Alfred The 100-Year-Old Bridge Player

by Jacqueline Bull October 2, 2017
 

 

img_0742Alfred Nadel is turning 100 years old on October 8. He was born in 1917 and lived in New York and later San Diego his whole life. He is known to other Seacrest residents and staff as the guy who plays bridge every day. He agreed to be interviewed about bridge, his life and any wisdom he has accrued in his century on earth.

Where did you grow up?

New York City. Most of my life was spent in New York City. We moved here in 1969.

What brought you to San Diego?

My daughter lives in the Bay Area and my son lives in Phoenix. I came to San Diego to play golf, I liked it and decided San Diego was halfway in between. What is there not to like about San Diego?

Tell me about your life.

As a youngster I was a musician. I used to play with various dance bands around the country then I became a CPA, then I bought out one of my clients, and I manufactured hand carved picture frames and sold to museums and art galleries and then I imported works of art. And then my people grew old and retired and I couldn’t replace them and that made me think about moving. And then the riots in New York in ‘69 decided it for me. So I came out here and played golf, got bored and bought a telephone answering service in Escondido. I had that for a number of years. And then I finally retired in 1981 or something like that. And then I have been retired since.

What instrument did you play?

Saxophone, flute, clarinet. As I child, I played piano and violin, too. And I played golf and tennis until I was 94 and then my wife died and I sort of gave it up and then I really retired.

I hear you play bridge every single day.

It keeps the brain going. I enjoy it. I will put it that way. It is better than sitting here watching the tube. I learned to play bridge when I was a child. My mother and aunts used to play auction bridge and if they needed a fourth, they had me play. It is something you learn over a period of time. You have to absorb it. It is a whole language, just the bidding is a language. And the play of the hands is something you have to learn and have some native ability-put it that way. That is about it.

They say there are more books written about bridge than any other card game, next to chess.

There is no doubt about that. You could study bridge all your life and not know everything. I go to the Escondido bridge club. There are about I would say 100,150 people who play, some play on and off, a few people everyday, like I play. We know each other. It is good social life, too. No complaints.

Do they have any tournaments?

There is a bridge organization that actually covers the whole world. Members compete with each other. It is a competition. You don’t play for money, you play for status and that’s it. The more you win, the higher your status and that is about it.

Where do you rank?

I would say at the upper three quarters. It is a lot of fun is all I can say.

What else do you do with your time?

I sleep a lot, [laughs]. At my stage of life there is nothing much I can do. Physically I’m nowhere near what I want to do physically. I accept it.

Well playing tennis until 94 is pretty good.

I drove my car until I was 99. My daughter took my car keys away [laughs]. Unfortunately, I outlived all my peers. That is a bad feeling. My friends are all gone. My sister is still alive, she lives in Florida. My daughter lives in the Bay Area, my son lives in England. He retired many years ago, he married an English girl and they moved there. I see my daughter, every couple of months she comes down and visits. I think for my 100th birthday, they are all coming down. They are going to have a party for me at the bridge club and my family will have a party of our own.

Do you have any wisdom to share?

I tell you, my wife took good care of me [laughs]. And for that, I’m grateful. No complaints. Why not? Laugh and the world laughs with you. And we have to laugh everyday. Other than that I don’t know what the hell I can tell you.

So you manufactured picture frames?

I manufactured picture frames and sold to museums and art galleries and I got to know a lot of the artists personally. A lot of the movie stars were my customers. Well I knew all, probably all the big female and male movie stars. They were all my customers practically. Jane Fonda lived down the block from me. Silvia Sidney lived down the block. I used to have lunch with Ginger Rogers. I knew Gsa Gsa Gabor and her sister Eva Gabor. I knew everyone. My place in Manhattan was on 54th street and 7th Avenue which was in the heart of the entertainment world. My place was next to the Gotham Health Club that was a famous athletic club that all the celebrities in New York used to congregate. My place being next door to them, I got to know those people. I wouldn’t say close friends, but friendly. It was a good life as I say. I enjoyed it.

What was Ginger Rogers like?

She was more beautiful that you could imagine. In person she was more gorgeous than being on a screen. The movie picture couldn’t show her beauty. We were acquaintances as I said we had lunch in the Warwick Hotel, which was on the corner there. We used to talk.

So you got to know these people through your
business?

All of those movie people used to collect art. They had to have their art collection framed. My place was known as the place so they used to come to my place. We were friendly. It brings back a lot of memories.

Then you moved to San Diego?

I lived in Fletcher Hills at the time. And my neighbors were my children’s age. The best thing that happened to me was that I moved up to Oaks North, the senior community in Rancho Bernardo. The camaraderie and the social life became wonderful. Everyone worked together and did things together. And we were young enough to do the things. We played tennis, we played golf, we went to dinners together, we had a real social life. I’m talking about maybe 25, 30 people at a group. We were always a group. We were very, very friendly. And that lasted a long time.

When my kids left for college, my wife and I did a lot of traveling. We traveled practically all over the world. We played golf. My wife was a good bridge player, too.

Your wife was a bridge player as well?

She was a beautiful woman, she was very talented, I don’t know why she bothered with me [laughs]. I was very happy. We were married for 69 years when she died. We were both 25 when we got married. I was three months older than her. I really miss her.

We played bridge and my son moved to England with the family so we used to go to England, two, three times a year. And then from England we would take off and go places.

The more I think about things, I did a helluva lot of things [laughs].

I would start all over again. Oh well. The man upstairs won’t let me though [laughs].

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