It all started in 1958 when a young housewife, Inez “Ric” Herbert, invited over some ladies from her Park Valley Heights coffee klatsch to break up the loneliness brought on by her husband’s out-of-town business trip.
She suggested an evening of canasta -- the card craze of the era.
And so six ladies arrived that October evening ready to deal cards, drink coffee and dine on homemade cookies, pies, cakes and popcorn balls. Not a one anticipated the side-splitting, tear-inducing hilarity that ensued.
“As the adage goes, ‘time goes fast when you’re having fun,’” Herbert recalled.
In fact, it wasn’t until a worried husband phoned the house in search of his missing wife did they notice the hands on the clock.
It was 2 a.m.
The recollection sets off a wave of uncontrollable giggles.
“I never did tell my husband what time I got home,” confessed Dorothy White, now 90.
After that, they agreed upon a self-imposed midnight curfew.
For 58 years, these friends have gathered monthly for cards, calorie-laden treats, coffee and camaraderie.
They long ago quit canasta in favor of bridge -- a complicated game of counting, negotiating and bidding. A game they freely admit they aren’t very good at, but enjoy all the same.
Of the gang, four are charter members: Herbert, 84; her sister-in-law Marie Herbert, 82; Betty Gould, 93; and White. Three others joined a short time later: Jean Laux, 78, “the baby of the group”; Joyce Morgan, 82; and Marian Lehigh, 92.
Herbert estimated they have gathered close to 700 times -- through raising 21 children, welcoming grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and, sadly, burying far too many loved ones.
There have been lots of changes over the years, they said.
They now meet in the afternoon, rather than at night -- since no one likes driving after dark.
“There are a lot of hearing aids,” Herbert quipped.
“And eye glasses and partial plates,” added White.
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They’ve weathered broken hips, diabetes and cancer diagnoses.
Through it all, they still manage to meet -- monthly for bridge -- and at least once or twice more for coffee and breakfast.
“We talked so much during bridge that we decided to meet in between time to get our talking over with,” Herbert said.
“But that never worked,” said Marie Herbert. “We don’t get a lot of bridge playing done.”
“Sometimes we play more bridge than other times -- sometimes we don’t play so much,” Ric Herbert conceded.
Depending on who you talk to, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Bridge is not an easy game.
“It took us a long time to learn,” Ric Herbert said.
No one really can remember who taught whom.
Morgan says she learned from Laux.
But Laux said it was the other way around.
“That’s our problem,” Morgan joked.
They used to award prizes. But as the years piled up, so did the prize clutter. So they switched to cash.
Nowadays, it’s all about the pie. A high hand can land you a second slice.
“We all can eat pie,” explained Marie Herbert.
But truth be told, it’s really about the people gathered around the table.
“We aren’t the best bridge players, but we do relish our friendships of 58 years,” Ric Herbert said.