In May 2003, Ed Zubert, President, gave me the task of writing a history of our Unit. Since then I have spoken to some Past Presidents, written to the Club Departments of ACBL and the Canadian Bridge Federation, quizzed people, gone over old Newsletters and Bulletins, and looked into an archives file to get pertinent information. Unfortunately, there is a big gap between when duplicate bridge was started in the mid-1950s, through the 60s and part of the 1970s. Doug Cannell’s article in the 1993 newsletter contained a lot of information, and that is included here. The early newsletters printed the names of the various Executives of our Unit, plus the names of the duplicate clubs in Manitoba, but later ones did not.
Thanks are due all the people who helped me. I hope that the unintentional errors and omissions will not cause any problems for those who may be left out.
History of ACBL Unit 181
Manitoba Contract Bridge League
by Rita Loadman
The seeds for establishing our Unit were sown some 50 years ago by a dedicated group of bridge players who had been getting together for the enjoyment of the game. One of them was Joe Cohen, who had played contract bridge since the 1930s, and taught bridge at the University of Manitoba campus. Dave Richmond joined him in the endeavour to make the group part of an established organization, the American Contract Bridge League in the US. They were successful, and became part of a mid-West Unit, made up of North and South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, and Nebraska. They were designated Unit 181 in District 14. There were many special events such as Unit Games, Charity Games, Sectional and Regional Tournaments, North American Pairs, Canadian National Teams, Ladies Teams, Grand National Teams, and other drawing cards to interest players.
Around 1955, Mr. Cohen became President of Unit 181, with Dick Wilson as his Vice-President. In 1957, Mr.Cohen asked District 14 to allow Winnipeg to hold a Regional Tournament, and the request was granted. It was held at the now defunct Royal Alexandra Hotel, and proved very popular. In the 1960s, Dave Richmond was chosen as President and Mr.Cohen stepped down. He subsequently persuaded Charles Goren and Oswald Jacoby to come to Winnipeg as part of the ACBL Charitable Program. Anne Meyers assumed the position of Charity Chairman and was so successful in promoting the event, as well as raising a lot of money, that our Unit won the ACBL CharityAward.
During those years, the bridge traffic was directed to south of the border, where our local players did very well. There were also international tournaments, sponsored by the World Bridge Federation. They were known as Olympiad Pairs, because they were scheduled to be run in Olympic years, the first being held in 1962. Since there was not a Canadian organization at that time, Dave Richmond and Jack Klein submitted their names and were accepted as contestants in the competition in Cannes, France. There was no funding at that time, so both men paid their own way.
Following that episode, Eric Murray, a noted Canadian player from Toronto, felt that a Canadian organization, similar to ACBL, was necessary. Its purpose was to help in the selection of Canadian teams to participate in international events, as well as to assist in financing the expenses. All Canadian Units were notified of a meeting to be held in Chicago during the Summer Nationals in 1965. Doug Cannell, Vice-President of Unit 181 at that time, attended the meeting along with players from across Canada. They all agreed that a Canadian organization should be formed. When that momentous occasion took place, we joined the Canadian organization, and dropped our earlier affiliation with the mid-American states.The new organization became the Canadian Bridge Federation, with Eric Murray as President and Doug Cannell as Vice-President. Later Doug was elected President, serving for six years, as well as being chairman of the ACBL Charitable Fund for three years. In 1967, Doug applied to have Winnipeg host the first Team Trials to represent Canada in the 1968 Olympiad in Deauville, France. He also accompanied the winning teams, as well as being the CBF representative to World Bridge Federation meetings.
While in Deauville, Al Landau, NPC of the Canadian Men’s team, became friendly with Omar Shariff, actor and avid bridge player. He found out that Shariff’s Bridge Circus was being sponsored by Stancraft, a card manufacturing company, to go on a six-city tour of the US. Unit 181 approached Stancraft to hold one of the events in Winnipeg in 1970, because it was our Centennial year. The application was accepted, and the Bridge Circus came to Winnipeg for one week in 1970. Local players were chosen to take part in the competition…Brian Pauls, Hersh Wolch, Dick Wilson, and Doug Cannell, who were joined by Eric Murray, Al Landau, Bill Christie and Bruce Elliot of Toronto. It was a very well run and successful event, held in the old Auditorium on St. Mary’s Avenue (now the Government of Manitoba Archives Building). It was voted the best venue in competition with Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas and Los Angeles. (Note: I was one of the many spectators who were at this event, and decided to learn how to play duplicate bridge. This resulted in my getting involved with our Unit and I’m involved to this time – 2003.)
In 1974 Dave Richmond established the Richmond Trophy for Canadian players who won the most master points during each year. This trophy competition is still in existence. The first Unit 181 newsletter was published in 1977, when Bernie Melman was President. A copy is in the archives file, along with later newsletters. The Grand National Teams Champions at that time were G.Sekhar, Doug Thomson, David Sokolow, Lex deGroot, and Brian Maksymetz. A Regional Tournament was held from Nov 8
th to 13th in the Convention Centre, with players coming from all over.
Our ACBL charter was changed in 1979 because the Flin Flon Bridge Club decided to join the Saskatchewan Unit. It was deemed more convenient to attend events in that Province than to travel the great distance to Winnipeg. We then became part of District 2, retaining our original number of Unit 181. Bob Todd was President in 1980 and ’81, and he and Doug Cannell attended the ACBL Board of Director’s meeting held during the Summer Nationals. They asked for the privilege of holding a National Tournament in Winnipeg, and were turned down, but encouraged to try again. The second attempt was successful, and Winnipeg was granted the Nationals in 1985.
A steering committee was set up, with Doug Cannell as Chairman. In order to raise money to finance this special event, Unit 181 applied to the Manitoba Lotteries Commission to hold a Casino, with Mark Harrison as the organizer. Unit 181 was responsible for most of the staffing, although we shared the Casino with other organizations. Our share of the profit from this was in excess of $20,000. Unit 181 was incorporated on July 19, 1985, prior to holding the North American Bridge Championships.
There were 14 sanctioned bridge clubs in Manitoba in the early 80s, 10 in Winnipeg, and one each in Selkirk, Pinawa, Portage la Prairie, and Brandon. Each of them hosted tournaments that were well attended and fun. In 1983, under the Presidency of Gim Ong, Unit 181 was awarded
• Outstanding achievement award for contributions to the ACBL Charity Foundation
• Accomplishment Certificate for new member recruitment
• Meritorious Publication Award for our newsletter.
Two new duplicate clubs came into existence in 1983 – Morden DBC led by Dr. Walter Dedio (still going), and the Polonia DBC in Winnipeg, with Victor Szerbowski as contact person. Joan McKeigan opened the Bridge Inn in the mid-80s. Our newsletters were published twice a year, and became very popular due to the efforts of the various editors – Carole Ann Ball, Gim Ong, Sylvia Philipps, and Dave Brough. The contents varied between bridge articles, up-to-date news, tournament results, and lists of Executive Officers and bridge clubs.
1986 ushered in a new bridge club – the Keystone – which was owned and operated by the Unit. Notable achievements in that year were accomplished by Bill Treble and Len Doerksen who had a 73.5% game in the first Epson World-Wide Simultaneous Pairs, placing first in Canada. Drew Cannell and G. Sekhar won the Grand National Pairs in Portland, Oregon.
Len Doerksen opened the Tuxedo Bridge Studio on Erin Street in 1993, and five years later moved it to its present location on Chevrier Boulevard. It has become the site of Unit 181 Sectionals, as well as a meeting place for Unit Executive and Board Meetings. A year or two later, Ginny Butler started two clubs, Bridge with Ginny at the Masonic Temple, and the other at the Rady Center. They are now being managed by George Lee and Lorraine Serlin due to Ginny’s untimely death.
The ensuing years flew by, with mens and ladies teams taking part in tournaments locally as well as in other parts of Canada and the US. Our Executive Committees have strived to attract more bridge players by sponsoring lessons in schools, through Easy Bridge, and by keeping up-to-date on the changing world of bridge. The computer era has ushered in the ability to play bridge on the Internet with people in other cities and countries all over the world.
Our latest venture in that field has been to set up our own web site, which was launched in September 2002. It quickly became very popular for those who have computers. All game results are posted promptly, along with other items of interest.
A Bridge Handbook will be published in October 2003 and will be distributed to all members.
Duplicate Clubs in 1982 Bridge Clubs in 2003
Osborne Village – B. Wolk Ambassador
St.John’s – B. Wolk Bridge at the Centre
Seven Oaks – D. McClure Hearty Hearts
Kirkfield Westwood – R. Barnes Morden
Richmond Kings – J. Watson Pinawa
Anita’s – A&E Marquart Richmond Kings
Kildonan – C. Booth Kirkfield Westwood
Garden City – E. Harget Tuxedo Bridge Studio
Shaarey Zedek – E. Blankstein
Grand Slam – N. Richmond Card Fees in 1982
Selkirk – W. Wehrle $1.25
Pinawa – V. Shankula $1.50
Brandon – G. Roberts $1.75
Portage la Prairie – A. Greenberg $2.00
Some Past Presidents
Manitoba Contract Bridge League, ACBL Unit 181
1970 Helen Promislow
1973 Bob Geyson
1976 Bernie Melman
1978 Neil Kimelman
1979 Bob Todd
1982 Mike Yuen
1983 Gim Ong
1984 Roy Barnes
1986 Bill treble
1992 Shirley Galler
1997 Maureen Barnes
2001 Bill Treble