Socorro may have the distinction of having the oldest Bridge club in the state. In fact, the Thursday Bridge club began before New Mexico was even a state. It was begun in 1906 and organized as a club in 1911, a year before New Mexico became a state.

Judy Lovelace is the archivist for the Thursday club, she shared with me her fascination with its rich history and how it has changed over the years.

“My mother died in 1984,” Judy said. “She was a long time member as was my grandmother.” When Judy moved back to take care of her mother’s estate, she figured she would only live in Socorro for a couple of years. But life, it seems had a different idea.

“Mary Fitch and Peggy Dailey said to me, you are going to be a member,” Judy recalls, “and so because you don’t argue with the older generation, I joined.”

She obviously enjoys the game since she is a member of all three Bridge clubs in Socorro. Yes, three: The Tuesday Bridge club meets once a month. There used to be a Wednesday evening club for working women. Once all the members had retired, they moved the games to Tuesday as well and call themselves the We-Tu Club, getting together twice a month.

With the Thursday club meeting twice a month, that makes at least five times a month that Judy plays. Currently, members gather at the Owl Bar and Grill to play. “We used to play all over. We just moved around because we wanted to give everyone the business.” But Covid and a fewer number of restaurants have reduced their options. “The Owl Bar gives us their backroom and they love us and they take good care of us–we’re never in their way,” Judy said, while noting sadly they used to really enjoy the Val Verde.

Among the club’s memoirs is a booklet prepared by Judy’s mother, Eleanor Wolf Oliver, in 1994. “Hostess designates meeting place when she calls. Each member pays for her own lunch, tip, and 50¢ ante to the “pot”, which is divided for high scores as follows:

Two tables: $2,$1.50, 50¢

Three tables: $3, $2, $1

Four Tables: $4, $2.50, $1.50

Traditions, according to the booklet include: Once a member, always a member. Membership is traditionally offered to daughters and daughters-in-law if they play Bridge. Others are elected if a vacancy occurs.

The booklet goes on to name the members with their telephone numbers, including inactive members who still lived in Socorro and inactive members who had moved away. Another list names women who were called as substitutes. Other pages note the original members.

An even older book dates back to the beginning of the club. It is hard-bound with instructions on how to play Bridge, whist (a precursor to Bridge) and other games. Then inside, each left hand page is decorated with a royalty card at the top left with lines for the hostess, high score and scorer, consolation score and what was served. The right hand page lists those who attended and often a remark about the day.

The members are listed by their husbands names, as was the custom. “My grandmother always referred to her friends as Mrs. So and So,” said Judy. “Now, maybe when they were together and no one else was around, they called each other by their first names, I don’t know.”

Feb. 4, 1911. The hostess was Mrs. H.O. Bursum. (“That would be Holm the third’s grandmother,” says Judy.) The game was Bridge whist. The comment reads: “I had an unusually pleasant afternoon as I sat at the head table all of the six games.”

The entry for Nov. 18, 1911 reads: “A most dressy affair with so many beautiful new gowns. We had our usual good time.” Snacks served were crab salad, wafers and coffee.

For April 29,1912 the hostess was Mrs. Price. She served asparagus, salad, chicken sandwiches, salted almonds and coffee. “Miss Hazel Howell assisted. We had a right royal time,” the comments read.

In 1976, Mary Wolf Oliver held a special party at the Vagabond. There were seven tables. “Forty years later, I had a re-enactment,” Judy recalls, “with the exact menu that my mom had. That party was at the Bodega and we had mimosas instead of champaign. There were three tables.”

Sadly, membership has continued to decline. “We’ve lost so many members,” Judy said. “Young people want their game boy and electronics. I’m the only one with three generations in this club now,” Judy said.

Julie Johnson has tried to hold a community college course to teach Bridge without much success. But they are still willing to teach anyone who is interested and invite any newcomers in town to join as well.

“We’d be happy to hear from you,” Judy said. Call 505-269-6558 for more information.

Gwen Roath, Guest Columnist