1945: Season’s Remaining Midwest Tournaments. 1945: Davida Hawthorn, Dick Miles New U.S. Open Champions. 1945-46: USTTA Elects Veteran Officials. 1945-46: May and Beyond…Not All Players Home After V-E, V-J Days.
Though with regard to increasing USTTA membership it would surely make little or no difference, Kansas City, Missouri held a one-day tournament in the Municipal Auditorium for "168 girls and boys representing twenty youth centers." Perhaps it could be said that the recently married Dr. Herman Mercer, for years the best player in the city, encouraged these youngsters by his prestigious presence. Certainly the organizers ought to have been appreciative, since Mercer officiated at the final matches and presented the awards. But did this fun night for the kids have anything to do with the need, as Topics will editorialize (Apr., 1945, 2), for the USTTA to "begin a program of education in the schools, particularly in Junior and Senior High age groups"? "Our great international stars of the future are yet undiscovered," says the editorial. Really? And they’re going to come from…schools? Such nonsense.
At the Mar. 3-4 Kansas Closed—actually more a Topeka Closed—Defending Champion Oliver Leighton didn’t retain his Men’s title, but he did deign to win not only the Junior’s, but—from the sublime to the ridiculous—the Consolation. Why a Women’s Singles wasn’t held, I don’t know, for there was a Mixed Doubles final.
On the March weekend of the Topeka tournament, the Ohio Open in Columbus also saw an upset in the Men’s. In the semi’s, Bill Early beat Max Hersh in 5—this after Max, in winning 1-2-3-4-5-6-7 straight tournaments, had gone through the season undefeated.
Varga, as President of the Indiana TTA, and probably the most respected coach in the country with the success of Early and just-turned-teenager Gordon Barclay, often found an audience and when he did was apt to speak authoritatively—especially when watching his South Bend charges. Here in Columbus, Early won the Junior’s from Spence—who’d 19, 16, -22, 24 had to work hard in the semi’s to beat Barclay. Exactly 50 years later, the 67-year-old Early was telling me that while Gordy was playing a match John would explain loudly to others what the boy was doing wrong. This Early found disconcerting. Perhaps the more so because he realized Varga would be talking that way about him when he was playing? As I presume Varga’s loud play-by-play description wasn’t meant as an indirect coaching communication to his on-court pupil, would both Barclay and Early, though unable to hear just what Varga was saying off-court, understand that he was being critical, his tone negative—and would this put added pressure on them? If so, they certainly learned to keep their self-possession.
Moreover, by all accounts no one was going to change Varga’s modus operandi. God forbid, said Early, if John caught one of the kids gambling or swearing—he’d have a fit. Another of his strongly-held-to-Rules was that no one could come through his Club’s street-door to get to another part of the Y. One time, said Early, he saw barrel-chested John physically stop someone trying to do just that. He started shaking this guy up and down, even while he was telling one of the kids to call the police. "You are a stranger here but once," read a sign in the Club. Apt, ironically, for this intruder too. And yet John could also be flexible. He knew the personalities of his pupils—Early was excitable, Barclay modest and quiet—and he handled them accordingly.
At the Mar. 17-18 Toledo Lake City Open, Early had to struggle—first, to beat Shannon in 5, then Abelew, -12, 23, 19, 19, and finally Varga in 5. Topics had a photo of 5-time U.S. Champion Sally Green on its Apr., ’45 cover with the caption, "How long can Sally win?" With regard to this Toledo tournament…all through all the events she entered. The description of Sally in that Apr. Topics goes like this:
"…[It] looks as though Sally is a top heavy favorite to win her 6th National….And table tennis is proud of having produced such a fine champion. Sally’s ever crossed fingers and her self-admonishing ‘Oh Sally’ bring smiles—her superb game, unquenchable spirit, and gentle sportsmanship mark her as a true champion. Should her time come to lose, we know that such a situation will be faced with the same sincere graciousness that has accompanied her victories, Yes…we are very proud to say, ‘That’s our Sally’" (2).
This encomium is prophetically ominous?
Davida Hawthorn New U.S Open Women’s Champion
The Topics write-up of the Apr. 13-15 National’s—held at Detroit’s Catholic Youth Organization Community Center under the direction of C. Bronson Allen—begins with the eye-catching: "Davida Hawthorn furnished the upset of the decade" (May, 1945, 3). Then continues:
"By far the most thrilling match of the entire tournament was that between Sally Green and Davida Hawthorn, in the quarter’s. With Sally the top favorite, Davida went to work with that chop of hers, and it proved to be the weapon that toppled the woman’s champion. The final game, ending at 23-21, was—in its way—as exciting as the 1944 men’s finals match between Somael and Lowry."
Pauline Robinson later wrote, "I was recently told that when Sally lost her title after five years…there was a great, stunned silence over the hall as if no one could quite believe that Sally could lose" (TTT, Jan., 1953, 11).
It didn’t seem possible, but rivaling this great Hawthorn-Green match was another yet to come. Here’s the Topics writer again:
"…The finals, between Davida and Peggy McLean, was highlighted only by the Sally-Davida match. Peggy went down in the fifth game by the score of 22-20, fighting every point of the way, and in a way that made you stand up and cheer! With Davida favoring her defense, Peggy drove forehand and backhand. Beautifully, steadily, to attack…attack…and attack. With the score 20-18 against her in the fifth, Peggy drove her way to deuce before losing out."
Said the covering Detroit Times reporter, "Miss McLean ["a 3-1 favorite"] had the more polished strokes. Tenacity and better control saved Miss Hawthorn." Not only had Davida never beaten Peggy (in fact, this may have been the only time she beat her), she had a history of losing close games, not only to Peggy but to others. So all the more to her credit had been her semi’s win over Reba Monness after losing the 3rd 25-23 to go 2-1 down. If ever a U.S. woman player rose to the occasion for three straight supremely important matches it was Davida.
In the other semi’s, McLean, winning the 1st at deuce, defeated Leah Thall in 5 after Leah had labored to (–20, 24, 14, 20) get past Mae Clouther. Monness was extended to 19 in the 4th in the quarter’s by LaVera Levin, apparently playing her last tournament. She’d risen to be ranked U.S. #8, but was now retiring (per husband’s wishes?).
As predicted, Green recovered from her Singles trauma to win her third Women’s Doubles title with Mildred Shipman who’d had back trouble in losing to Clouther in the Singles. They won in 5 over Thall/Monness who’d reached the final via a 17 in the 5th quarter’s match with the Blank twins.
In the Mixed, Lasater/Kuenz continued their season’s winning ways—took the title by downing in the final another established partnership, Somael/Hawthorn. No romance there with Johnny and Davida though, for as fellow New Yorker Sol Schiff said, "Davida was just one of the guys." (Except, as quite a few habitués of Lawrence’s surmised, maybe she did have a…significant friendship with Herwald?)
Dick Miles New U.S. Open Men’s Champion
The Men’s final, said Topics, was "a rather cut and dried affair, with Miles fulfilling all predictions." After Dick disposed of Harry Lund who’d had a nice deuce-in-the-5th win over Les Leviton, he lost a game to Marty Reisman in the quarter’s and Mel Nichols in the semi’s—but he was never in danger of losing to either of them. Nichols went through Bob Green and then Guy Blair who’d come from California to Columbus to attend Ohio State. Blair had played at Green’s first Columbus Club at Buttles and High in the basement of a medical building where Harry Sage’s father had his offices, and had developed a go-for-broke attacking game that had swept him through Abelew here in the 8th’s. Reisman’s advance, however, couldn’t have been shakier….
Marty may have been a cocky kid, proud of his early hustling career that no doubt began somewhere with nickels, dimes, quarter’s, but in the 2nd round of the Men’s, he went 19 in the 5th with Toledo’s U.S. #42 Michael "Gus" Louris. Apparently this match wasn’t a hustle, was on the up and up, for Schiff said that Reisman was often "cold" in the beginning and that it sometimes took him as much as an hour and a half to warm up. Marty then went on to upset the #5 seed Early in 5 (after being down 2-1 and at 21-all in the 4th).
Defending Champ Johnny Somael, meanwhile, made his uneventful way to the semi’s where, at 1-1 with Hersh, he won the key deuce 3rd game and moved on to the final. Johnny, Dick knew, was a very tenacious player, and "would never make the match easy for me." But though on occasion he’d beaten Dick in the past, he was invariably at least a 3-point underdog. "Johnny was strictly a chiseler," said Dick. "He had a little backhand flick, but no forehand at all. He had a backhand grip on his forehand that more or less forced him to smother the ball completely."
Miles of course has to remember this Detroit National’s as the one where he finally arrived—could claim the first of his record-setting 10 U.S. Opens. (Dick always preferred the more embracive "U.S. Open" to the homey "National’s.") In recalling his final with Somael, Dick said, "Johnny was a clean-cut, good-looking kid, Polish not Jewish, who the year before, in winning the Championship from 20-14 down, had proven himself to have a great heart. I was playing in my first National final, was a skinny 111 pounds, and had a big nose. There must have been 3,500 spectators there, and the crowd was so much for Somael that on the first point of the match, when Johnny scored a net ball, there was great applause. This irritated me, and though Johnny threw up his hands to me and said, in effect, ‘I didn’t applaud,’ I made no attempt to conceal my irritation, for I thought the audience showed very poor sportsmanship. I was always very conscious of such things, since I myself always wanted to be a good sportsman and believe that I was."
Michigan TTA President Steenhoven seemed to think otherwise, for Dick remembered Graham handing him the trophy. "Here," he said, "I hope you behave like a Champion." "These guys in the Midwest were the real ‘Americans,’" said Dick. "We were the New Yorkers, the wise guys, the Jews." Acidity, humor, pride—50 years later, his voice held all in equilibrium. As we’ve seen, both Miles and Freddie Borges were absolutely stunned when, at that earlier USTTA Open Meeting in Detroit, the question was raised whether Negroes should be allowed to play in sanctioned events. Was it mere chance that President Steenhoven’s opening match here paired him against (the only black man in the field?) Lynel Overton? Perhaps not. Perhaps he wanted to set a good example, huh?
Somael , whom I’ve shown losing two finals, did not lose the third. In the fierce free-for-all of the Men’s Doubles, he and Max Hersh came through—were 5-game pressed only by the Toledo teenagers, Bob Wisniewski/Bob Harlow. The runner-ups, Nichols/Lasater, however, had a succession of close encounters—they were forced into 5 by two unheralded Wisconsin players, Bill Holton/Phil Szarlata, had to 22-20-in-the-5th dodge the would-be fatal bullets of Blair/Green, then, only on breaking free of Varga/Abelew in 5, were they able to gain the final.
Reisman doesn’t mention anything in his fact/fiction Money Player about his early-round 19-in-the-5th Men’s match with Louris (who’d earlier beaten Consolation winner Alan Bass). But Marty does say that—preparatory to playing South Bend whiz-kid Barclay, the #3 seed in the quarter’s of the Junior’s, a match which, according to the tournament schedule, would surely follow Marty’s struggle with Louris—that he made an innocent mistake. He went up to a man who he thought was the bookmaker he was doing business with, for he wanted to bet on himself against Barclay (bet, uh, $500 Marty says entertainingly), and was shocked to learn that this man was Graham Steenhoven (though he wasn’t then, as Marty says, the President of the Association).
Steenhoven was aghast to find this 15-year-old juvenile (juvenile delinquent?) blatantly gambling, a USTTA no-no, so he responded, according to Marty, by allowing him to play the match [sic], and then by having a policeman escort him out of the Hall (48). Borges—protector of youthful, pained innocence, as well as New Yorkers and Jews—adds to the story by saying it was he who rescued Marty, got him reinstated when (in tears?) Marty came to him and said he’d been thrown out of the tournament. How much all this affected Marty’s play in the Junior’s is unclear. Maybe now, faced with officialdom’s wrath over his future as a role model for USTTA youth, he was afraid to win the title? Don’t bet on it. He did beat Barclay, 18 in the 4th. But then he lost to Toledo’s #2 seed Bob Harlow, -20, -20, 16, -17, who’d survived a 5-game scare with Richard Leviton. After which, the #1 seed Early, on getting by "Tibby" Shaber in 5, trounced Harlow in straight games.
In the Boys,’ "Barclay achieved proper revenge for his 1944 defeat in the finals at the hands of fellow home-towner Richard Leviton," and so became "everyone’s favorite champion—he’s that well loved!"
Another final—the Veterans’—had to have found favor with the spectators, regardless of who they were championing. This marathon match was won by George Bacon over Bill Gunn, 29-27 in the 5th. Both finalists, unseeded, had earned the tense attention given them—earlier, Bacon had staved off elimination by beating Marlin Tucker, 16, 23, -14, -17, 21; and Gunn had knocked out Don Wilson in 5 after Don had eliminated Perc Secord, 25-23 in the 5th.
The National Champion and runner-up of every event were awarded the #1 and #2 Ranking. But Elmer Cinnater, USTTA Ranking Committee Chair who’d been on the Committee ever since he joined the USTTA 10 years ago, said that the "job of ranking during the was has been extremely difficult." Here’s why: "Lack of tournaments in some localities, particularly in the East, the cancellation of the Intercity Matches for the duration [counting for so much, they often provided relatively easy differentiations between top-ranked players from separate locales], the inability of some of our top ranking players to perform in the tournaments that were held, and the everlasting [‘hot and ‘cold’] change of our player status." For the upcoming ’45-46 season, he said, players who hope to be ranked must participate "in at least three events, of which one must be the Eastern, Western, or National." (TTT, Dec., 1945, 6).
USTTA Elects Veteran Officials
Following the season-ending National’s, State Affiliates unanimously elected the Nominating Committee’s slate* of USTTA veteran officials for the 1945-46 season. Re-elected were Carl Nidy, President; Ed Kuhns, 1st Vice-President; Ted Chapman, 2nd Vice-President; Morris Bassford, Treasurer; and John Kauderer, Recording Secretary. Coming in to take Charlie Cox’s place as 3rd Vice-President was former Michigan TTA President Steenhoven, who’d been succeeded by Bill Byrnes. Also, taking Bassford’s place before he’d even had a chance to serve—he resigned, he said, due to "a change in business"—was Robert Metcalf, former Pennsylvania TTA President and longtime USTTA Auditing Chair. Taking over for Helen Baldwin as Executive Secretary was Raymond Lutjen who would relinquish his Des Moines TTA Presidency to Simon Casaday. But then, as the new season progressed, Membership Chair Baldwin would join her brothers in California, and Thomas E. "Bob" Berna would return from Service, resume his former position as Executive Secretary, take over Membership, and re-establish the Association Headquarters in Philadelphia in the same Middle Building "in which the U.S.T.T.A. established its first full-time operating office in 1939."
May and Beyond…
The May, 1945 Topics spoke of an "Old Timers Comeback" at the Apr. 28-29 Chicago Cook County Open. The "high spot" of the tournament, it was said, "was the presence of Mort Ladin, Jerry Lavan, Max Rushakoff and S/Sgt. Al Nordhem." In the Men’s, all four of these "has-beens" were in the quarter’s. There, Lavan (Luh-VAN), who as early as 1934 was on the Chicago Intercity Team, lost to Barclay in straight games; but Nordham, the 1939 U.S. Open Mixed Doubles Champion with Mildred Wilkinson Shipman, up 1-0 and at 21-all in the 2nd, gave Varga some uncomfortable moments before losing. Ladin, the Western Open Champ and U.S. #13 in 1935, down 2-1 and at 21-all in the 4th, stayed strong against Milwaukee’s Russ Sorensen, U.S. #20, to advance in 5; and Rushakoff, who won this tournament in 1932, astonished everyone with his penholder attack that 10, 26, -11, -20, 19 knocked out Bill Early, U.S. #5. In the semi’s, Rushakoff fell to Ladin in 5, and Barclay wasn’t psychically ready yet to threaten Varga. In the final, John convincingly defeated Ladin, Veterans’ winner over Paul Buell.
In the Women’s, Chicago’s Jean Scranton, down 2-0 to Carlyn Blank in the final, rallied to win "her first major tournament."
The very day after the May 5-6 Indiana Closed, the World started to open. Although V-E Day wasn’t officially celebrated until May 8 (when President Truman, Prime Minister Churchill, General de Gaulle, and Premier Stalin would all make simultaneous statements), New Yorkers couldn’t wait. The announcement on May 7 of Germany’s unconditional surrender prompted John G. Rogers in the May 8th New York Herald Tribune to write of yesterday afternoon and evening’s reaction:
"With shouting and paper throwing, with horn-tooting and dancing, with banners and bottles, the city poured hundreds of thousands of joy-fevered celebrants into the streets from mid-morning to mid-afternoon in an ebullient revelry that defied restraint.
…the Statue of Liberty will be floodlighted with unprecedented brilliance and will remain so illuminated for all time as a victory symbol. Since Pearl Harbor the world-famous statue has been dark, except for its torch.
…The sight of a slender young corporal with left leg off at the knee, picking his way on crutches through Times Square at the peak of the civilian shouting, was a sobering reminder that there was still a war on, that several million Americans still have to fight Japan.
…a marine who won his ribbons in the Pacific stared stonily at the Times Square revelry. ‘I guess it’s all right,’ he said, ‘if they feel like it. They don’t know what it’s all about though.’"
As it would be more than three months yet before Japan accepted the Allied surrender terms, and more months after that before many of our Servicemen and women would be able to return home, table tennis players continued to entertain our troops abroad. Preeminent among them were Chuck Burns, U.S. #3 for the 1942-43 season, and a number of last year’s Top 10 players, all absent from the National’s just concluded—Bellak, Hazi, Pagliaro, and Schiff.
Detroit’s Chuck Burns had for some time been registered as a USTTA exhibition player. In fact, he’d remember for a lifetime how, once, when trying out for a show (it was his first?), he’d "choked like a rat—was so nervous he couldn’t even serve"—and yet was hired ("You guys are terrific" said the guy watching and hiring). Now he was about to set off on an 8-month USO Tour with Ruth Aarons who last summer had been reported doing exhibitions in France with Garrett Nash—though he’d then split with her and Topics would have him in Algiers performing on one occasion with Ted Mosher "before 1000 people, most of them Arabs" who according to Mosher were "quite apt to sit stonily with their eyes moving and then cheer and yell like mad." Chuck said Garrett as an entertainer was good with his delivery, but, though he could hit down the lines and smack a backhand anywhere, he couldn’t hit a forehand cross-court when it was called for.
Burns took his physical on May 16 and 5 days later started drawing a salary. As writer Bob Latshaw tells us, Chuck was mustered in with comedian Jack Benny, harmonica player Larry Adler, and actress Ingrid Bergman, the Ilsa of "Casablanca"—which, as it happened, was the place where Chuck’s particular Camp Show started out. There he was challenged by Ed Gardner, the Archie of the very successful radio program "Duffy’s Tavern." Chuck gave him 15 points—won. He also remembers playing, on the rooftop of a hotel there, the tennis and later movie star Jinx Falkenberg (who preferred to play table tennis as a penholder).
Unit #612: The Racketeers"—that was the troupe Chuck and Ruth were part of. They traveled with Ann Sharon, a puppeteer; Lois Sterner, a tap dancer (who was accompanied by accordionist Hal Freeman); and Jimmy Treston, who did impersonations of singers Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby and of singer/comedian Danny Kaye. A photo of them in bathing suits on a beach in Tripoli appeared in National Geographic and was later reproduced in the Nov., 1988 Michigan Jewish Sports Hall of Fame Dinner Program (Chuck being an inductee on that occasion).
Sometime that summer Chuck threw his bad knee out. "Can you do the show?" Ruth asks. "All you have to do is just stand there." Then, said Chuck, "she moves me around like crazy." Perhaps it’s to this particular performance that an Oct. 11 article published by Hq Port Service, Khorramshahr, Iran alludes: "Ruth Aarons and Chuck Burns, the table tennis experts, put on a good show for the crowd, with Ruth demonstrating that the fair sex isn’t always the weaker sex. Chuck, however, was hindered by a bad leg, and couldn’t play his usual driving game"—which, come to think of it, maybe was their usual "line" everywhere they went? Ruth herself was a tough act to follow: she could drink boilermakers like a man, and enjoyed going with her troupe to such exotic places as Karachi, Cairo, New Delhi, Benghazi.
Early in 1946 Ruth went on Touring without Burns. The War Department gave Chuck a Civilian Service Emblem Award for his USO service outside the U.S., and he returned home and sooner or later would go into the real estate business. For a while Ruth was with Johnny Abrahams—he’d won the 1938 U.S. Open Mixed with Women’s Champ Emily Fuller—but Johnny up and left Ruth in India somewhere, and Bellak said she had to call on him to help her out, though I’d also read that Glancz was with her in Calcutta in February. In the late spring of ’46, Ruth and Chuck were together again—appearing at Loew’s State Theater in New York with headline performer Benny Fields. Bill Smith’s not too encouraging May 10th review appeared in Billboard:
"Ruth Hughes Aarons on this trip has Chuck Burns and Lou Perry with her. Combo started ragged but finished nicely. Table tennis work of Miss Aarons and Burns gets over okay particularly when "arguments" occur, tho in latter it was Perry’s ad libs which helped. Perry (who doubles in brass as agent) does the commentating chores with speed and keeps act on toes."
Ruth’s performing days were about over, but, as Lee Mortimer said in 1948, she’d busy herself guiding "the careers of Shirley Jones, Sean and David and Jack Cassidy, Janis Paige, Celeste Holm, and Oscar-winner George Chakiris."
That summer of 1945, Bellak and Hazi did exhibitions all over India, "playing two and three times a day" in that hot, punishing climate. At the "All-American Table Tennis Tournament" in the "India-Burma Theater," held July 27-29 at the Monsoon Gardens Army Rec Center in Calcutta, Hazi and Bellak were deemed too good to play, but they did put on an Exhibition there, and again in September—"one hour and fifteen minutes of clowning, trick shots, serious play and humorous interjections by Bellak"—before a large and appreciative crowd. Laci said that when he’d been in India in the late 1930’s, prior to performing in one large arena he and Barna were told they’d receive half the receipts. As thousands were filling up the stands, Laci practically screamed, "Victor, we’re going to make a fortune!" Only, as it turned out, the spectators were paying the equivalent of just one U.S. penny to see the performance.
This time they’d managed a better deal—had an Army Special Service #1 priority, even over military officers. Once, said Laci, as they took their time soaking themselves in a marble tub in a maharajah’s palace where they were staying, soldiers with guns came banging at their door. Would they please get dressed? The exhibitionists were keeping the generals waiting at the airport—generals who couldn’t leave without them.
Of course in entertaining the troops they were always taking whatever flights were available. One time over the Himalayas, Laci and Tibor were huddled over cases of beer—roped in, because the high-flying C-47 had no door. How Hazi felt about this experience can be deduced from another. One clear moonlit night, Bellak was lucky enough to get a pilot in a propeller plane to fly the two of them over the Taj Mahal. "Look!" exclaimed Laci. Tibor dutifully leaned over, closed his eyes, said, "Beautiful!" and quickly leaned back. He was afraid of heights.
And, said Laci, who delighted in telling stories at Hazi’s expense, Tibor wasn’t too good on the ground either. Tibor wanted to learn how to drive—and in the steep Himalayas yet. Coming into what he thought was a straightaway, but was actually a hillside, he lost control even of his slow-moving jeep, and had to jump out before it went rolling off into the jungle. Ah, the weaknesses, the foibles of even our much admired Hall of Fame Champions.
Tibor, promoted to Sergeant, would stay in the India-Burma Theater at least to year’s end, while Laci would return home to his fiancée. But as he’d seen too many Indian princesses, or the like, he broke off the engagement, asked for his ring back, and got instead, what was perhaps more important to him, the photos of himself he’d given her.
Garrett Nash—where, after his celebrated match with Bergmann, would he be? Entertaining others of course. Attached to Special Services, he was with the Mickey Rooney "Jeep Show" touring Europe. Mickey himself could play, and served as commentator for Nash’s act. When the War ended, Garrett joined USO shows (which is how he met his future wife, a USO "top spot singer" named Dorothy Matthews). Nash would tour "Newfoundland, Greenland, Iceland," and even played "a special show at a radio station just 400 miles from the North Pole" (TTT, Dec., 1947, 3).
Also absent from the ’45 National’s was 3-time U.S. Champ Lou Pagliaro who was on a USO overseas Tour (South Atlantic, African, and Middle East war theaters") with Mary Reilly, who back in ’41 had done an article on him for Topics). In Iran Louie played not only that Iranian Champion Mohtadi I’d mentioned before , but the Shah himself. Also, he says, "I’ll never forget when Mary and I were in the Ascension Islands, this guy had a pet jaguar, on a leash of course, who must have sensed I was afraid of it, for when it supposedly friendly-like came nudging me, and I said, ‘Hey, it’s biting me,’ others laughed—they thought I was joking, until I showed them it’d drawn blood."
A pretty redhead, Mary had spunk. She’d come up out of her Philly basement, off the homemade table one of her brothers had built, to join the Philadelphia Club, and had then moved to New York. In school, she’d gotten an A+ in her Journalism class for her fearless interview with John B. Kelly, father of Actress/Princess Grace Kelly, when he ran for Democratic Chairman in the City of Brotherly Love. By next spring she’d be hyping cigarettes in The Sporting News, dressed in table tennis shirt and shorts, a paddle in her left hand, a pack of Chesterfields outstretched Statue of Liberty-like in her right hand. For this particular brand that held the "They Satisfy" title, Mary was expected to be smiling, and of course she was—perhaps enjoying the private joke that, despite doing another ad for Camel cigarettes, she didn’t smoke.
Oh well, a buck’s a buck—which I suppose is what the new U.S. Women’s Champ Davida Hawthorn thought, for she was reportedly off on an Overseas Tour.
Sol Schiff, meanwhile, had been promoted to Sergeant—which in a March 12 letter to him from his commanding officer first praised him, then offered advice:
"…it is your privilege to prove to the theater and to the War Department that this type of athletic activity has a real value in the war effort. At the same time that you are giving the Armed Forces full services we want you to use your powers of observation to train yourself so that you will be able to return to us and be of even greater service to other theaters or in the zone of the interior, dependent on where you are needed most."
Sol and Johnny Somael would, I’m sure, observe quite a bit in their months-long European Theater of Operations Tour of France, Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Germany. In their troupe were "George Lott, tennis star; Billy Conn, former heavyweight contender; [and] golfer Horton Smith." Sol said his most satisfying exhibition ever was during this Tour when, watching the French Championships from a top-level balcony, he was recognized—and, though not exactly in his playing togs (he was wearing his Service combat boots), was called on to play an 11-point Exhibition game with Defending and 7-time French Champion Guy Amouretti.
Sol’s friend Ben Dattel, born within a few days of Sol in 1917, had been an habitué of Lawrence’s, had taught table tennis there and elsewhere, and for a while had managed the Burnside Table Tennis Center in the Bronx. After he and Sol were inducted into the Army together in Jan. of ’43, Ben, as he later told Reba Monness, "served with the Infantry, Coast Artillery and Anti-Aircraft" and of course gave table tennis exhibitions where he could. Since after the War he’d be a commercial artist with a background of having studied at two New York schools—Cooper Union and City College—it was only natural that he did artwork for Topics. That is, for the 87th Central America Anti-Aircraft Time Zero, a Newsweekly "featuring ‘Topics of the Tropics.’" In Panama, U.S.O. table tennis tournaments were held where Ben was stationed for both soldiers and civilians, and from Reba’s Profile of him we learn just how well known there he’d become:
"The prizes were a few dollars in Postal Savings Stamps. Ben accumulated quite a bit by winning every week for several months. He kept his book of stamps in plain view and no one dared to steal them. One evening Ben’s buddy wanted to borrow some money; since Ben was short he gave his buddy the book of stamps to cash in. A few hours later Ben was called to the Captain’s office where he was informed that his buddy was picked up in town for trying to sell Ben’s book of stamps. Ben explained the circumstances, his friend was released, and the book of stamps was returned to Ben."
After spending two years in Panama, Dattel "fought in ‘The Battle of the Bulge’ and did combat duty until the end of the War" (TTT, July-Aug., 1979, 29). This season he’d again be playing in tournaments—and so would Schiff, Doug Cartland, Eddie Pinner, Bill Price, Bill Holzrichter, Dan Kreer, V. Lee Webb, and Laci Bellak, among others. The boys were coming back. Would table tennis?
*The Aug. 7, 1945 Report of the July 7-8 Chicago Conference of USTTA Officials" recommended that the Nominating Committee should contact the Board of Governors before making up the slate." Apparently some Governors might have suggested another slate, or at least other candidates—but, so they weren’t asked, couldn’t they have approached the Nominating Committee themselves?
**Richard Bergmann, in his Twenty-One Up, says Aarons "crooned with Frank Sinatra on the stage and for good measure played table tennis against him, all in the same programme" (59). But there’s no mention of this in Ruth’s huge scrapbook, and where Bergmann got this information he doesn’t say.