Kansas City & Unit 131 Bridge History
    History of Rubber Bridge in KC
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Some of the most fun that I have had playing bridge has come about while playing rubber bridge.
At the present time there is no place that runs a rubber bridge game as a business.
Indeed there have been none that have been able to do it and break even or make a profit.
I will focus on the two rubber bridge clubs that I played at when I was a pup.
Bridge ala Verne in Brookside
Circa late 1960's
How did Bridge ala Verne get started ? It was financed by Ivan Donaldson who was a stock broker. He wanted a nice place
to play his favorite game. Lee and Laverne Magee were the driving forces behind the project. They were the ones that drew people in
the front door. I never actually saw the mysterious Ivan in attendance. I heard that at the end of this venture he was no longer
a broker and was driving a yellow cab. They should have sold stock in the enterprise and issued an IPO on the NYSE.
The origional location was a little south of 63rd street on Brookside where Jalopeno's Mexican is now located. After a period
of time it moved a little further south to where the Brooksider Bar and grill is now located. Across the street from the present
Price Chopper. I don't think that I ever played there. I was afraid that I would lose. Good Grief ! What a chicken ! Mostly I just
kibitzed and watched and tried to learn. What an incredible number of characters played in these games. The stakes were
a quarter of a cent to two cents per point with a table fee depending on how much you were playing for. It was a beautiful,
elegant, pleasant place to play bridge. There was a black lady named Gladys that came in the afternoon and would fix dinner
for about five dollars per plate for the people and for sure all the meals were excellent. Lee was the house boy and filled in
if needed to make a table of four.

The business sign and logo.
Many years after closing,
Lee tried to throw it in the
trash but I retrieved it.

Brooksider Bar and Grill, the
former home of Bridge ala Verne

                 There have been so many characters who have passed
                 through the doors of our rubber bridge clubs. Some are
                 listed here but not nearly all include, Mike Passell, Mark Lair, Mark
                 Jacobus, Ron Anderson, Bobby Nail, Mark Blumenthal, Bill
                 Crooks, John Hubbell, Ayres Bombeck, Jerry Mandleker, Joel
                 Tonkin, Les Gerhig, Mister Biggar, Regis Robertson Don
                 Cameratta, Sherrill Headrich.
                 There were IMP team games and Chicago style rubber
                 bridge games of every denomination for both rich and poor.
                 Although there was no liquor licence, there were cocktails.
                 The smoking was terrible, how did I ever survive the cloud ?
                 After a nice run of several years, Bridge ala Verne was
                 closed and the torch was passed to Paul and Doris Orlett
                 to carry on the rubber bridge in KC. The Magees sold a house
                 to the Orletts at 63rd and Main to live in and run a club.

In memory of it's roots

Knowing the history of the location
Brooksider has a sandwich called the
LA VERNE BRIDGE CLUB, it is delicious.
Go There and try it. Its great.

Proprietors of Bridge ala Verne
Pictured in later life

Lee and LaVerne Magee
Two of the most fun and
best friends ever.

Brooksider Menu

sandwich actually exists

LaVerne Magee
The Matriarch of Bridge

She was the Queen.

Lee Magee
What more can I say ?

I'll have a budwiser.

LaVerne and Moi

I certainly loved her

Bridge at the Orlett's in Brookside
Circa 1970's and 1980's
When Bridge ala Verne folded up the tent, rubber bridge moved just a few blocks. The new club lasted for
many years. It seemed to me that the reason it was not a viable enterprise was because of its business model.
The winners would collect and far too many losers wanted their losses to be kept on the books. Table fees to
my knowledge were seldom if ever, collected up front It was not possible to sustain with so many dead beats
(with good intentions ?) on the books. Paul Orlett was a very learned man and kept the accounting books.
Paul had a heart of gold and was not a hard nosed business man.

The Orlett Rubber Bridge Club.
Located at 1 East 62nd Terrace

Charlie Hoopers Bar and Grill.
Back then it was The Pink Poodle,
then Brookside Manor, then Egans.

Across the street from bridge club, our
choice for fun after a session at Orlett's.

The Toddle House
Now Brookside Reality

Across street from Charlie Hoopers
This was a great place for breakfast,
coffee, and bridge hand discussion

                 This is where I spent the time of my life when I was a bridge bum.
                 Kibitzing high level Chicago rubber bridge games, playing in the half
                 cent, penny, and two cent games, asking Paul Orlett and Lee Magee and
                 Bill Crooks endless questions about all aspects of the game. Never did
                 they give bad advice. This was how to learn, if you made a mistake,
                 you felt the sting in your pocketbook. There were two games that I
                 enjoyed the most. The Biggar Game, anchored by Frank Biggar. Frank
                 was a brilliant accountant and graduate of Wharton School of Business.
                 A mental breakdown forced him to retire.He only played in the 1/4 cent
                 game. His caretaker, his brother, only allowed this game to conserve his
                 money. If he got raised then he would always bid game or slam and
                 always redouble if doubled. To slow him down his partners would answer
                 one less ace after blackwood and remove a redouble to one level higher
                 hoping to save money. The other game was the high stakes two cent game,
                 which I worked up the nerve to play in. I did well as I was backed by Don
                 Brooker. Some played for a nickle or more on the side, not me.

Picture in KC Star 7-5-1970.
Article reported on a summer sectional.

Pictured left to right are
Lee Magee, Doris Orlett, Paul Orlett, Dice Alexander

Paul Orlett
co-owner of Orlett's
Bridge player extraordinaire.

Foreground is John Hubbell.

Doris Orlett
co-owner of Orlett's

Meet me at the Pink Poodle sez she.
Fun gal and great player.

Bill Crooks

Great player deemed unbeatable since
he held "boots and shoes". This meant
holding 75% of the high card points

John Hubbell Rubber Bridge Club
Circa pre 1966 for many years
John Hubbell probably had the greatest tournament result in KC bridge history.
He and David Carter won the Von Zedtwitz Life Masters Pairs in 1954.
It was held at the summer nationals in Washington DC.

Hubbell's club was directly above
Missie B's KC's Premier Gay Bar

The Hubbell Rubber Bridge Club.
Located at 39th and Southwest Trafficway.
809 West 39th St -- The Bridge House.

Around the corner was Nichol's Lunch.
An icon for 85 years, closed in 2006.

Now a pizzeria.

                 John Hubbell was a heavy smoker. Every time that I saw him there was
                 a cigarette in his mouth with an ash up to one inch long defying gravity.
                 I would watch the ash breathlessly wondering whether it would end up on
                 his shirt or some how make it to the ashtray. The article in the KC Star
                 is titled "Never Double Hubbell" because John was a brilliant declarer
                 who seldom went set. John was a very good tennis player playing at
                 Westport High and was captain of the team at Missouri University. He was
                 city tennis champ 3 times in the 1920's and played at the Rockhill Tennis Club
                 for many years. Before bridge took all his time he operated a coal brokerage
                 business that was started by his father.

John Hubbell picture from KC Star

Article below

John Hubbell article in KC Star

Published 11-17-1962.
Written by Conwell Carson




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