Established in 1957, the Western Massachusetts Bridge Association (WMBA) Unit 196 was created by founding members of the Springfield Bridge Club eager to share their love for the game with the wider western Massachusetts area. The unit played a prominent role in teaching interested individuals to learn to play contract bridge by reaching out to colleges, clubs, and churches. Over the years, WMBA has remained an active unit in the New England Bridge Conference District 25, one of the largest districts of the American Contract Bridge Association.
Records of the WMBA and District 25 document the growth of contract bridge in New England. From the earliest days of the unit, members drafted by-laws, oversaw membership services, organized tournaments, and tracked finances. Materials in the collection shed light on every aspect of these activities.
Background on Western Massachusetts Bridge Association
The Western Massachusetts Bridge Association (WMBA) Unit 196 was born out of the Springfield Bridge Club in early 1957. Jack Kushner, known as “Mr. Bridge” throughout the area, started his own bridge game in Springfield in late 1931 or early 1932; soon after the game moved from the office building to the Clinton Hotel and then the Hotel Bridgeway. Through Kushner’s efforts, the game continued to grow and over time he convinced the Springfield Daily News not only to promote local tournaments, but to support winners by paying expenses to regional tournaments. After World War II, Kushner purchased a house on Mill Street to be the new headquarters for the bridge club, where it remained until the 1960s when the club moved again, this time to 194 Sumner Avenue location. By the late 1950s, Kushner and others decided to organize a Western Massachusetts bridge unit of the American Contract Bridge League, and in November of 1957 the unit ran its first sectional at the Hotel Kimball.
During the early days of Springfield Bridge Club and later the WMBA, leaders of the club, in particular Kushner and William August, developed a system for instructing novices to play bridge. Lessons were conducted at different venues throughout the area, including colleges, churches, clubs, and served the dual purpose of making the game more accessible and recruiting new members for the unit. Ultimately, Kushner published a book based on his method of instruction called Playing the Hand. Throughout the subsequent decades membership in WMBA remained strong and the game continued to flourish in the area.
WMBA Unit 196 is part of the New England Bridge Conference District 25 of the American Contract Bridge League. District 25 is comprised of units from the six New England States and is one the largest districts in the ACBL.
The collection documents both the history of the Western Massachusetts Bridge Association from its establishment in 1957 and the unit’s participation in the activities and tournaments of the New England Bridge Conference (NEBC) District 25 of the ACBL. Early records chronicle the founding of the WMBA, its growth over the years, and its relationship to other units in District 25. During this formative period and well beyond, Eileen and Bill Lenville assumed various leadership roles in the WMBA and District 25, including secretary, district tournament manager, and members of the executive commmitte; their contributions are reflected in the collection.
One of the major activities of the both the WMBA and NEBC is to participate in and organize regional tournaments. There is a significant body of records that document these efforts from the late 1960s to mid-2000s; the materials are rich in the details of planning and publicizing several annual tournaments.
Acquired from Bill Lenville, 2013.
Processed by Dex Haven, December 2013.
Cite as: Bill Lenville Western Massachusetts Bridge Association Records (MS 801). Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries.
- Contract bridge