ZAIDEE MILLER, 98, surveyed the cards in her hand, bid and doubled.
Small and slender, she sat erect and focused among the 20 people who dropped in Wednesday for bridge at the Kiwanis-Wallas Center in Ellicott City.
Miller's daughter-in-law, Maxine Miller, says she and her mother-in-law will travel "20 or 30 miles for a good bridge game."
After Maxine Miller's husband died, she and Zaidee Miller settled their affairs in Florida and moved to Columbia nine months ago to live near Maxine Miller's son, Rusty Miller.
They play bridge at Kiwanis-Wallas from 9 a.m. to noon Wednesdays and from 10: 30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Fridays.
According to the players, the Wednesday group is "not cutthroat."
When the players gather, they form as many tables of four as they can. The last table may have only three players.
Each pair plays six hands at each table. Then the winning pairs move to other tables.
Last week, the players discussed their hands as the cards were shuffled, cut and dealt, but chatter stopped when the first card was played.
Each player concentrated on winning tricks.
Ellicott City resident Dot McQuinn began playing with the group after her husband died more than seven years ago.
The group plays in the morning, McQuinn said, and then goes to lunch at a place "along the strip" -- U.S. 40.
"Often the widows get together on Sunday afternoon in each other's homes for bridge and then go out to dinner," she said.
Players come from Laurel, Clarksville, Columbia and Ellicott City.
Many began playing after taking lessons with Sue Johnston, whom they describe as "the No. 1 teacher in the county."
Johnston will teach four eight-week bridge classes beginning Jan. 27 and 29 at the Kiwanis-Wallas Center: Bridge Brush-up, Bridge for Beginners, Bridge Clinic and Bridge for Intermediates.
The cost is $22 per class.
In another room at the Kiwanis-Wallas Center, 10 people played pinochle at two tables.
They engaged in almost constant repartee while playing hand after hand.
They don't stop for lunch, they said. Indeed, they keep playing "until the center kicks them out," according to one of the players.
Many of the group go to the Cooksville Senior Center on Fridays to play pinochle from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
"Out there, we get lunch for $2," another player said.
Seniors also drop in at the center to play mah-jongg, a game of Chinese origin played by four people with 144 tiles, on Wednesday afternoons and to crochet and knit on the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month.
The center offers, at little cost, a variety of classes, including line dancing, "fitness fun" and drawing and painting.
Classes and drop-in programs are also available at the Roger Carter Center in Ellicott City and at the Elkridge Senior Center.
One of the pinochle players, Al Wheltle of Valley Mede, said 30 to 50 seniors play an hourlong bingo game four mornings a week.
On Mondays, he said, they play at the McDonald's at Chatham Mall. On Tuesdays, they go to the McDonald's at Long Gate, and on Wednesdays, they gather at the McDonald's at Wal-Mart in Ellicott City.
They win gift certificates from the stores for food or merchandise.
On Fridays, they meet at the Kmart at Chatham Mall where, Wheltle says, they "get a good breakfast of two eggs, two pieces of bacon and two pieces of toast and home fries for $2 and change."
The coffee is free to seniors.
Some come fresh from exercising at Chatham Mall, which sponsors a walking period from 8 a.m. to 9: 30 a.m. weekdays.
Gale Mullikin, the mall's secretary, estimates that 20 to 30 seniors walk daily one or more times around the mall. The circuit measures one-fifth of a mile.
Wheltle pulled out his wallet and displayed his Senior Citizen Activity Card, issued by the Board of Education. The card enables him to attend any activity or high school game free, except championship games, he said.
Patti Caplan, public information officer for Howard County public schools, says that anyone older than 55 may attend events at the schools -- plays, concerts and regular-season in-county games -- free.
Seniors must fill out a short form, available from the public information office, or call 410-313-6682.
While the play was hot and heavy inside the Kiwanis-Wallas Center, Jim May, commissioner of the Howard County Youth Program Inc., and Sal Milio, travel team commissioner, surveyed the fields outside. They are planning to upgrade the fields.
About 700 girls, ages 7 to 18, will play fast-pitch softball on the fields this spring.
The land was donated by Anton "Tony" Wallas to the Kiwanis Club in the early 1950s. Baseball was first played on the fields in 1954.
The property is owned by the Howard County Department of Recreation and Parks and leased to the Howard County Youth Program Inc.
Touring old Ellicott
For those who are interested in local history, Joetta Cramm will again teach her six-week course on Ellicott City.
The class, which is offered by Howard Community College, will meet from noon to 1: 15 p.m. Tuesdays at PJ's Restaurant in Ellicott City. It begins Feb. 2 and will conclude with a two-hour walking tour.
The Barnes & Noble bookstore at the Long Gate shopping center in Ellicott City will hold a free health and beauty program from 11 a.m. to noon Wednesday.
The program will include a tai chi demonstration, a consultation on winter beauty products and a demonstration of makeup techniques.
Ellicott City resident Joan Tarbell is showing two etchings and one collagraph in this month's invitational show at the Artists' Gallery in Columbia.
Tarbell, a painter, works mostly in watercolors. She joined the Baltimore Watercolor Society last year.
She has become fascinated with making prints, especially collagraphs -- made by inking collages that contain a variety of materials glued together on a Masonite, cardboard or metal plate.
She says the medium lets her be "wide open" with the use of textures.
Fifteen artists are included in the show, which runs through Jan. 29.
New Year's baby
Congratulations to Sarbjit and Rajwant Aurora of Ellicott City, parents of the first baby born in Maryland in 1999, according to Howard County General Hospital.
The couple's firstborn, Kavaljeet Kaur Aurora, arrived eight seconds after midnight, the hospital said.
Sarbjit Aurora -- known as "Sarge" -- moved to the area in 1986 to accept a position with the Department of Defense.
He met his wife in New Delhi, India, when he returned there to visit his grandfather in June 1996. The couple was married 18 months ago.
Sarbjit Aurora's parents live in Texas. His mother flew here two weeks ago to help with the baby.
Mother and daughter are doing well.
Kudos to PTA
Congratulations to the Howard High School PTSA, which received the Maryland PTA Gold Seal Achievement Award for the 1997-1998 school year. It was the only high-school PTSA so recognized.
The PTSA increased its membership by 10 percent during that school year.
Pub Date: 1/18/99