Adventures in Toronto

Being in Toronto is a lot like being in Europe. It’s very cosmopolitan, just a delightful city. I can tell you now from first-hand experience that the city has some of the friendliest bridge players you could find anywhere.

The first time I went to Toronto, way back when, the airport was called Malton Airport – no mention of “international” at all. When I arrived in mid-August this year, I noticed it is called Toronto Pearson International Airport. Someone told me it was named for the former Prime Minister Lester Pearson, who actually won the Nobel Peace Prize back when I was playing bridge a lot more.

I was greeted by the exquisitely charming Barbara Seagram and her husband, Alex Kornel. Barbara caught up with me at the airport before I could check out the baggage carousels and get myself into trouble. The next few days rushed by so fast I can’t keep everything straight in my mind even now, so if I get something out of order, you’ll know why.

Barbara and Alex

Barbara and Alex

Getting to know Barbara on the way from the airport made me want to go to the bridge table and be nice to someone – heck, everyone. As many of you probably already know, Barbara pioneered the movement called Zero Tolerance, which means, to sum it up, “Be pleasant to your partner and opponents – or go home!” I can tell you, we could have used some ZT when I first started playing. You had to have a really thick skin to survive.

Barbara told me she picked up the idea for ZT while playing in Bermuda, which has an annual tournament that features everyone dressed properly – no bell bottoms, thank goodness – and being very civil. Barbara says that in Bermuda, they pride themselves on being proper in all ways: “Dress better, behave better.” She told me about an experience at her informal club after her visit to Bermuda. Barbara played with a friend who showed up in a suit and tie. “He proceeded to shake hands with each opponent as he sat down and they treated him so well that I couldn’t believe these were the same people.”

Barbara told me she and Alex used to own the largest bridge club in Canada, the Kate Buckman Bridge Studio. Now their club is smaller. Their games are not restricted by masterpoints but by attitude. Everyone has to be nice if they want to play there.

Some new-fangled practices in bridge are better, after all.

At Barbara and Alex’s club, there is a full-time cook. His name is Jimmy, and they tell me the ladies love him. He provides, great food at very inexpensive prices, and all the women want to know if he is married. As I found out, Jimmy makes the best Greek salad in Toronto. While I was there, he gave me a lesson in salad making. Wow!

Bob L and his new favorite cook, Jimmy

Bob L and his new favorite cook, Jimmy

Barbara was nice enough to take me to Hazel Wolpert’s club. It’s called, appropriately enough, Hazel’s Bridge Club.

Barbara and Hazel Wolpert

Barbara and Hazel Wolpert

Hazel was very charming, as well, and I’m told she is also a superb bridge teacher and a good player. Her son is Gavin Wolpert, recently married to Jenny Ryman (Blue Ribbon Pairs champions), both of whom just won big events in Washington. They are expecting their first baby in September. Hazel’s other son, Darren, is also a fine player. Hazel’s mother, Phyllis Bresge, was a highly competitive player in the world of duplicate as well. Hazel is loved and respected through the bridge world. Her large club averages about 30 tables on most afternoons.

We also went to Partners, Toronto’s newest bridge club. It was impressive.

The following was sent to Barbara by Sarah, a new fan of mine. I think it’s quite clever.

“What a doll! Tell BOB L that I don’t even need ONE SPADE to dig him. He has stolen my HEART, and if he promises me a DIAMOND, he can live at our CLUB. We’ll treat him like the KING he is, and play the fun and interesting game of bridge in our midtown REGAL location. A rousing cheer (but NO TRUMPets) for BOB L and his visit to our wonderful city!”

Well, gotta run back to the bridge table….There’s so much more to tell about my adventures in Toronto and the fabulous clubs and people there. Check back soon for more news!  Take a look at the gallery below for lots of photos of me having fun in Toronto.


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5 Responses to “Adventures in Toronto”

  1. Suzanne Kosky says:

    Toronto and the GTA (greater Toronto Area)
    News and Events can be found at http://www.unit166.ca

    Watch http://www.torontonabc.com

    Summer Nationals July 21 – 31, 2011
    You’re Going to Love Playing Bridge in Toronto!

  2. Mares Hirchert says:

    Dear Bob,
    I have to tell you that watching everyone with the doll figure of you reminded me of the two times I went around with “Flat Stanley”-took him everywhere, took pictures, then sent him on back to the child who sent him to me. I never thought of taking him to bridge! I do want to let you know that Toronto thru the years has been one of the best fun bridge experiences of our lives. We first got acquainted at the Cavendish Club. We had taken a train in to Toronto from Detroit, the director told us how to take a subway to the club and then the group invited us to the pub after the game. What really impressed me was how friendly they all were plus they served tea and coffee in china cups-not styrofoam! We played for years every Easter at the Royal York and were there on the 100th Anniversary of this tournament. Our daughter, Julie, caddied a few years and would bring a friend and they earned enough to go shopping on a day off at the wonderful shopping plaza downtown. I often thought of retiring there where we could play bridge everyday of the week, even on Sundays and could get around underground so the weather wouldn’t be a problem.

    Thank you for going around and visiting the bridge world and bringing it to my computer-makes me want to travel again to Toronto to Barbara Seagram’s club, Hazel’s club, and wondering if the Cavendish is still operating?

  3. Wendy Sullivan says:

    From Mary Lovrics:

    What fun we had yesterday afternoon playing bridge at Barbara Seagram and Alex Kornel’s Club!

    Bob L is visiting Toronto and dropped by to kibitz at our Wednesday afternoon game. He arrived with Barbara in plenty of time to catch Alex’s pre-game tip. Before settling into the game, he checked out the kitchen and Jimmy’s fabulous Greek salad, but decided to order Alex the usual Western Sandwich. Bob L definitely appreciated the friendly atmosphere of the game. He could see that the focus is on learning and continuously improving. Newer players are encouraged to use Barbara’s ‘Cheat Sheets’ as bidding guides. At the end of the game, he graciously congratulated all the winners. He also very kindly bobbled his sympathy as my partner, Barbara Murray, and I licked our wounds after Isobel Bolitho and Nancy Sabino decimated us on the last two boards.

    I think that Bob L is quickly discovering that bridge is a very popular game in Toronto. We pointed out that there are games for every level of player in the many Clubs throughout the Greater Toronto Area. Bob L enjoyed himself so much during our afternoon game that he decided to return for the more competitive evening game. In the meantime, he went out for a short tour and checked out the restaurant scene in our fine city with Barbara and Roger Murray and Natalie Silverstein. I wish I could have joined them. It’s so annoying when ‘other’ commitments get in the way of bridge!!

    Hopefully, Bob L will be back here in two years when Toronto will host the 2011 Summer NABC. Incidentally, Bob L still prefers to call them ‘The Nationals’!

    Cheers,

    Mary Lovrics

  4. Wendy Sullivan says:

    From Charles Galloway:

    I’ve been watching the Toronto bridge scene develop over almost 60 years. The great “Shorty” Sheardown , Canada’s first Life Master, (who with Eric murray, Sami Kehela and Bruce Elliot won two suucccesive Spingolds as a four man team) ran a bridge club in Toronto where rubber bridge was played and there was a weekly duplicate and a few other persons ran a game once a weak elsewhere. Then about 1960 Kate Buckman came to town and ran a full week of games, gave lessons and stimulated interest in bridge until she retired and the club was run by Barabara Seagram and her husband Alex. Eventually there were about 50 clubs in Toronto and suburbs. Some were ethnic clubs or associated with other organizations running 1 or 2 games a week and others were full time clubs. The leading club at present is Hazel’s Club operated by Hazel Bresge who also plays on Canada’s international Women’s team and has two sons, Darrin and Gavin who are strong players . Gavin and his wife have won the Blue Ribbon pairs and Gavin has attained the rank of Grand Master. Hazel has acquired playing quarters centrally located on Toronto’s northern border, has invested a in card dealing machine, electonioc scoring terminals for all tables, runs the games firmly and politely, and has hired several directors to run a full schedule of games. Lessons are given and there are games for beginners and open games. The golfers often play early in the day so they can get to the club at game time and enjoy both their hobbies in the same day. Hazel’s club is an outstanding place for bridge players of all levels.

    Chuck Galloway

  5. Wendy Sullivan says:

    From Protima Johnston:

    A TRIBUTE TO HAZEL

    In tonight’s celebration, I know I’m echoing the many voices of bridge players who know Hazel.
    I’ve known Hazel for some 9 odd years as one of us, a director and mentor. I’ve played at other clubs where the directors have been helpful, fair and firm. What distinguishes Hazel are not these qualities which other directors share, but her unparalleled patience and equanimity in dealing with cantankerous and irascible players like me, on a daily basis, with a wizardry which makes us feel welcome, and come back for more of this intoxicant we call Bridge! The never-ending moans, the non-stop questions thrown at her even when she is run off her feet, complaints petty and legitimate – she deals with them all, one-to-one, without ever a frown or an air of dismissal. She commands your respect, but not without fellow feeling!
    As a teacher, there are many excellent ones in the bridge world, and Hazel has to be one of the best. It’s not just her expertise, but her ability to communicate without ever making a student feel the person can’t count to thirteen, and her candour in admitting when she can’t solve a bridge riddle – then, with justified maternal pride she says, “I’ll ask my boys”!
    As a bridge partner – she is a sheer joy! There is never a moment of discomfort when playing with or against Hazel. She will compliment you on a good move, admit her own mistake before pointing out yours, and in a manner, very importantly, that never makes you feel small, but makes you learn and advance.
    How do you do it Hazel? You do it, because you are endowed with amazing grace, fortitude and talent!
    You do the Audrey Grant award proud.
    Protima Johnston

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