Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Bridge to War

I was eating my oatmeal the other morning with a silver spoon I'd grabbed out of the drawer from a mess of old, unsorted cutlery I had in there. It reminded me of the spoon my dad found on the ground in Germany during WWII when allied troops captured Goering's private trains that held thousands of pieces of art and antiquities he had stolen and stockpiled for his own collection. My dad was there after the trains had been intercepted and while soldiers were safeguarding the treasure, they were also pocketing small souvenirs. Young soldiers, with no context in which to frame this ultimately historic event, were just thinking of mementos to bring home from the war. 

By the same token, soldiers brought things from home to the battlefield for comfort and continuity during this time. Bridge was one of them. It's been said that General Eisenhower played bridge in London whenever he had the time because it relaxed him (if bridge relaxed him, can you imagine how stressful his job was?) Maggie Simony said in her book, Bridge Table, that she had a friend who was a pilot during the war, was shot down over Belgium and taken prisoner. He told her there was a bridge game going on twenty-four hours a day at the camp. "He, like so many, had learned bridge from his mother."

She also said that the United States Playing Card Company's website claims that during the war the company worked with the United States to make special decks to send to prisoners of war in German camps. "Moistened, the cards 'peeled apart to reveal sections of a map indicating precise escape routes."' 

The game itself benefited from the war as so many players taught the game to those who didn't play and it's popularity only increased when they came home. As Simony said, "There's nobody more evangelical than a bridge threesome yearning for a fourth - they will teach that fourth if they have no other choice."

So one more reason to salute the great game of bridge! It just may have helped us win the Second (not so) Great War.



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