Canberra Bridge Club


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Early History of the Canberra Bridge Club

The history of the CBC was summarised in the first newsletter of the A.C.T. Bridge Association published in August 1963. Below is an abridged extract. For reference, the A.C.T. Bridge Association referred to is now BFACT. Bridge was played in the Burns Club, then situated on Canberra Avenue, in a building behind the Bobby Burns statue.

When, on September 13th 1962 I was invited to head a group working to establish a Bridge Club in Canberra I could not have foreseen the progress which would be made so quickly. Bridge competitions were started almost immediately, the success of which encouraged the committee to form the A.C.T. Bridge Association. The Association has now affiliated with the Australian Bridge Federation on an equal basis with other states, and as a result, for the first time the A.C.T. will be represented at the National Championships to be held next week in Adelaide.

It now gives me great pleasure to introduce to bridge players in the A.C.T. the latest venture of your committee – The A.C.T.B.A. "Newsletter". I trust that you will find it helpful, informative, interesting, perhaps in parts amusing, and if it can stimulate the enjoyment of better bridge then it will have achieved its object.

Mrs. Lott

Bridge in the A.C.T.

Many of our bridge players are not familiar with the organisation of the A.C.T. Bridge Association. Some also wonder what relationship exists between the Association and the Burns Club.

To answer these points, one has to go back some ten years to the beginnings of organised bridge in Canberra.

In 1954, a group of enthusiasts (with Olive Lott a moving force behind them) gathered together to form a Canberra Bridge Club. It was an unforgettable meeting, held in one of the hotels. Neither the atmosphere nor the surroundings (which consisted of metal and plastic furniture somewhat sticky with spilt beer) were conducive to the pursuit of that noble pastime of bridge.

The club was formed there and then with Olive Lott, Tom Voten and Mr. Schinhoff elected to the Executive. The play began. The cards kept slipping off the plastic tables, until the simple device of moistening them with beer made them sticky. Some members waiting to cut in said "But this is surely not auction" and left in a huff for they were not prepared to lower themselves to such an extent as to play this new and revolutionary game.

What with one thing and another - little arguments, big arguments and no arguments (because they refused to speak to each other) the original membership of about forty decreased to a hard core of about a dozen regular players.

The gathering in the hotel did not last long. The beer consumption probably did not come up to the owner's expectations. The room was needed for a more mundane, if profitable, type of activity.

The club moved. This time to the hockey pavilion in Manuka. This was a convenient place to meet in more ways than one.

On the right, and in the same building, were mens public toilets. On the left – the ladies. Somewhat noisy surroundings but friendly and informal.

In the summer the girls' and mens' teams practiced hockey on floodlit field. Changing was done in the pavilion. On the girls' night this was an added attraction and male attendance at bridge considerably increased.

But, the winter came, the girls like butterflies disappeared and so did half the bridge players. For a while the club met in private homes on a roster system. Needless to say, this arrangement did not work out satisfactorily. Wives, children and space competed with bridge – and won.

And so, at last, we come to the main subject – relationship with the Burns Club.

Thanks to Olive Lott's efforts the Burns Club agreed to provide the bridge players with a room on one or two nights a week. The members of the Bridge Club joined the Burns Club and for the first time in the history of organised bridge in Canberra – the players had their permanent headquarters.

The bridge club was badly in need of fresh blood. Attendances kept falling and time and time again we had such easy numbers of players as seven, eleven and fifteen to contend with and no chance of getting an extra to complete the set.

It is not true that the Bridge Club induced the move of Defence Departments from Melbourne to Canberra for purposes of acquiring the Caplehorns, Pearsons, Dixons and others of that ilk.

They came voluntarily.

Since their arrival the number of bridge players increased enormously and, at last, it became possible to start competitive bridge in the A.C.T.

To do so, and to formalise inter-State relationships with other bridge organisations, the A.C.T. Bridge Association was formed which consists of the members of the Burns Club bridge group and other players in the A.C.T.

The relationship with the Burns Club can be simply explained. Most of the players are members of that Club and as such are entitled to the use of the facilities of the Club. It is a happy relationship which allows us to play bridge at the Burns Club in reasonable comfort. Previous experience has shown how difficult it is to find a place in Canberra where types of activities such as bridge, chess etc can be carried out in comparative peace.

[Abridged extract from the first newsletter of the A.C.T. Bridge Association, published in August 1963]

Much more about the Club's history is described in the History of Bridge in the ACT.