A History of Bakersfield Unit 514
by Richard Schwartz
Printed in January 2021 D22 Connection
I have been asked to write on the history and activities of Unit 514 which currently consists of the Bakersfield Bridge Club and the Oak Tree Bridge Club of Tehachapi. As I have been the reporter for the BBC for only the last three years, I consulted with our local historian Marlyn Everett who has been the owner and manager of several bridge clubs throughout the Bakersfield area since the early 1980’s. Marlyn was kind enough to share her knowledge with me. I learned that Bakersfield, Lake Isabella, and Tehachapi have a rich bridge history
The boundary for Unit 514 includes all of Kern County except for Mojave. Bridge in the 1950’s was very healthy and well attended with five Bridge Clubs, one in Tehachapi, one in Lake Isabella, and three in Bakersfield. The heyday for Bridge in the 20th century for Bakersfield was the 1980’s when Les and Lorna Solberg owned three for-profit bridge clubs that would draw 20 to 25 tables for games. Also in the 80’s and 90’s Marlyn owned Christ the King and All Saints Bridge Club, both non-profit and she managed the Kern City Bridge Club.
In the early 90’s, bridge was still going strong. In 1991, Bakersfield held a Regional Tournament but unfortunately did not draw enough players to support a Regional Tournament on an annual basis. That regional was then moved to Ventura where it is still played today. Bakersfield’s Terry Atkinson, who died about five years ago, was instrumental in supporting and operating the Ventura Regional.
In 2006 all the Bakersfield Bridge Clubs were consolidated into one non-profit bridge club that was managed by Marlyn, and the games were played at the Disabled Children’s Center on Brundage Lane in Bakersfield. Marlyn maintained her position until 2017 when Shirley Eide assumed the duties of club manager, and to this day Shirley is still doing a great job.
I started playing in 2012, the year I retired. The BBC had regularly three to four games per week and two Saturday games per month, usually with seven to eleven tables per game. I learned to play at the Bakersfield Bridge Club, where lessons were being taught by Terry Atkison, Shirley Eide, and later on by Rebel Pilshaw, Mary Wells, Chris Moore, and Linda Wong. They all have done a great job helping new players learn bridge. I found our club to be warm and friendly. My very first partner was Esther Dougherty who was 92 at the time, and the sharpest, most active 92 year old you would ever want to meet. Esther, who currently lives at the Pacific Senior Center in Bakersfield, celebrated her 100th birthday on November 24th. One of the highlights of the year was the Christmas Potluck and the bridge game that followed. It was a day of great food, camaraderie with friends and competitive bridge. The major bridge event of the year was the Bakersfield Sectional. We always had great attendance, outstanding play and our Director, Scott Campbell, was excellent in organizing and running the tournament. Hopefully, someday Bakersfield will be able to host another sectional in the fall or spring.
Our sister club is The Oak Tree Bridge Club of Tehachapi located 40 miles east of Bakersfield in Kern County. The Oak Tree Club is a small club with approximately 25 members and they would meet once a week with approximately five tables per game. Fifteen years ago, the club was originally named, Gene’s Bridge Club by “Gene of Course” and the name was later changed to the Oak Tree Bridge Club. The Oak Tree Club currently play online with the BBC and will begin in person games when COVID passes.
While 514’s bridge community of approximately 140 players is not large by some standards, it has a diversity of players with a number of new players having joined in the last four or five years, a solid core of experienced, very good players and a few players who have successfully competed on a national level. Wafik Abdou, who resides in Bakersfield, is a Grand Life Master and has won National Titles and an International Title at the Cavendish Invitational. Bob Giragosian, also from Bakersfield, has placed as high as second place in the Nationals. Wakif and Bob qualified in 2019 as a team for the 2020 North America Pairs Championship in Columbus, Ohio, but unfortunately it was cancelled due to the Coronavirus.
With the Coronavirus striking the world, it has changed how and where we play the game of bridge. I am happy to report even with COVID, that bridge is still healthy and thriving in Kern County and Unit 514. I am looking forward to writing the history of bridge for Unit 514 after the COVID era.
D22Connection January 2021