- Chapter 1
- Chapter 2
- Chapter 3
- Chapter 4
- Chapter 5
- Chapter 6
- Chapter 7
- Chapter 8
- Chapter 9
- Chapter 10
- Chapter 11
- Chapter 12
- Chapter 13
- Chapter 14
- Chapter 15
- Chapter 16
- Chapter 17
- Chapter 18
- Chapter 19
- Chapter 20
- Chapter 21
- Chapter 22
- Chapter 23
- Chapter 24
- Chapter 25
- Chapter 26
- Chapter 27
- Chapter 28
1945: ITTF President Montagu and Others Discuss the State of the Sport and Possible Post-War Changes. 1945: Summer Tournaments. 1945-46: First Half-Season’s Tournaments (Through January). 1946: Lowry Takes "Pacific Olympics."
In an Aug. 7, 1945 letter to USTTA President Carl Nidy, his Executive Committee, and the Board of Regents—former USTTA President Dr. Stan Morest reports on a conversation he had in London on July 13 with ITTF President Ivor Montagu
regarding possible post-War changes as the Sport reorganizes.
First, writes Morest, "we both agreed on considering a possibility of a return to the high net because:
a. the most thrilling part of table tennis spectator appeal, namely deep defense, has been mostly lost due to the low net (the ball takes off lower…the competitors have been ‘pulled in." As proof we used to provide 12 to 25 feet backcourt space with a 6 ¾ " net, now 10 to 15 feet run back is plenty with the low, or 6" net); b. there are in force anti-chiseling rules [so we no longer need the low net to encourage attacking play]…c. [with the low net] players of average ability…have such an easy and sloppy time playing that some detriment to the full ability of their game has occurred; and…d. there are far more skilled players today who can execute offensive strokes than there were some 10 years ago when the wave of chop stroking swept the country at a time when only a relatively few players…had any conception of how to execute offensive strokes."
And, second, though "Ivor did not favor a larger ball, or larger table or racket," Morest says he’d like to extend the table for doubles:
"We must remember that regular tennis uses the outside lines for doubles and the inside lines for singles play. This fundamental of tennis play, that two players can cover more space than one, and that crowding the play of two players into the space originally intended to be for one, is detrimental to the advancement of our sport before spectators....H. N. Smith [one of the USTTA’s Honorary V.P.’s, who had an expanded Jaques Experimental table in his home] says that table tennis play on the ‘large’ table (6" longer and 6" wider) is absolutely marvelous to behold! Corti Woodcock [another USTTA Honorary V.P.] suggests increasing the length and width of the table 3" in each dimension and lowering the table 2" as a measure which would make doubles play thrilling to lay spectators. As it is, there is too much jostling and crowding until the players can neither play their best or fans see so well. My idea is to keep the singles play on the same court, but for doubles, the hinged sides and end board can be raised and the four corner legs moved to new positions."
Morest thinks that exhibition players ought to give the larger doubles court a try, and if the change seems successful then it should be adopted for tournament play.
Don Hendry, George’s brother, on returning home from overseas, wants to go Morest’s suggestion one better. In a letter to Topics, he says:
"…It seems to me that players have developed their offense to such an extent, made possible by the 6" net, that table tennis is now a ‘slam-bang’ sport which is not too interesting to the spectators and I do not believe that the players receive the full enjoyment possible from the game.
…No, I don’t advocate going back to the 6 ¾ net, but I do believe a larger table would make the game more interesting to the spectator and player alike. By making the table larger and raising the net, the offensive player could win by maneuvering his opponent out of position, by the use of the drop shot, and by running the opponent ‘ragged.’ In the present game it doesn’t make much difference if one smokes two packs of cigarettes a day and drinks a keg of beer every week, one plays almost as well. In my opinion stamina should be an important factor in a sport" (Jan., 1946, 7).
Some players, however, focus on improvements already made. Here’s Chicago’s Dr. Bill Meszaros—pleased that "the fancy spin services of a few years ago are now illegal":
"…Formerly we wound up and executed a wicked serve which our opponent either missed or returned high and with our own spin still on it. We then smashed this return, which either won the point or missed the table entirely. Matches tended to become a battle of services instead of strokes, which was not only harmful for our games, but uninteresting to spectators.
…[Don’t think with the new rule the serve is] just a means of putting the ball into play. It is used in order to get the ‘jump’ on the opponent—usually to get him off balance and put him on the defensive. However, instead of smashing his return, as of yore, we must now be content with a hard, well-placed drive. If we stop to take inventory of our games, we will find that this has improved our driving and our strokes in general. The receiver of the serve now has a better chance to drive it—therefore there is more opportunity to fight for the offensive. This makes volleys longer, but more keenly contested, and much more interesting to watch. In addition, the service is now more likely to be a tricky shot, such as one just dropped over the net. As a consequence, we must be more alert and on our toes. Without a semi-finger-spin service as a weapon, we must increasingly rely on strategy and wits to compensate" (TTT, Jan., 1946, 3).
From the perspective of the 21st century, we can see our table tennis forefathers at the close of World War II grappling with the same problems, and having the same discussions, those in the Sport will have more than half a century later. Should we raise the net? Enlarge the table? In both Singles and Doubles should we force the players to move more, so stamina becomes more important? Should we insist on Service Rules that force players to maneuver the ball, fight for points that last longer? Again and again aficionados from every generation focus on what will make the Sport fascinating to both players and spectators. And that is: contested points of some duration. Without such a struggle, the Sport can never offer fan involvement, engage the Imagination.
In answer to Morris’s question, when would the next World Championships be held, Montagu said that after V-J Day there’d likely be "an International competition, like a ‘Victory Tournament,’ then the World’s. Although the U.S. had at least titular representatives—Elmer Cinnater, Dougall Kittermaster, and Morris Bassford—aligned with representatives from other countries to revive ITTF activities, Montagu didn’t think America would ever hold a World Championship. The players in Europe and elsewhere had to work for a living, he said, and "the loss of 21 days time from their positions…made it impossible for enough players from enough countries" to come to the U.S. Morest argued, however, that with "air travel of the future the loss of time from employment would only be 10 days—a mere holiday or vacation." (Though surely the cost of airfare would for a time be prohibitive for many?) Montagu countered with the suggestion that the U.S.A. conduct "Inter-national Zone Team Play as preliminary to, or as the Finals of, Swaythling Cup play. Morest agreed that would be a start, and emphasized that "the publicity and prestige of a World’s Title Competition in the U.S. was something our sport needed badly."
While Capt. Morest was in England (stationed with the Army Medical Corps at a hospital there), two summer tournaments preparatory to the opening of the ’45-46 season were held in our Midwest. At the July Western States Open, played at the Chicago North-Town Club, Sam Shannon praised "South Bend’s little bundle of energy," Gordon Barclay, for his "will to win and smashing attacks" that allowed him to upset the #1 seed Max Hersh in the quarter’s in straight games. Men’s winner Varga and runner-up Abelew teamed to win the Doubles over the Leviton brothers who’d earlier gotten by Bob Green/Marlin Tucker 19 in the 5th. Before losing to the winners in 5, Bob Harlow and Bob Wisniewski won a 25-23 in the 5th thriller from Hersh and Sanford Gross who would become frequent partners on the circuit. In the Junior’s, before losing to Barclay, Harlow showed poise and discipline in his –20, 19, 20, 22 win over Richard Leviton. In the final, Early proved much too strong for Barclay who was four years younger than Bill.
Using a description that didn’t quite come out right, Shannon wrote that Leah Thall won the Women’s from "Milwaukee’s pretty twin," Carrol Blank. U.S. #16 Thelma "Tybie" Thall also did well to upset #2 seed Mildred Shipman.The Thalls won the Women’s Doubles by routing the National Champions Shipman and Sally Green.
The summer of ’45 was memorable for those at the late July Mid-Summer Open. Why? Because who should come to Columbus, Ohio at organizer Bob Green’s invitation but New Yorker Marty Reisman. How fast this 15-year-old was progressing could be seen when he won the Men’s—eliminating Early in the semi’s in 5 (after winning the 1st 24-22), then Guy Blair in the final in 4. Varga and his now-out-of-the-Junior’s and about to enter the Navy protégé Early won the Men’s Doubles from Green and Lt. Dan Kreer. Back from the Service, married just last year, Kreer was about to regain the form that would bring him a Top 10 Ranking.
As the season started, the USTTA, in its Topics editorials and articles, continued its obligatory pleas for help, its ever-stated intention to progress. But was anyone ever moved to action by…this:
"The Executive Officers of the USTTA, Presidents and Officers of Affiliated Associations…must have the support and cooperation of every USTTA member. Even with your unanimous help, we cannot do as much work as needs to be done at this time—but WITH your help, we can recruit new members of our association and WITH THEIR HELP we can make our association and its many privileges available to the thousands of table tennis fans throughout the country (TTT, Oct., 1945).
First Half-Season Tournaments
Illinois—the 3rd most populous USTTA Affiliate with 152 members (Michigan had 175, Ohio 159)—held its annual Membership Tournament at Chicago, Oct. 6-7. I don’t know if the organizers were selling tickets to spectators, but many years later Ives Jackson, a Midwest circuit player, told me that at a Chicago tournament in the Hamilton Club Hotel on Dearborn St. in 1938 tickets were being sold "for 52 cents including tax," and each player who sold a ticket would be "credited with ten cents toward his entry fee in the tournament." Had that ever been tried again?
Berne Abelew won both the Men’s (over a "tired and shaken" Bob Anderson) and the Men’s Doubles (with Varga over Anderson/Bill Meszaros after trailing 2-1 and at 23-all in the 4th).
Carolyn Wilson, formerly the Maryland #1, but now living in Chicago, took the Women’s—over Carrol Blank in the semi’s in 5, and Specht in the final in straight games. Even before Sally Green had won her first U.S. Women’s Championship in 1940, she’d said, "Doubles play is more exciting than singles, and in the not too distant future I may forsake singles and play women’s doubles and mixed doubles only." Which is what she’d done this summer, what she was doing now. And this time quite successfully—winning the Women’s Doubles with ease. Her partner, Mayo Rae Rolph Barrett, last seen losing to Green in the quarter’s of the ’41 National’s, apparently didn’t enter the Singles here either. Maybe she wasn’t into playing that much, for I believe she was getting her Master’s degree in Philosophy at the University of Chicago, perhaps while teaching at Shimer College in Mount Carroll over by the Iowa border. Still, she must have practiced some at the North-Town Club, for in the Mixed semi’s she and Bill Ablin put up 19 in the 5th fierce resistance against the winners, Sally and Berne Abelew.
At Detroit’s Nov. 10-11th Michigan Open, Max Hersh, winner of this tournament the last two years, was beaten in the final, 17 in the 5th, by Abelew. "Displaying an improved defense and an explosive forehand that nicked the corners, the Chicagoan played the finest table tennis of his career." Abelew also took the Men’s Doubles with Varga—over Hersh and former Detroit Champion Al Marshall.USATT V.P.Graham Steenhoven, who "plans to promote teams for league and tournament play" from many local "manufacturing concerns," achieved "a life-long ambition" by winning the Men’s Novice—from Bill Swinyar, "Michigan’s stentorian-voiced referee-in-chief" (TTT, Dec., 1945, 4).
Thirteen-year-old Gordon Barclay, who’d lost to Bob Green, deuce in the 4th in the Men’s, didn’t sweat the small stuff. The 4’ 8," 90-pounder "abandoned his usual offensive tactics long enough to chop down his older opponent [Bob Harlow], whose classic forehand drives gradually weakened." Barclay was now showing such superiority in the Junior’s and Boys’ that even he might have been in danger of feeling just the least little twinge of elitism were it not for the fact that Varga at his South Bend Y Academy avowed humility. That is, you couldn’t just go to John’s Club and play your equals; you were required to play weaker players as well.
In the Women’s, Leah Thall, clearly the strongest woman player in the Midwest, killed the Milwaukee twins’ chances, shot them both point-blank. Earlier, Carlyn had rallied to beat Specht in 5, and Margaret Koolery Wilson had done the same to Tybie Thall.
This fall, an anonymous contributor to Topics —a "well-known official," but here in print not known at all except for his "Oldtimer" byline—said, in effect, that were Leah, or any woman of comparable ability, to play constantly against men, she wouldn’t feel "inferior," and so might be the best player, period, in the Midwest. There’s no physical reason why this couldn’t be so, said the writer, since women, "in general, play a harder, more competitive game [than men]." But then, implied the writer, they go soft—"yielding a point to their opponent, on questionable decisions, with much grace and sportsmanship" (Nov., 1945, 3). Well, what can I say to that? Other than the Association asked for it—advertised that "TOPICS needs items and interesting articles….Why not try your hand at writing?" This, the "Oldtimer" did.
Reportedly, trophies weren’t available—which seems the more strange because the USTTA Trophy Chair was Michigan’s C. Bronson Allen. So the winners at this Open got "fountain pen sets and compacts—and good ones too—and most players thought this a welcome change from the usual rewards."
Thanksgiving time—and in the Chicago District Open who should oust Abelew in the semi’s 3-zip (sparked by a 29-27 1st game) but the about-to-be discharged Major Billy Condy, a penholder known for his tricky fingerspins when he was runner-up to Jimmy McClure in the last (1934) Parker Brothers’ American Ping-Pong National’s. Billy lost the final here to Don McCrossen, now out of the Navy and subduer of Junior winner Barclay and his tournament father Varga. But Condy certainly could be thankful not just for his fine showing at this tournament, but that, after 50 B-17 missions (Eighth Air Force from England and 12th Air Force from North Africa), he was safely home to make that showing. Condy and Max Rushakoff had to be enjoying a fun reminder of how they were always in contention in tournaments 10-12 years ago. In the Doubles, they lost to the eventual winners Barclay and Henry Gish 19 in the 5th(after being down 2-0).
In the Women’s, Sally Green was back playing Singles, and winning—over Mayo Barrett, 17, 22, 19 in the semi’s, and Carrol Blank, in a less-contested 3-gamer in the final. Green and Barrett won the Women’s Doubles. Green and Abelew took the Mixed, with runner-ups Barrett and Condy making it 19 in the 5th clear to MacCrossen/Carrol Blank it was stupidly premature for former USTTA President/Editor Carl Zeisberg to write that 1930’s obit on the penholder style.
Perhaps Sally was primed for her hat trick because she was also primped for it. It was her original idea that all the women players wear the same attractive playing outfits—though in different colors: fuchsia, forest green, black, rust, soldier blue, and peacock blue (worn by the winning doubles pair Green and Barrett)—and nearly all did, having agreed on something practical and comfortable for under $10. Originally these costumes were street dresses purchased at a local Marshall Field & Co. and might be described as follows:
"Shirt waist top, ornamented by three dress buttons and having an action back; sleeves capped or left as purchased; lapel collar, slit breast pockets and set in slit double belt. Skirts are pleated with the exception of an eight-inch panel on each side and the pleats were untied to a length of six inches below the belt line. The skirt has an eight-button fly front with a two-inch hem—the length is left to the discretion of the wearer, although the consensus of opinion among the Chicago girls was four inches above the knee. The set-in belt has many advantages as it tends towards both a neat and attractive appearance along with ample freedom of action.
The material taken from the original dress can well be utilized into a hair ribbon to match the dress. Anklets and matching shorts can be dyed to dress colors. (TTT, Jan., 1946, 2, 10, 12).
Reading this, I’m reminded of the Feb., 1941 issue of Topics that had a page wherein a "Famed Fashion Stylist" suggested what might be appropriate for women players to wear to the New York National’s—"A two-piece gabardine suit with matching top coat…[a] fine tweed outfit…a dressmaker suit worn with furs." Were all the table tennis hoi polloi so fashion-conscious? Would most women players in 1945 bond to busy themselves with the alterations involved above?
And speaking of New York—it’s Turkey Time there too—the East held its only Topics-reported tournament of the first half-season, the New York City Open. The write-up begins:
"No doubt Elmer Cinnater, USTTA Ranking Chairman, ordered another gross of aspirin from the nearest drug store when he read [that]…Douglas Cartland and Ed Pinner, playing in their first USTTA tournament in the past two years ended up in the finals after Cartland defeated U.S. National Champion Richard Miles in the semi-finals and Pinner, not to be outdone, eliminated U.S. ranked No. 2, Sgt. John Somael" (TTT, Jan., 1946, 4).
Neither finalist breezed through his earlier matches. Pinner was down 2-1 to both Somael and U. S. #19 Freddie Borges, who’d just been elected 1st Vice President of the NYTTA under President Henry Herrmann (successor to Reba Monness). Cartland had to go 5 with both Sol Schiff and Miles. In the final, Doug outsteadied Eddie to win 18 in the 4th.
Tell it to Cinnater, or anyone else—"Cartland was always a vastly underrated player," said Miles. "He was an amazing competitor—someone who never, never beat himself; you always had to beat him, and he was an even more tenacious player than Somael. Like Bobby Riggs ("I thought I could give Bobby 12 or 13," said Dick, "but no matter what I gave him I always lost"), Doug was a great hustler. "He was always figuring out games to play. Once he played with a black eye patch on, deprived himself of depth perception, but still attacked and defended so well that soon his opponent and those betting on him came over to check that black eye patch to see if there wasn’t some way that Cartland was seeing through it. There wasn’t."
The day before this New York City Open, Miles remembers giving Cartland a 6-point spot at Lawrence’s and taking his money. He also remembers this tournament match—even the umpire, Mel Rose, who’d recovered from a couple of eye operations he’d had several years ago and was now back as the newly elected Treasurer of the NYTTA. "I literally cried on losing," said Dick. "I told a girl friend I’d lost to a man 30 years old. He seemed like the oldest man in the world to me then."
It wasn’t a good day for Miles—he and Cartland lost in the final of the Men’s Doubles in 5 to Schiff and Somael. It wasn’t such a good day for Reisman either—not according to John Kauderer’s reminiscence almost 30 years later. For John said he beat Marty "three straight in the second round and I know how bad he felt losing to an oldster like me who had no standing. I think he actually wept at the loss." Marty, however did win the Junior’s over Irwin Miller—this after two deuce games in the semi’s with Norm Schuman who’d had a nice win over Morris Chait. Other Juniors in this field were John Read, future Captain of the U.S. World Team, and two players, later based on Long Island, who are still occasionally active in tournaments today—Harold Kupferman and Walter Shur.
In the Women’s, Bernice Charney didn’t lose a game—but the surprise runner-up was Millie Shahian who’d upset the #1 seed Peggy McLean in the quarter’s, then, with her up-close table game, downed Helen Germaine.
The Dec. 1-2 Detroit Open was won by Hersh over Bob Green. In the semi’s, Max beat Montreal’s Jean-Jacques Desjardins, the 1936 Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) Singles and ’36, ’39, and ‘40 Doubles Champion before he’d joined the Royal Canadian Air Force. In Men’s Doubles, Desjardins was given the privilege of partnering the important U.S. official and Novice winner Steenhoven. Don’t laugh, best not to underestimate Graham—he and Desjardins not only beat Green and Bill Byrnes, the Michigan #2, but they had Hersh and Marshall down 2-0 in the final before losing (the 4th at 19). In the Women’s, Margaret Koolery Wilson, behind 2-0, broke Marie Nash by winning the 3rd at 19, and steadied herself home. Marie, however, did win the Mixed with Marshall over Michigan Champ Peggy Wheeler and Desjardins who, given his circuit sorties at the moment, couldn’t have been living in Montreal but possibly in Detroit or nearby Windsor.
The Topics write-up of the Jan. 19-20 Illinois Open begins: "Garrett ‘Bad Boy’ Nash returned from the European Theatre Camp Shows…."
Yes, Nash was back, and here in Chicago for this tournament—and with a returning Bill Price as well—which had to have prompted some ‘Bad Boy" stories about Garrett, this fellow who prided himself on never working a regular job in his life. Since you can’t overhear any of these stories, I’ll provide you with some from several years back, courtesy of that same Stan Morest I opened this chapter with.
"At a Missouri State Tournament in Kansas City, in mid-winter, he [Garrett] gambled away St. Louis Club expense money and had to sleep in a fellow St. Louisan’s car in his overcoat. When he appeared for warm-up wearing his wrinkled overcoat [the poor guy was still cold], I had to go out on the court and take it off!
[After Morest had thus preserved proprieties at the expense of a sorry-state human needing comfort, he says]…[Garrett] approached me for a loan; and with a guilt complex I complied. K.C. players told me I could kiss the ‘fiver’ goodbye. Catching up with Garrett, who flashed an impish grin, I asked, ‘You want to play in the Nationals?’ ‘Yes,’ he answered. ‘So,’ I said, ‘forward a check by return mail as soon as you reach St. Louis.’ [Morest, then a USTTA V.P., had clout.]…Two days later a check which was good came in.
[Wonder of wonders—Garrett must have liked Morest, and/or saw him as a source of possible income?] At another K.C. tourney, I asked him [Nash] as a favor to blast off an entrant who had haggled incessantly with my committee over his position in the pairings. Later, Garrett brought me the scores: 21-4; 21-3—for which he received a five-spot.
In a St. Louis tourney during a practice session, Garrett delivered from the balcony of the DeSoto Hotel a perfect serve sent down on to the 4th table away. This he repeated 5 times in succession at a dollar a serve until I waved my handkerchief. [Just as I suspected: Morest was so pleased to have gotten that $5 loan back, he found other ways of allowing Garrett to keep it. He really did like Nash’s dash.]
He [Garrett] then told me how at the St. Louis Club through an open door from the hallway he’d often sailed a ball into the room and onto the table for a perfect serve. His buddies, Blattner, Price, and Hendry always quipped, ‘Nash will be coming in next’" (TTT, Nov.-Dec., 1975, 6).
Nash certainly made a triumphant reappearance here at the Illinois Open—won the Singles from a field that really was "pretty close to a little ‘Nationals.’" In the 8th’s Barclay was an easy victim, as in the quarter’s was Max Rushakoff who’d penhold-pummeled #3 seed Abelew out of the tournament. Defending Champ Aronson Garrett had to go 19 in the 4th to beat. But Anderson in the final was straight-game easy. "Andy" had strewed in his runner-up path, first, the recently discharged Wisconsin #4, Radio Man 1st Class Duane Maule who, after a near deadly fall in a freak accident, had spent 28 days in a hospital recuperating. Then, in the quarter’s, he had another 4-gamer—with V. Lee Webb. Lee, after his destroyer had been in Tokyo Bay, probably wasn’t all that concerned with something so commonplace as being 2-1 down and at deuce in the 4th with Russ Sorenson. Before reaching the final, "Andy" was 28, 16, -17, 19 tried by Price who back in St. Louis would soon be establishing a Table Tennis Club "for youngsters from 10 to 16 at the North Side YMCA." Bill said he’d "always liked kids…and thought they deserved the chance I had to play and enjoy the game."
In the Men’s Doubles, Varga/Abelew, after a –19, -22, 18, 17, 20 veritable bonanza of back-and-forth points, rallied to beat Anderson/Bill Ablin in the semi’s, then took the final, 3-0, from Nash/ Price. This win was secured largely because, as the write-up said, Nash’s flick that had been working so nicely went "sour," and, even when it did go on, a "‘Red Hot’ Abelew was counter-driving it for put-away-points." Mort Ladin racked up another Senior’s—over Des Moines’ TTA V.P., Chief Petty Officer George Wicker, home after 27 months overseas, who’d surprised Defending Champion Marlin Tucker deuce in the 5th.
Green was never pressed in winning the Women’s Singles. But there were some exciting matches as far back as the 8th’s. Carlyn Blank, who’d be ranked U.S. #7 this season, did her scrappy best, but –18, -18, 17, 23, -11 fell to Barrett who, like Green, would not be ranked, because she couldn’t or wouldn’t go to Columbus for the Western’s or New York for the National’s. Mayo then was beaten in the quarter’s by Helen Baldwin who’d fall to runner-up Specht in the semi’s. Helen had returned from California to Des Moines and would in fact be married there in May.
Lowry Takes "Pacific Olympics"
There remains one more tournament in Jan. that’s covered by Topics—but it takes place outside the U.S….in the Pacific Area. Reba Monness, who’d given an exhibition or two this past summer with Coleman Clark—at, for example, that same Times Square Loews State Theater that Chuck Burns and Ruth Aarons performed at—said that Clark and former Pennsylvania star Ham Canning were going on a USO Tour of the Pacific. Though, from the look of the Oct., 1945 Topics cover, it seems Cokey’s going on Tour in Africa. The Abelew/Foster drawing has an Umpire/Commentator in pith helmet, mike in hand, keeping up an isn’t-this-exciting line of patter, while the "Ubangi" in loin cloth leans in over the table with his lip of a paddle jabbing a return back to Clark who, as he does in his show, is playing with the handle of his racket gripped tightly in his mouth.
These two get equal billing, find a place in the cartoon world of Topics, but in real life it’s not at all clear where in the Pacific Coleman is, just as it’s not immediately clear what’s going on with the so-called "Pacific Olympics." An article in the Feb., 1946 Topics said there’s been an "outstanding elimination tournament (200 entries playing on 10 tables) held in the Manila area in preparation for the "‘Olympics’ which were just recently staged in the Marianas…under the able supervision of Cpl. John M. Riggs, brother of ‘Bobby’ of tennis fame." When the elimination tournament got to the last 8, a complete round robin was held and the top four finishers competed in the Marianas. The eligible players were: New York’s Harold Goldstein (6-1), Massachusetts’ Les Lowry (6-1), Wisconsin’s Richard Suhm (5-2), and Michigan’s Arnold Brown (5-2), with Ohio’s Dave Spence (3-4) as Alternate. When Brown was discharged, Spence replaced him—and supposedly won the tournament. Dave was then set "to represent the Navy in contests against the 35th CB’s, NSD, Marines, Sub Base and Receiving Station to decide the championship of Subic Bay…" (4).
However, Dave’s friends at his Base had apparently been misinformed, at least with regard to the "Pacific Olympics." For in the next (March) issue, Lt. Paul Nesenkar (former President of the City College of New York T.T. Club) in a letter to Topics speaks of a "Pacific-wide tournament, army sponsored" in which he, Les Lowry, Harry Goldstein, and California’s Dr. Monroe Engleberg (with Missouri’s Lester Perlmutter as unused alternate) qualified to go to Saipan in the Marianas as a Manila-based team representing the Philippines. There "in a grand play off in a Red Cross Bldg., on January 26, 27, 28," Nesenkar says, "Lowry beat me in the finals [19 in the 4th], while Engleberg and myself won the doubles [over Lowry/Goldstein, 3-0]." In the 8th’s, Nesenkar downed Chicago’s Herman Leavitt (representing Japan Base), who as far back as 1935 was a member of Chicago’s Intercity Team. Then, in the quarter’s, Paul eliminated Minneapolis’s Harry Lund (representing Hawaii’s Oahu), and in the semi’s New York City’s Goldstein.
Nesenkar says, "Attendance was between 1500 and 2000 each of the three nights. Watches were awarded to the winners and runner-ups in each event. John Riggs, brother of the famous Bobby Riggs of tennis, was our non-playing manager and received a beautiful trophy for the team championship."
Nesenkar closes by writing that he and Lowry "are preparing to ship home…and will probably enter the 1946 Nationals" (5). Thus echoing earlier lines in Topics that say…
"Our members are returning from the service so thick and fast it is difficult to keep the news right up to date on the boys still in service. One week they are playing in a tournament in the Pacific Islands and the next couple of weeks they pop up in a tournament in the U.S. Such is the miracle of modern transportation and the efficiency of the Army and Navy in getting men back to civilian life" (Feb., 1946, 4).
*The Mar., 1946 Topics, in celebrating Clark’s 10th Anniversary in show business, quoted "some statistical excerpts" from Cokey’s "publicity booklet." He started "entertaining theatre and night club audiences" at the College Inn in Chicago’s Hotel Sherman. Once, shuttling between "the College Inn and the Chicago theatre," he did 8 shows and 2 rehearsals in one day. Since his premier he’s used "24,500 t.t. balls" at a cost of "$2,940," has "worn out 26 pairs of tennis shoes," has "given away 115,000 table tennis balls" after having "spent a total of 32 twelve-hour days scribbling his name on them," and estimates that if "all the words rattled off" by his commentators "were published in novel form, it would approximate 367 books—a stack of conversation higher than an average tree" (16). And, as if just these few excerpts I’ve given weren’t enough, comes the overkill of more of the same in the Dec., ‘46 Topics: "During his 8,125 performances through sweat and worry he lost 4 tons, making his present weight minus 7,800 lbs. Of course he replaced this by eating occasionally."
If this senseless patter gets into Clark’s act, looks to pass for comedy, Cokey and his partner Ham Canning, back now in the States, along with Tom Greenway, their commentator, won’t be at the El Capitan theatre in Hollywood with Ken Murry’s "Blackouts of 1946" as scheduled (7)—no, indeed, for the curtain will have come down permanently on them.