Sandy Dickson discovered the Collingwood Leisure Time Club (LTC) serendipitously.
In 1997, Dickson and her husband had just retired in Collingwood after living in Wawa, Ontario for most of their lives. Her husband was an avid coin collector at the time, so, eager to get involved in their new community, they decided to attend a collectors meeting taking place at the LTC.
Dickson wasn’t all that interested in coin collecting, but after perusing the bulletin board for other activities, she settled on bridge lessons. She ended up enjoying the game immensely and joined the club to continue learning and playing.
“Bridge is an excellent game both mentally and socially,” said Dickson. “It forces you to really think and focus, but at the same time you get to meet all of these different people.”
As her bridge skills increased, so did her passion, and Dickson began playing competitively. She joined the American Contract Bridge League (ACBL) and became a certified manager.
The ABCL is the governing body for contract bridge in Canada, the United States, Mexico and Bermuda and is a member of the World Bridge Federation. It is a competitive bridge league that also offers training and other resources for the card game.
Dickson eventually became a certified teacher as well, and now teaches bridge to beginner and intermediate players at the LTC two times a year. She also helped form the Collingwood Duplicate Bridge Club and started hosting social nights once a week.
“We realized how difficult it was for newer players to go from lessons right into the ACBL,” said Dickson. “It was daunting. So we formed the second league to take the pressure off.”
The Collingwood Duplicate Bridge Club grew rapidly and now takes place at the LTC four times a week. It’s still duplicate, but not as structured and has a “more relaxed atmosphere.”
“We designed this league to play high-quality bridge but to be social as well,” said Dickson. “We make a real night of it, having a social hour before. It’s a great way to meet people.”
They also host an annual Christmas party and wine and cheese nights for all of the players. In order to play in the league, participants need to be a member of the LTC.
“It’s grown so much, we now have one of the biggest clubs by far,” said Dickson. The league averages 20 tables (with four at each table) per game.
While Dickson’s passion is embedded in bridge, there is a vast list of other activities at the LTC for its members.
The Collingwood Leisure Time Club was founded in 1988 by Harry Leal and a dedicated group of community members. The founders managed to raise enough funds and eventually incorporated it as a non-profit corporation. In 1995, the LTC expanded again thanks to a large bequest from a former member, doubling the size of the building. In order to be eligible to join, members must be at least 50-years-old or older. Visitors of any age are welcome, and would pay a user fee of $4 when they attend.
The LTC now has over 1,100 members from Collingwood, Wasaga Beach, Meaford, Feversham and further. Members pay a fee of $35 per year, and a user fee ($2) every time they attend the club.
Programs include everything from the numerous bridge lessons and leagues, to billiards, shuffleboard, painting, line dancing, exercise classes, quilting, and much more.
“Whether it’s social or physical, there is something for everybody,” said Sue Bumstead, the administrative coordinator for the LTC.
Bumstead has been working with the club for over 10 years, and has witnessed it change and grow, watching the members grow along with it.
Like Dickson, there are a lot of members have been involved with the club since it’s early days.
“Sandy has done so much for the Leisure Time that she was made an honorary member,” Bumstead smiled.
The first thing you notice when you enter the club is how homey it feels.
Members' artwork is displayed in showcases throughout the halls, with their name and number if anyone wants to inquire about purchasing it. One woman's series of watercolour greeting cards is on display and for sale, while other display cases feature gorgeous Georgian Bay landscapes.
The bulletin board is filled with various activities that take place both at the club and in the community. One of the activities, titled Friends Forever, involves a group of women who gather at 10 a.m. every Friday morning to chat about life. The gathering — much like majority of the scheduled events at the LTC — has held its same spot on the club’s calendar for years and years.
“It’s not meant to be an exclusive club,” said Bumstead. “It all circles back to friendship.”
Bumstead said the group of men who play pool on Tuesdays and Thursdays didn’t know each other when the activity first started. Now some of them won’t miss a game. Their laughing and friendly banter bounces through the club’s halls.
Dickson attends the club three to five times a week at least.
“The majority of our friends and contacts in Collingwood have come from being at the club,” said Dickson. “Both my husband and I have been playing bridge for years and years. I hope it will always be there.”