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Southern Traditions: The Bridge Party

Updated on August 30, 2013

I grew up in the sixties in the Deep South. At the time, very few middle-class or upper middle-class women worked outside the home. My mom was an exception. She had a burning desire to be a nurse, and after becoming an R.N., she was very devoted to her career and to her patients.

While she was at work, I stayed with my Aunt Tinkie, Mom's sister. She was wonderful, and she and my Uncle George doted on me. They had one child - a daughter - but she was eleven years my senior, so I think they just liked having a little girl around again.

Like most Southern ladies of the time, my aunt had a maid who did most of the housework, including the laundry and the ironing. The lady of the house spent her days reading recipes, sewing, cooking, shopping, re-arranging her furniture, and giving and attending parties.

One of the most popular types of themed parties was the bridge party. Every woman I knew played bridge. I think it was like a law or something, even though my mother somehow escaped the edict.

Anyway, it seems like Aunt Tinkie was always either giving or attending a bridge party when I was a kid. These were held during the day, while the men were at work. The women would take turns hosting the events in their homes. Men never attended the afternoon or morning bridge parties. Children were allowed, but they had to stay in another part of the house during the card-playing marathon.

Depending on the size of the hostess's living room, four to six card tables would be set up for the various groups of card players. Some hostesses allowed players to choose their teams, and others assigned them. After a round, the women would rotate to another table. Small prizes were awrded to the winners.

These events were not nearly as formal as the popular afternoon teas. The women wore sportswear, usually, and the tables lacked the adornments of fresh flowers and such - there had to be enough room for the cards and scorepads.

Of course, food was served. Southerners cannot get together without eating - another one of those laws, I think. Ususally, just two or three dishes were offered, like maybe finger sandwiches, chips, and cake, pie, or homemade cookies. Coffee and soft drinks were also offered.

Sometimes the women would get caught up in the latest food rage and serve rather unusual dishes. I remember when vanilla ice cream and potato chips were popular for a while. At one of Aunt Tinkie's bridge parties, she served small bowls of soft vanilla ice cream and dip-style chips - together! I thought this was really strange, but all the guests loved it! When the next parties were held at the homes of the other women, those hostesses also served the cream and chips.

As strange as it may seem, it's actually a good combination! In fact, since that early childhood experience, I love the combination of sweet and salty. Try it sometime!

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    • profile image

      anj 

      9 years ago

      that was so nice to read - thanks

    • habee profile imageAUTHOR

      Holle Abee 

      11 years ago from Georgia

      Cool, Maggie! I'll look for it!

    • profile image

      maggy 

      11 years ago

      Came across this site Googling "The Sixties" -- I'm one of those old bridge-playing ladies like your Aunt Tinkle (90 on March 14th)and have just published POD a book on sociable bridge called Bridge Table or What's Trump Anyway? Its sub-title is An Affectionate Look Back at Sociable Bridge & Ladies Lunch. Far as I know, it's the only book on the topic, even though there are millions more of us even now in our dotage than the so-called "serious" players. My book is part history, part pop culture, menus, recipes, trivia, etc. Had to include menus because that's the only paper trail we have, in old cookbooks and women's magazines. You can go to http://bridgetable.net and there can link to author site at Booklocker and THERE can click on Free Excerpts to read intro, t/c and first long chapter (Prologue) before the main story starts with invention of contract bridge in the 20s.

      Uh oh -- I see "no html" but URLs will be hyperlinked. Don't understand that altogether, because then it says comments are not for promoting other sites. If I give my bridgetable.net URL is that promoting?? I'm green and new at all this. Just think my book IS pertinent to your article and site on 60s lifestyle.

    • habee profile imageAUTHOR

      Holle Abee 

      11 years ago from Georgia

      Ha, OF - great idea. You sound like a Southerner! Thanks for reading!

    • The Old Firm profile image

      The Old Firm 

      11 years ago from Waikato/Bay Of Plenty, New Zealand

      The folk law of ladies bridge parties is that there should be five members in a school. That way one has to stay away each session and it gives the others some-one to gossip about.

      Cheers. (PS - I play contract bridge, more or less!)

    • habee profile imageAUTHOR

      Holle Abee 

      11 years ago from Georgia

      Girlfriend, you need to share some of those with us! I'd enjoy learning about the customs of Canada.

    • profile image

      Tammy Lochmann 

      11 years ago

      The comments are as funny as the story...My grandmother (in Canada) plays a game called euchre she plays I believe every Wednesday. She has done this with her pals since I was a kid...I know...my grandmother still kicks it she has out lived most of her runnin' mates and still drives short distances by herself and lives alone. Like I mentioned before I love stories of the about my adopted country and its people.

    • habee profile imageAUTHOR

      Holle Abee 

      11 years ago from Georgia

      I think Mah jong would have been as alien to our ladies as...well, as an alein would have been! lol

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 

      11 years ago

      In my part of the country the women played mah jong! Lovely hub..

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      11 years ago from London, UK

      Such a lovely experience and memories. Thank you habbe. I enjoyed this.

    • habee profile imageAUTHOR

      Holle Abee 

      11 years ago from Georgia

      Funny! I wondered if these were typical of other parts of the country. Thanks for reading!

    • lorlie6 profile image

      Laurel Rogers 

      11 years ago from Bishop, Ca

      My mama's bridge parties were quite the same...though they were held in Los Angeles. And usually at the Country Club. I'll never forget these events. I usually hung out downstairs in the Ladies Locker Room with the maids, and brushed my hair. I think I was around 4!

      Thanks for the story.

    • habee profile imageAUTHOR

      Holle Abee 

      11 years ago from Georgia

      I know the sandwiches you're talking about - diced onions, chopped ripe olives, and cream cheese on white bread. Right? Ah...memories...

    • profile image

      Vanne Way 

      11 years ago

      Oh the memories! To this day I still make the cream chesse and black olive sandwiches that mother served at bridge. I tried to learn to play bridge, but I never quite got in to the game. I am more of a spades or rummy kind of girl. But I do miss the many wonderful things that were done when life was slower and simpler.

    • habee profile imageAUTHOR

      Holle Abee 

      11 years ago from Georgia

      Hey back, handsome! How bout milk duds and popcorn? There'a a candy store in the GA mountains that makes and sells the ultimate sweet-salty treat: chocolate-covered potato chips!

    • profile image

      ralwus 

      11 years ago

      Oh yes, like popcorn with ice cream. Love it, hate bridge. Hi cutie.

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