A tradition that started at the former Batavia Club at 201 East Main St. more than 80 years ago continues with longtime Batavia entrepreneur Ben Mancuso Jr. – who is 89 years young today – leading the way.
Mancuso, former Genesee County Family Court Judge Charles Graney, former bank executive Ned Chatt and former school superintendent Robert Smith meet every Wednesday morning at 11 a.m. from May through December to play bridge. The venue these days is T.F. Brown’s Family Restaurant at 214 East Main St., an establishment owned by Mancuso’s son, Rick.
“We’re not sure exactly when it (the bridge club) started but at least back into the 1930s, and probably before that,” Chatt said.
The Batavia Club was founded in 1887 and served as a social gathering place until 2000, when it was sold to Genesee-Orleans Regional Arts Council for $1.
Chatt and Graney rattled off four names of those who were bridge club fixtures in the early days – Bill Dipson, Steve Hughes, Harry Lown and Van Richards.
When asked if they play for fun, Chatt quickly replied, “We have fun, sure, but there’s more to it than that.”
Today’s competition – the quartet rotates partners and adds up individual points – was marked by a surprise birthday party for Mancuso, who said he celebrated last night as well when Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees hit his American League-record 62nd home run in Texas.
“That was just super,” said Mancuso, a lifelong Yankees’ fan who used to welcome members of the Bronx Bombers to Batavia in his role as chairman of the annual Notre Dame Sports Night.
Photo: From left, Robert Smith, Ben Mancuso Jr., Charles Graney and Ned Chatt at T.F. Brown's today. Photo by Mike Pettinella.