Mah-Jongg Shelter Island style

One recent table of players at Senior Mah-Jongg. From the left, Charlotte Hannabury, Diane Blagburn and Dorothy Clark.

The Senior Activity Center is home to a number of activities; some, like yoga, provide physical and mental nourishment for Island seniors. Others, like poker and Mah-Jongg, are intellectually challenging. Each, in its own way, is fun.

On Monday and Friday from 1:30 to 5 p.m., about 13 women settle in for an afternoon of Mah-Jongg. Charlotte Hannabury remembers being a part of Muriel Peterson’s Tri-Ominoes group at the Dinner Bell. When Muriel left for Florida, Charlotte joined the Mah-Jongg players. “Ruth Hanes and Diane Blagburn were my early mentors,” she said. “Once you learn,” Charlotte added with a twinkle in her eye, “the game becomes [highly] competitive.”

Dorothy Clark admits to a fatal attraction for games but she claims, “Mah-Jongg is the hardest game I have ever tried.” She joined the group in October 2008 and learned by watching the others play.

When Gert Bourne and Stephanie Zinger were heading up the group, there was “formal instruction.” Now, as Ginny Rowland is finding out, you watch and learn by playing.

Diane Blagburn, one of Stephanie Zinger’s students a few years ago, thinks Mah-Jongg “is a good game to play in the winter time. It keeps us bright and alert.” As the nominal leader of the Senior Center group, she asked me to mention the players not featured in Bev Walz’s photo — Linda Betjeman, Bev Cahill, Gussie Davis, Pat Haig, Ruth Hanes, Dot Holtz, Betty Kontje, Joan Maniarotti, Ann Pollio, Ginny Rowland and Carolyn Willberg.

Mah-Jongg originated in China, and involves skill, calculation, and, as our players well know, a little bit of luck.

Here are two tidbits selected from an article in Wikipedia, which might titillate you into learning how to play. 

• Studies by Hong Kong doctors have shown that the game is beneficial for individuals suffering from dementia or cognitive memory difficulties.

• In Japan, beautiful and scantily clad models play a form of strip Mah-Jongg by removing clothing items when they lose a hand.

Here on Shelter Island, you never know!