The Gulf Coast Bridge Association's clubhouse wasn't an architecturally pleasing building when it opened in 1970, but that wasn't important to bridge lovers. They just wanted a space big enough for card tables for small tournaments and regular club days.
   The clubhouse at 142 Oleander Drive, between Tegarden and Cowan roads in Gulfport, was a place of laughter and serious faces, as bridge players are wont to do.
   "With bridge, you have to think. It makes your brain work," said Janet Signer, longtime member who is dogged in getting the word out about the 300-member association that draws players from Waveland to Pascagoula.
   "There's also the social aspect, having fun with people, keeping up with what's going on in their lives."
   The clubhouse was built after Hurricane Camille and provided a distraction from recovery from the 1969 storm.
   Visitors have included World Bridge Champion John Onstott, famed teacher Audrey Grand and card game legend Jim Jacoby.
   After 35 years, Katrina stole the club's oldest trophy, the Kermit Chadwick Trophy for Open Pairs. In the rubble of their clubhouse, they did find the Walter and Genevieve Lewis Trophy for Mixed Pairs. But not much else.
   If you think a lost clubhouse deters serious bridge players, think again. After first holding "club days" at St. Martin Community Center and then at a Gulfport Catholic church, members have settled into a building at Coalville United Methodist Church.
   "They've been really accommodating, but we haven't had any church members join us yet," Singer laughed. "I think we'll have to work on that."
   Singer said the clubhouse, which had some insurance, will not be built back at the same location because with so many older members, they can't have steps, which may be required so close to the beach.
   "We're looking around to purchase property and build a clubhouse big enough to host our own tournaments, a little bigger than the other one."
- KAT BERGERON