Area bridge club marks 50 years

Jim Patterson
Members and alumni of Yampa's Grand Slammers Bridge Club gathered recently in Grand Junction to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the club, which was formed in 1966. Pictured, back row, from left, are Raylene Olinger, Deana Znamenacek, Susi Crowner, Mary Jane Logan, and Bobbie Vetter; middle row, from left Sharon Clementson, Sandi deGanahl, Sue Hall, Cathy Lewis and Joy Walters; and, front row, from left, JoAnn Morgan, Cathie Voorhees, Sally Meek and Karen Craig.
Courtesy Photo

— In this day and age of instant everything, punctuated by transient fads that fade into obscurity almost as quickly as they arise, it’s becoming more and more rare to find a social group that has endured for more than a few years, let alone 50.

But that’s exactly what the Grand Slammers Bridge Club has done.

Founded in the South Routt town of Yampa in 1966, the club recently celebrated its 50th anniversary with a gathering of past and present members at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Grand Junction, and according to 40-year member Cathy Lewis, the secret to the group’s longevity is not in the members’ shared interest in the popular card game, but rather, in the deep and abiding friendships that have flourished around its tables.

“It’s more than just a club,” Lewis said. “It’s a group of very close friends.”

Lewis joined the club in 1976, soon after her husband accepted a teaching job at Soroco and the couple relocated from Denver to the Yampa Valley.

Initially, Lewis acknowledged she hadn’t wanted to trade the big city lights of Denver for rural Colorado’s more laid-back approach to life.

But becoming a member of the Grand Slammers, which Lewis said was the conduit through which she incorporated herself into the community, soon changed that view.

“I wanted to live in Denver,” Lewis said. “I was a big city girl — I didn’t want to move out to a rural place. … I thought, ‘Well, we’ll be here for three years; then, my husband can get his tenure and then, we’ll move to Denver.”

That’s not what happened, however and soon, Lewis said she realized she didn’t mind.

“We were all so close, that I couldn’t leave,” Lewis said. “I just told my husband, ‘I can’t move. I can’t leave my bridge group.’ It’s the same with a lot of the (other) members.”

She told of one member who came into the group after a serious illness landed her on physician-ordered bed rest for three-and-a-half months.

“One of the ladies, Sally Meek (wife of the late Bill Meek, longtime Soroco superintendent) had rheumatic fever,” Lewis recalled, “… and they decided … ‘Well, this is a great time to teach her how to play,’ so they all went over there and taught her how to play and helped her take care of her kids.”

Of course, the membership has changed through the decades — some members have died, and others have moved away, even as new members have been added. Even so, Lewis said, the bonds that have cemented the group for half a century remain as strong as ever.

The club still meets in Yampa on the third Thursday of each month, and Lewis doesn’t see that changing.

“I think it’s just that we all feel such a close bond to one another,” Lewis said, “We call it ‘a sisterhood.’ We … share in each other griefs and joys … that’s what’s neat about it: We’re deeply rooted in each others lives.”

Memories and recipes

As the club’s 50th anniversary approached, Lewis said she felt strongly that members needed something to commemorate such a long association.

“I said, we have to have something to be a legacy … since we’ve been together so long,” she said, and since the meetings had always included food, she decided to compile a recipe book to include the dishes traditionally served at meetings, as well as at the club’s annual Christmas dinner.

“I put it together and organized it so that they’d each have something to remember us by,” she said.

In addition to the recipes — which include such club favorites as pineapple pudding, caramel, fudge, turtles and, among Lewis’ favorites, member Suzi Crowner’s soul cake — the book also offers numerous anecdotes about how various members became part of the club and photos chronicling its 50 years of existence.

Titled “Memories and Recipes,” the book is available for purchase at Off the Beaten Path and the Tread of Pioneers Museum in Steamboat Springs and at Montgomery’s General Merchandise in Yampa.

There is also a copy available at Bud Werner Memorial Library.

To reach Jim Patterson, call 970-871-4208, email or follow him on Twitter @JimPatterson15

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