Ray Lee

A Day at the Bridge Museum

Driving home last week from New Orleans, our route took us directly through Memphis, so we decided to make an overnight stop there for two reasons.  One was to sample the local BBQ once again; Brent Manley sent us to Corky’s, which was a great choice – the lineup moved quickly and efficiently, while we inspected the celebrity pictures on the walls, everyone from Bill Clinton and Margaret Thatcher to Elvis’s martial arts instructor seems to have been there at some time.  The food was great – and it isn’t even Brent’s favourite spot; that’s the Rendezvous, which wasn’t open on a Sunday night.  We made a mental note to return next year and try it – if it’s better than Corky’s, it must really be something.

Our second motive (ignoring Linda’s determination to empty the local clothes stores) was to see the spiffy new ACBL HQ at Horn Lake (just outside Memphis), and especially the new Bridge Museum, that both Brent and ACBL boss Jay Baum had told me was well worth a visit.

With most of the ACBL folks in New Orleans,  Dave Smith (“Memphis Mojo”) was one of the few left behind to hold the fort, and as it turned out, to kindly take the time to lead us a on a tour of the building.  Eventually we let him get back to work, and he abandoned us in the museum, where we spent the next couple of hours.

You’ll be able to get a sense of it from the photos that accompany this blog, but let me start by saying that the presentation is first-class.  The highlights of bridge history are traced from their beginnings: Vanderbilt and the invention of the new scoring table, Culbertson, Goren (both of whom had TV shows, which are available for you to watch).

Jo and Ely Culbertson

gorenI I Isuppose it was inevitable that the Bennett murder would be included, but at least the write-up emphasized that its real importance was the way Culbertson was able to use the publicity surrounding the case to market the game.bennett

There’s some fascinating memorabilia showcased, from an ace of spades that travelled on a US space mission to antique duplicate boards, one of the earliest LM cards, and even long-playing records from which people could get bridge lessons and tips.lp Joan Schepps’ incredible collection of trump indicators is beautifully displayed – I really like these strange little artifacts, I’m not sure why.trump1

The interactive displays (‘My Favorite Hand’ and the Hall of Fame) unfortunately weren’t working when we went through, but from the description we got they both sounded very well done – I would very much have liked to watch some of the interviews with the Hall of Famers. Ah well, have to leave something for next time!kings

Finally we checked out the library, which has some interesting items – including one of the few complete sets of The Bridge World in existence, as well as a complete run of World Championship books from 1953 onwards.vanderbilt

I hope I’ve done enough to convince you that the Museum is well worth a visit – even if you have to go a bit of your way.  I’ve done my share of ACBL-bashing in print over the years, so let me be fair and applaud when they have done something well, which is certainly the case here.

Enjoy the photos:

The Joan Schepps trump indicator collection

The Joan Schepps trump indicator collection


Dave Memphis MOJO SmithAugust 3rd, 2010 at 8:11 pm

Glad to visit with you and Linda and give you a tour of the headquarters!

Dave Memphis MOJO SmithAugust 3rd, 2010 at 8:29 pm

I forgot to mention this. The owner of Corky’s is Don Pelts and he’s a bridge player. Don and his wife Linda play at the local bridge club all the time. Don’s semi-retired now and his son runs the place.

Tom DawsonAugust 3rd, 2010 at 11:30 pm

Ray – interesting report. Something I want to visit and as we are driving to New Orleans to our annual playing card collectors club convention in September we will stop and take it in. We are very familiar with Joan’s wonderful collection which is now so well displayed by its new ‘trustee’. We will be interested in the library as have had long had an interest in old bridge literature. Thanks for the idea!

Judy Kay-WolffAugust 4th, 2010 at 5:19 am


Your exciting blog and picture gallery were both a treat! Bobby and I had planned to come down for the opening but regrettably had a conflict of plans.

Norman and I visited Memphis (think it was for the opening of the Hall of Fame portion) — sometime after Edgar’s death and there was a fella by the name of Bobby who was also on board for the unveiling. Roy Green was CEO then and I recall a wonderful dinner we all had at a marvelous restaurant nearby. We enjoyed a memorable four days (including a trip to Graceland) and I wrote a Letter to the Editor of the Bridge Bulletin, which they published, encouraging EVERY BRIDGE PLAYER TO VISIT ACBL HEADQUARTERS — bashing or no bashing — to see what makes these people tick. If we were impressed with the endless collection of historical memorabilia back then, I can’t begin to envision how great it is now. Sounds like a showplace.

Thanks for sharing.



LIndaAugust 5th, 2010 at 8:15 pm

I had a wonderful time in Memphis. It was great to meet all the people at the headquarters (who were not in New Orleans). You didn’t mention it but I found the big warehouse at the back of the building interesting. It is there that they duplicate the boards needed for the early days of the tournament, seal them, put them on tricks and drive the boards, screens and other equipment to the tournament site.

A special thanks to Dave who was gracious host but really every single person in that building was very nice.

I love the pictures except for the one that includes me (I could have stood with better posture if I knew you were taking it).

Barbara SeagramOctober 25th, 2010 at 3:29 am

Hope everyone will get to Memphis in 2012 for the NABC Mar 15-25 at the Memphis Marriott.

Then we can all tour the new Hall of Fame and the Museum.

We are so lucky to have such a dedicated team of fabulous staff at ACBL Headquarters.

Bridge Bloggin « Learning Bridge SpotNovember 1st, 2010 at 6:12 am

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