, he escorted me to his parents’ house in Merchantville, New Jersey where his mother proudly took my hand and led me to an upstairs attic that was replete with dozens of black, horribly tarnished trophies of all sizes and shapes plus boxes of printed clippings celebrating all of Norman’s great bridge accomplishments.   That was some 48 years ago — and nary a clipping, though quite yellow with age, has been discarded.  Being an enthusiastic relative beginner, I was starry eyed until I realized the work that lay ahead for yours truly.   It eventually required a couple cases of Wrights’s silver polish to get the trophies in presentable shape – at least enough to read the inscriptions.

In 1963 we got married and moved to a moderate sized apartment in a lovely Philadelphia Center City High Rise.  I safely stowed Norman’s keepsakes in our three basement storage units until we moved into a suburban ranch structure with decent sized rooms.   It was there I found time to eventually polish the glorious Reisingers, Spingolds, Vanderbilts, et al. and spent months sorting through the clippings beginning in the late forties, compiling numerous scrapbooks.  Eventually I arranged to have a magnificent showcase designed for the trophies and serve also as bookshelves for the countless albums.  The trophy room at our home here in Vegas is now shared by evidence of Norman’s and Bobby’s abounding bridge successes and I am sure their joint array lays claim close to a world record number of some of the more prestigious ones.   I never did finish the clippings as they were sooooo voluminous and I did have other responsibilities and interests.  And, lest we forget, I had joined the neighborhood group of addicts trying to amass those fascinating fractional points – in daily dribs and drabs. 

With this convoluted background of medals and clippings in mind, yesterday, not shockingly,  I came upon box after box of these tributes to Norman with hundreds of clippings, ACBL front page Bulletin photos,  personal letters from close friends and unknown fans, postcards, tearful notes expressing condolences on Norman’s passing and so on.  They sit there patiently, once rediscovered, so I can savor them  in leisure when time allows to enjoy re-reading them.   But make no mistake – they are known in today’s world as “keepers.”

Somewhere in the middle of the debris were two files — one marked Judy Kay —  but the other – a much more enjoyable one — labeled Robin Kay.  It really brought a smile to my lips.

Our daughter Robin had chosen UVA from where she graduated in the mid Eighties.   One night she drove home for mid-break and happened upon my bridge-teaching partner, Joan Weinrott, sorting through papers strewn all over our kitchen table — preparing for our next lesson at the local Country Clubs where we taught.    The subject was “Unusual NT.”  With that, Robin chirped in, “Oh, Mom, I learned how to play bridge.   Do you think we can drag Daddy out of his TV room and play with Aunt Joan for an hour.   I’d really love it.”   Norman always found it hard to refuse Robin and before you knew it, the four of us were dealing out the cards.   That night in the privacy of our bedroom, Norman remarked, “Robin is very bright — but it’s amazing how these kids really believe that what they are playing is ‘BRIDGE.”

After graduation, Robin got a job in New York and Edgar offered her temporary ‘free’ lodging in his lovely brownstone’s fourth floor bedroom (where she camped out for four years as the price was right)!  She spent her time socializing, working on the AMEX and both playing and teaching bridge (besides feeding Edgar’s cat when he was out of town).   Luckily for her, she had fallen heir to some of her daddy’s bridge genes, and it became apparent she had a lot of natural ability and was in much demand.   As I reported in an earlier blog, at Norman’s Hall of Fame Induction (coincidentally and fortunately held in our home town of Philadelphia in 1996 attended by local friends and family), he related a darling story.  Said Norman proudly, “Robin was very active in the Greater New York Bridge Association (GNYBA) and had been working 24/7 — far too much for a young gal.”   One day Robin telephoned Norman and said, “Dad, I have good news and bad news.   Which would you like to hear first?”    Being a born optimist, Norman replied, “The Good News.”  “Great,” she retorted.   “I am no longer President of the GNYBA Unit!(Incidentally, at the age of 29,  she was the youngest in its history).   Norman, concerned she was burning the candle at both ends was so relieved, then indiscreetly asked, ” What is the Bad News?” never suspecting her reply ……… “I am now President of the District.”

…….. which all brings me to the reason for the blog (and please forgive me as I despise bragging parents):   I came across the file referred to above which bore Robin’s name.   Several were clippings from the columns of our late, dear friend, Alan Truscott.   Since Robin has forsaken bridge (a confirmed ex-bridge player) and turned her interests toward poker, it was amusing and thrilling (though frustrating) to see some of Alan’s captions from The New York Times, the long standing Number One Recognized Bridge Column in the World!

October 17, 1993 (“Robin Kay and teammates reach the final of the Von Zedtwitz Team Championship”)

March 31, 1994 (“Like father, like daughter, Robin Kay displays family skill as a declarer”)

July 24, 1995 (“Four teams headed into the semifinals of the Von Zedtwitz Double Team Competition”)

August 21, 1995 (“Von Zedtwitz double knockout Championship narrows to a three-team final”)

January 6, 1996 (“Robin Kay, daughter of a famous father, takes two titles in a Manhattan Regional”)

As a confirmed non-poker player, I cannot help but display disappointment that someone with such inherent sensational genes would forsake bridge for poker.   Allow me to take poetic license (and subject matter) from the Bard of Avon by crying out   …. “Alas, poor Robin, she is no more.”  How sad to lay aside such enormous natural ability and potential big time success that most people would kill for!   But – what’s a mother to do?

(P.S.   Fear not!   Robin [though now residing in California, a hot bed of poker] is alive, perky and happy and is actually visiting Bobby and me this week here in Vegas as I write)!


12 Comments

Jane SegalSeptember 9th, 2010 at 7:09 am

Dear Robin:

You may not remember this, but I know you since 1972 (as a cute little active toddler in Penn Valley) at the time your mother asked me to be an official worker at The Omar Sharif Circus which was coming to town that year. I watched you grow up, graduate elementary, junior and senior high and eventually UVA — all the while forming a partnership with your mother in her spare time.

In fact, mother and I still laugh about the shock of winning the Women’s Pair in Portland in the early eighties (and not being prepared for the hot climate change) — so were ‘forced’ to go to I. Magnin a block away’ to buy something cooler to wear for each session. Expensive, but fun. The memories that blog brought back were very amusing.

As you know, though Bobby and Mom bypassed the last six Nationals, we agreed to play in The Women’s in Philadelphia this October when the WBF comes to town and I am looking forward to seeing them after two years.

With all this background having been told, I just wanted you to know what a charge I got from mother’s blog but also about your administrative gigs in your unit and district, the exciting Truscott columns she saved — and how proud your dad was of you in every way.

Love,

Aunt Jane

RobinSeptember 9th, 2010 at 9:46 am

Dear Aunt Jane:

Thanks for the kind plaudits. I remember you so well over the years and all you did for Philadelphia Bridge, serving in so many capacities. Mostly however, I recall all the fun and success you had working on the two amateur bridge shows my mom wrote (The Keystone Follies and the Colonial Capers) and the key roles in which you played — plus quite a few triumphs in the old days with mother, Joan Weinrott, Helen Smith and Barbara Brier. Believe me, you afforded my dad a lot of pride and pleasure as well!

Love,

Robin

Larry CohenSeptember 9th, 2010 at 12:04 pm

One of my Kay-family memories concerned a party for Judy. It was common in the Kay family to write witty lyrics to the tune of famous songs. For this event, Robin and I (who were going out at the time) collaborated on lyrics to the tune of the Caisson Song. You know (Over Hill, Over Dale, As We Hit the Dusty Trail…And those caissons go rolling along).

The Kay’s ran a very successful Baseball Card Business (and other memorabilia)–running to trade shows every weekend. Where was the inventory? In the Kay home on Righters Mill Road. So, we wrote:

Cartons Here, Boxes There,

Can’t Sit Down there ain’t No Chair,

at the Warehouse on Righters Mill Road.

Great Artwork, Where You Sit,

8 by 10’s of Rose and Schmidt,

At the Warehouse on Righters Mill Road.

Thankfully for Judy, I don’t remember the rest–but knowing her, she will dig those lyrics out of one of those boxes in the attic!

Judy Kay-WolffSeptember 9th, 2010 at 12:56 pm

To Larry Cohen, one of my most beloved friends in the bridge world:

Yes, Yes! I do remember you and Robin working on the lyrics for that party — and I confess, I could NEVER have come up with anything nearly as good (or accurate).

However, there’s more to the story that now (IN RETROSPECT) I can laugh about. Since Norman was big in the stock market (as opposed to furnishing and decorating a 50 foot long living room/dining room), we used a spare bedroom as an office and the fifty-footer as our storage and shipping room (with four in help).

We lived in a fashionable area on the Main Line and had a huge circular driveway (which was picture perfect for UPS trucks to drive into and reverse with their back doors facing our front door). It was a set up made in heaven.

However, at one point our neighbors must have complained about the frequent daily deliveries and pickups. Quite by surprise, one day the township police tapped on our door and I went outside to speak with them.

Their message was friendly and brief: “It is against the law to run a business in this residential neighborhood and we are not asking you to respond — but IF YOU ARE, you have one week to cease and desist, or the Zoning Board will have to take action against you.”

Three days later our company signed a corporate lease with a major warehouse fifteen minutes away. Not as convenient — but going before committees is not my favorite pastime.

SO MUCH … FOR THE WAREHOUSE ON RIGHTERS MILL ROAD.

Hadn’t thought about it in years. Funny now but not so at the time our lovely police force came-a-calling!

Thanks, Larry. I needed a good laugh.

evelyn rosenSeptember 10th, 2010 at 6:55 am

How well I remember Robin…she did wait tables with my son,Morrie. How about when while attending UVA, she went on a date with a young man who Robin had told she played bridge…when he came to pick her up, he noticed a book on bridge written by the one and only Norman Kay, Rather taken back he asked, “Are you related to THAT Kay?”

Judy Kay-WolffSeptember 10th, 2010 at 9:15 am

Hi Ev:

I recall that famous scene where those nice guys were going to help Robin’s game (and no doubt she needed it in those days). Robin never talked about her famous daddy but I remember the young lad added (after realizing he was right), ” Excuse me while I remove my foot from my mouth.” We laugh about it to this day. Thanks for the memories.

Robin KaySeptember 11th, 2010 at 4:14 pm

Ev:

That incident happened close to thirty years ago — and everyone seems to have their own version of it

If my memory serves me right (and I can’t swear to it), it wasn’t exactly a “date.” Back in those days, it was called a “bridge get-together” — as descriptive a name as any. I was invited to play and upon the host’s coffee table was my father’s book on Duplicate. One of the fellas at the bridge gathering picked up the book, handed it to me and stated emphatically “this book was written by a very famous bridge player with the same last name as yours — Kay,” continuing — “You should really read it.” ….. to which I embarrassedly responded, “I AM familiar with him. I have read it. Norman Kay is my dad.

When the incident first happened I recounted the story to my parents, never mentioning the name of the boy, as they would not have recognized him and just passed it off as rather amusing.

However, in retrospect, it is funnier now as he was just not some young man at a college party that they had never met. Little did I know, he would gain such bridge notoriety himself. That young man was at the party visiting his younger brother, David, who went to school at UVA with me. But — here’s the kicker: The fellow who had recommended my dad’s book to me was none other than one of the 2011 US Representative to the World Bridge Championships, in Holland — now quite a talented player in his own right — Brian Platnick.

Good luck to Brian, JD (that’s the name that stuck with John Diamond) and the rest of our terrific team.

Robb GordonSeptember 12th, 2010 at 8:06 pm

So, is our old teammate coming back to the party? We miss you Robin!

RobinSeptember 14th, 2010 at 8:19 am

Hi Robb:

Is there an opening for a caddie? That is about the only position I think I would be suited for these days since the game has changed so much after I left. Just listening to Mom and Bobby talk bridge, I realize just how many innovations have been added to the bidding in the ten years I’ve been away.

Sadly, playing bridge is not like riding a bike, so I think I’ll just continue to enjoy the view from the kibitzer’s chair.

While bridge playing may be out of my routine these days, my old friends, partners and teammates still remain in my thoughts! Keep giving me something good to read about! I love following everyone’s triumphs and exciting hands.

Carl AngryOctober 3rd, 2010 at 6:19 pm

It really is a very significant subject and dismissed by lots of writers, even experts. I thank you for your help getting people more aware about that topic.

Team RosterOctober 29th, 2010 at 9:43 pm

Maybe you should change the blog name title Judy Kay-Wolff » Blog Archive » TRASH OR TREASURES? to something more suited for your content you create. I loved the post still.

AnonymousJuly 12th, 2013 at 1:10 am

What a stuff of un-ambiguity and preserveness of valuable experience about unexpected
feelings.

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