March 2013 District Direction Report

By Ken Monzingo
National Board Representative

“I walk down memory lane because I know that I’ll run into you there.” – Anon.

January, 1971, forty-two years ago, I drove my 1965 Ford Mustang 120 miles south on Interstate 5 to my new home in beautiful San Diego, cruising along to Rod Stewart’s rasping tones of Maggie May on the AM radio. Gas was just 35 cents regular (until the embargo of ‘73 doubled it, and forced the 55 mile speed limit), ACBL membership was $3.00, club card fees were 75 cents; championdhip events $3.50 at regionals.

The Coronado Ferry was still schlepping us and our cars from downtown to the popular island (Coronado peninsula) to play in the Pacific Southwest Regional. The host hotel was $16.00.

The Chargers had just moved from the defunct AFL to the NFL, the big Portuguese tuna canneries were still here, and the Town & Country Resort Hotel, with its spacious convention center, was awaiting the 1972 Pacific Southwest Regional to its new digs.

This D22 flagship tournament, at the time easily the largest in Southern California other than Bridge Week, was in its twenty-fifth year and had been playing in the historic Hotel del Coronado before moving to the T & C, its new, semi-permanent, home.

In 1972 San Diego was a growing community of only 700,000; with another 300,000 wannabes across the border in Tijuana. But the San Diego Unit was easily the largest bridge community in District 22, at one time counting about 1200 members (750 today). The five San Diego County units had very few annual tournaments then: 4-5 sectionals, and the Pacific Southwest Regional. Today the county hosts 13 regular sectionals, 5 NLM sectionals, and the PSR regional.

Being an addictive player approaching my 300th point, I played everywhere in D22 – San Diego to Monterey. LA had the world’s largest game in Bridge Week at the Ambassador, but many years earlier Los Angeles and San Francisco co-hosted Bridge Week together as players journeyed by train (playing the team events enroute) up and down the coast. The mayor of each of the two cities met the trains and welcomed the happy commuters. Later they tried it by plane. Yikes!
But the Pacific Southwest Regional was now my home turf.

The PSR tournament was run by a devoted naval officer’s wife from Chula Vista, Helen Horobetz. Helen’s job as tournament chairman was a major position of hard work in the early 1970s because “computer,” “Kinko’s,” and “Internet” were non-existent, or alien words. This large regional – 2764 tables in 1971 (Coronado) swelling to 3948 tables (T & C) – was hand scored in pencil and paper. All scores, names and ACBL numbers had to be typed in for each session! Can you imagine entering all that, plus daily news, in building a daily bulletin?

To print daily bulletins, we rented a Gestetner duplicating machine which operated on film and ink and often broke down in the night. Results did not get to us until very late, since game times were 1:00 & 8:00 p.m. each day, and the hand scoring and typing took forever. Rarely were the bulletins finished before sunup, sometimes not before noon. Sleep was sacred and scarce.

Helen took me under her wing and taught me, not just the mechanics of tournament management, but the respect and importance of putting on a good show for the players. Her regionals featured expert panel shows, Joel Hoersch bridge musicals, and Sunday banquets for 450. Something for everybody. It was fun.

She was not exactly a young person (sixty-two at the time when 71 was an average life span), but she was a devoted one. To make her life difficult her body was already in the grips of debilitating arthritis. Helen’s fingers were so soft they were like rubber; watching her type stories for the bulletin using just her thumbs and knuckles on a Royal ribbon typewriter was inspiring. But she never complained. We hired a typist to do the heavy work.

Helen was my mentor, yes, but she also had a very strong influence on my life, and on all of us who knew her. She truly cared about the tournament and instilled that maturity in me before she would turn it over. When tending to her other duties of directing bridge on cruise lines, I chaired it for her, but always under strict orders: “You may not play bridge before Sunday!” Oh, that hurt.

Helen died in 1989 at age 74. Her daughter Lynn, a professional  novelist and former district editor of this D22 Forum, still resides here. I am still active, chairing District 22 regionals and several NABCs (nationals) over the past four decades, always using principles I learned from Helen.

As the 68th edition of the Pacific Southwest Regional opens late this month, again at the beautiful Town & Country Resort, I will be there and I will, as I always do, think of Helen Horobetz. The forgotten woman who made it work. Who made it fun.

The view from Table 5

I’ll be in St. Louis this month doing my thing at the national board meetings. I will continue my quest to rid of us of the excessive international spending on so few, but I’m also chairing some terrific committees charged with improvement of our NABCs. I guess that is still my calling.

I thought I was a player.

Peace, my friends.

[Thanks to Bob Rosenblum & Marvin French for their input]