1946: USTTA Reinstitutes "Fighting Fund" for 1947 World’s. 1946: Summer/Fall Tournaments. 1946: New York Again Wins Intercities—Miles, Pagliaro, Schiff, Holzrichter Selected for World’s. West Triumphs Over East in Women’s Matches—Leah Thall, Hawthorn, Monness, Clouther to Play in Paris.
The USTTA hoped, and indeed expected, that a U.S. Team to the 1947 Paris World Championships would pick up right where the previous ones had left off. They’d won World titles in 1936, 37, and 38 (but hadn’t participated in the abbreviated entry at the ’39 Cairo World’s, the last to be played). Of course, raising money for the Team’s trip abroad was as much of a concern to the Association as it had been in the 1930’s. Since the E.C. had specified that no money from the USTTA general fund be used, again a "Fighting Fund" was needed—and quickly, for the World’s were in February. Ex-USTTA President Nidy, the Fund’s Chair, set his goal at $3,500. It was thought that $1,000 could be raised by the contributions of individuals, by raffles (Pennsylvania, for example, will chance off Ronson lighters), by exhibitions, and by special "Fighting Fund" tournaments. Affiliates were asked to contribute the other $2,500. Each was assigned a quota to be reached or surpassed, usually based on the number of members each had—which as the season progressed remained relatively stable.
By Jan. 1, 1947o, the USTTA Membership had risen to 2500, more than double what it’d been at season’s end in 1944. The New York City Association (178 members) was asked to raise the most money—$350 (perhaps because E. C. Recording Secretary Kauderer was a Senior Analyst with the Federal Reserve Bank, NYTTA President Herrmann worked at the R.C.A. Building, and many New Yorkers they knew were well-heeled). Michigan (232), Pennsylvania, whose membership had quickly spiraled upward (229), Illinois (190) and St. Louis (185) were all asked to raise $200. Nidy’s home affiliate, Des Moines (78 members), immediately came through with $200. Ohio (202 members under its new President, Dick Farr) and Indiana (198 members) had a quota of only $100, as did Colorado (91 members). Most of the other affiliates—including California—had a quota of $50. Exceptions were the Mississippi Valley affiliate at Davenport, Iowa (37 members) and Texas where $25 was expected. Later, Rhode Island (38 members) and Louisiana (33 members) would likely be asked to make that $25 quota too. "So come on gang!" urges Nidy. "Let’s get behind the FIGHTING FUND AND FIGHT!" As an added incentive, Topics reports, "Nidy says that for every contribution of one dollar or MORE, the donor will receive a picture of the team! What’s more, he says, the picture will be that of the WORLD’S CHAMPIONS!"*
1946 Summer Tournaments
The Northwest hadn’t regrouped—no affiliates there yet—but there’d been some activity in Portland, although not enough to establish a club. In 1944, at the Montavilla Community Center, Dick Strait had defeated E.J. Coffey. And in 1946 Warren Erwin, Jr. won the City Parks tournament over Howard Wease.**
California had some 1946 summer tournaments that Topics took notice of. At Long Beach, Monroe Engelberg downed local TTA President John Hanna in 4 in the semi’s and Lee Freeman in 5 in the final. Jane Little took the Women’s, 3-0, from Shirley Fletcher. Jane and other woman players pressured Club officials until, o.k., o.k., they could compete in "ladder" challenges against the men. In the San Diego city tournament, Dave Freeman retained his Men’s title, and Helen Morozo Dzuibinski, formerly Indiana’s best but now a WAVE stationed in the area, won the Women’s. The Men’s Doubles went to George Smith and San Diego TTA President Carl DeGour.
Come the middle of fall, Charlie Cox would be back as Colorado TTA President, succeeding Frank Haraway who’d become the affiliate’s Treasurer. Cox planned a 12-team Denver League this season and inter-city matches with Topeka and Kansas City. Back in June, "the mountaineers" held an Open in which Jim Wolfe beat Bob Best in the Men’s, 19 in the 5th, and Rita Kerns beat Auleen Lau in the Women’s, 19 in the 4th.
Up on the Denver side of Chicago, the Glen Ellyn, Illinois Club, 60 USTTA members strong, had sponsored a spring 160-entry, 4-state "Novice Tourney" in which there were various events from Under 15 Girls to Over 35 Men. One of the young players outfitted in a Glen Ellyn team uniform was Sharon Koehnke, whom we’ll hear more of later. Meanwhile, "Novice" meets, giving teenagers lots of play, will continue in the Chicago District throughout the ‘46-47 season.
At the July 20-21st Chicago Western States Open, Men’s #1 seed Bill Price was upset in the 8th’s (though Topics doesn’t say by whom). Anyway, that gives Bill a chance to be interviewed and us to know something more about him. According to Topics Associate Editor Dana Young, "In spite of once making his living coaching basketball, being able to swim 100 yards in 57 seconds, playing excellent tennis and shooting golf in the seventies," Bill says his "first love is still T.T." Right now he [along with Allen Carvell?] operates "the [St. Louis] Table Tennis Club on Natural Bridge Boulevard" where, after a long practice or coaching workout, he’s apt to say, "Beer is probably the best beverage in the world."
Price, as we’ve seen, has been around. Here’s more of Young’s interview:
"…As a demolition expert…he served in the African and European theatres and saw North Africa, Italy, France and Germany. He’s one army man who thinks the navy is very much alright. During the invasion of Southern France [Bill says]…‘we were supposed to blow up the German pillboxes on the beach but the navy had already knocked them out with their big guns. Don’t anybody ever knock the navy to me….’
Bill was wounded by shrapnel in Northern France in September, 1944, and flown back to a hospital in Naples where he hibernated for five months. While there he managed to carry on with his interest in table tennis by commenting for Cartland and Cook who appeared at the hospital on a USO tour. With his usual aplomb, Bill did a fine job of commenting…on crutches and dressed in a hospital robe! After an extensive convalescence he was chosen to play a match against a picked English team at the King’s Palace in Naples…and he, Ted Mosher and Jim Moran managed to beat them 5-4 before an audience of 2000 English soldiers who, Bill says, were a wonderful audience. Shortly afterwards he was sent back to rejoin his outfit, the 45th Infantry Division, in time to participate in the drive into Germany.
During the German drive his outfit liberated the occupants of the infamous Dachau concentration camp…among whom was Ehrlich, the Polish champion and runner-up in several world championships. Ehrlich had been there five years….
After the war, Bill spent three months at a rest center in the Bavarian Alps as a lifeguard and that, he thought, was really a fine life. He spent a month in Paris on the way home and took time out to play against a French team, winning two matches and losing one to Haganauer [sic: for Haguenauer], the French Champ…."
The Champ here in the Western States, to no one’s surprise, was Billy Holzrichter. Finalist Eddie Ray had earlier 16, 24, -16, -17, 19 barely held on to beat Jimmy Shrout. Holzrichter also won the Men’s Doubles with Al Nordhem—over Price and John Varga. As if their last season’s Illinois #1 and #2 Senior rankings were reversed, Mort Ladin took the Over 35’s, 19 in the 5th, from Marlin Tucker.
In the Women’s, Peggy Widmier’s quarter’s win from down 2-1 and at 27-all in the 4th was far and away the most crowd-pleasing. Peggy then lost to Leah Thall who was much too good for the rest of the field, including in the final her sister Tybie. Both Thalls, we learn from an unsigned article in Topics probably by Dana Young, are book-keepers—Leah "writes a beautiful long-hand." They have three sports-minded brothers, Abe, Lou, and Bennie, who in "basketball, baseball, handball, and golf…have made quite a name for themselves in Buckeye circles." While the brothers served in the War, "the girls helped to entertain the wounded soldiers by giving t.t. exhibitions throughout Ohio’s many hospitals." Leah, it turns out, likes fudge cake and so as not to risk putting on extra poundage bowls in a Columbus league, where she has a 160 average and a high triple of 606. Tybie enjoys cheese blintzes with sour cream and might be seen, rain or shine, riding about on her red and white Roadmaster bicycle, holding up an umbrella if need be (Dec., 1946, 4, 12). No umbrella needed in Women’s Doubles. But in the Mixed, the sun gave way to clouds and high winds as Leah and Varga’s chances were blown away by Windy City winners Holzrichter/Carolyn Wilson.
Toledo also held a Mid-Summer tournament—an Invitational, whatever that meant. This I think is the tournament where they’re making the draw a week ahead of time and one of the locals comes in to say, "Please cancel my entry for the men’s singles as I’m being married that Saturday—but I’ll be there for doubles on Sunday." Max Hersh, down 2-0 to Barclay in the semi’s, defeated Dick Leviton in the final in 5. Leviton, convincing as a junior, took steps to being a grown-up when in his semi’s he’d triumphed over his long-time imposing Coach, Varga, 24-22 in the 5th. Big John, I note, professes to be pleased when his pupils beat him. Like Toledo’s Bob Harlow, the Ohio #1 Junior and #2 Men’s player behind Guy Blair, Leviton was poised to graduate, for in the Junior’s here, he beat Harlow 19, -18, 22, 21 in the semi’s and Barclay -16, 17, -21, 9, 17 in the final.
Guy Blair didn’t make the semi’s of the Men’s—and, watching him play hit and miss, someone more used to a gallery of another kind, might have thought of an action painter like the mid-30-ish Jackson Pollock. The guy was obviously trying to make points and yet his aerialist strokes at times seemed unreasonably random. Blair and Bob Green won the Men’s Doubles—over Hersh and Harlow. In the Women’s, Tybie showed grit in overcoming Mary Specht in the semi’s in 5, and also in losing in the final to Leah in 4 (finally succumbing 27-25 in the 3rd).
Tournaments Prior to Men’s Intercities
At Minnesota’s Twin City Closed, held Sept. 6 at the Paddle Parlor Courts in Minneapolis, MTTA V-P Harry Lund rallied from two games down to defeat V-P Ed Sirmai. Consolation prize went to Leo Bernat in 5 over Paul Larson. In the Women’s, Corresponding Secretary Marilyn Jensen won out over Recording Secretary Janet Jamieson. Lund/Sirmai took the Men’s Doubles from Kennedy/George Engstrom, 19 in the 5th, and Lund and his wife Shirley prevailed over Sirmai/Jensen, 18 in the 4th. Eddie Kantar, one day to be one of America’s best-known bridge teachers, took the Junior’s (from Bob Stotts) and the Boys’ from Alan Goldstein.
The Illinois Membership Open, played Oct. 5-6 at the North-Town Club in Chicago, saw Holzrichter in contention for the U.S. Team with easy wins in the Men’s. However, in the Men’s Doubles, the wind chimes tinkled in Abelew’s psyche and with partner Jimmy Shrout getting his wind up, the wind-up was they won—downed the favorites, Holzrichter/Nordhem, 19 in the 5th in the semi’s, and Owsley Harper/Sterling Mitchell in the final.
At the Oct. 10th Ford Invitational in Pontiac (male events only), Perc Secord won both the Men’s (over Junior Champ and A-student Ron Getoor) and the Veterans’ (over Ed Dickinson who proudly received his first ever trophy).
Oh! or Ow!—that’s what three Detroiters were saying in succession after playing Owsley Harper in the Men’s at the Nov. 2nd-3rd Toledo Maumee Valley Invitational. In a 20, -19, 19, -26, 17 quarter’s win, Harper stopped Michigan #9 Cliff Bishop’s desperate try for an end-play. Then he downed Max Hersh—who with straight-game losses like this would see in the space of two seasons his National Ranking go from #3 (in ’44-45) to #8 (in ’45-46) to #15 (in ’46-47). Finally Harper took the title by –22, 19, 14, 16 ousting the mercurial V. Lee Webb—likely quipping in the beginning but carping at the end. The Thall sisters were good but not enthralling. Leah beat Tybie in straight games.
At the Nov. 9th-10th St. Louis District Open, the most acclaimed men’s player never to have won the National’s (of course from 1940 through ’45 he played in only one) did win here. And who was that? Why, New York’s Doug Cartland of course who was touring in the area with Harry Cook. Giving up but a 100 points in 9 games, he went through Fred McAvoy, George Hendry, and Bill Price. Cartland and Cook (who apparently didn’t play in the Singles) also took the Doubles with ease—over Hendry and Junior Champ Don Schuessler.
Delores Kuenz, who’d won the Oct. 12-13 St. Louis Membership Open from Betty Jane Schaefer, beat her again here. Someone said it marked the 9th time that Kuenz had won this District Championship—all against different opponents in the final. Neither Price nor Kuenz (who, along with Schaefer, was simultaneously playing in the Women’s West Tryouts in Chicago—a tournament I’ll give special attention to shortly) entered the Mixed. The winners were Hendry and one of his twin sisters, Melba McClain, who’d escaped John McCloskey and John’s future wife Schaefer, deuce in the deciding 3rd .
A week later Indianapolis held its Closed—with Jimmy McClure the Men’s winner over Charles Dorsey, and Delores Schmith the Women’s winner over La Verne Von Willer. (La Verne is one of those who’d pushed to have a successful Indianapolis Y "Mixed" Club for social activities as well as serious play.)
That same Nov. 23-24th weekend, up at the Chicago District Championships, Bob Anderson, warming, if not to the weather, to his secured last place on the Windy City’s NTC Team, took full advantage of Holzrichter’s absence and struggled through a winner. He downed Dale McColley (home from his stint in the Navy), deuce in the 4th in the quarter’s; Dan Kreer (now back in Chicago after living in Columbus) 17 in the 5th in the semi’s; and ITTA President Billy Condy in a 19 in the 5th spectacular final. No mort note sounded for Ladin in the Senior’s, but the horn had been raised, for he’d been down 2-0 to Paul Buell.
Mary Specht in her Women’s final had also been down 2-0 and had rallied to beat Widmier who’d come through in a 5-game semi’s with Carolyn Blank. Widmier partnered Dolores Mortenson to a Women’s Doubles win over Specht and Mayo Barrett (apparently not serious enough to be playing Singles).
During this time there was only one Eastern tournament reported in Topics—the Nov. 23rd-24th New York City Open, held at Haaren High School (10th and 59th), under the Chairmanship of Ben Dattel. Whether the Men’s matches here had anything to do with the selection of the New York Intercity Team that would be playing in Chicago the following week isn’t clear to me, but probably there was an earlier separate Tryout. Eddie Pinner wouldn’t be on that Team, or, if he was, wouldn’t go to Detroit, and in the quarter’s here he not only killed Somael, but then, up 2-0 and at deuce in the 3rd with Miles, seemed to be playing better than anyone else in New York. Except that he didn’t beat Miles, who went on to defeat Sol Schiff in the final. Pagliaro had said that he’d broken Schiff’s psychic hold on him some years ago—but Louie had lost to Sol after being up 2-0 in the Spring National’s and now he lost to him here. As for Charlie Schmidt, who five years ago was U.S. #3 and just last season was U.S. #12, he became eligible for the Veterans’, so surely he was a cinch to win? Well…win he did—over Simeon Sabre, 13, 22, -15, -17, 20. In the Junior final, Reisman was slow to start, fell behind 2-0 against Morris Chait, but came out a winner. Do you suppose 16-year-old Marty, who looked boyish, read Miles’s table tennis article in "Calling All Boys" magazine?
In the Women’s final, Davida Hawthorn, in splitting the first two games with Peggy McLean seemed ready to make a fight of the match, but then was embarrassingly defenseless. Mae Clouther held 23-21 strong in her 3rd-game quarter’s decider against Reba Monness, yet afterwards in the semi’s couldn’t average 15 points against Peggy.
Topics reported that the "final round of the Men’s Doubles [Pinner-Sussman vs. Miles-Paggy] was not played because of the lateness of time, and because of electrical trouble which developed due to overloading the circuits with news-reel equipment." The most exciting of the Men’s Doubles matches was the Reisman/Freddie Borges deuce in the 3rd quarter’s win over Sam Hoffner and Ben Dattel. Hoffner I would remember decades later, after having a leg amputated, playing just as seriously as he could with a walker. Dattel may already have begun his puzzle-solving conquests. To begin with, Reba Monness tells us, Ben won, or would win, "a $1000 puzzle contest but had refused to take the $1000 because taking it would have made him ineligible for any other contest." Think this was smart? He went on, says Reba, to win "the much-coveted $50,000 prize in the Herald Tribune’s puzzle contest!…He was the only one who ever completed the solution to the Herald Tribune’s puzzle contest office tie-breaker which had a limit of three hours." Ben’s interest in drawing would lead to advertising work, but meanwhile over the years he’d win "over $200,000 in puzzle contests" (TTT, July-Aug., 1979, 29).
New York Wins Intercities
The Intercities—the first to be held since 1941—was played in the Crystal Ballroom of the Masonic Temple in Detroit the Nov. 30th-Dec. 1st weekend. Tournament Director Graham Steenhoven broke with precedent—allowed 8 teams to play rather than the previously held-to 7. So, two surprises right off—Milwaukee made its debut, and Philadelphia, without Izzy Bellis or Ham Canning, decided, or Steenhoven decided, they weren’t strong enough to play.
Another surprise in the 1st round: powerful Chicago barely beat the Doug Allred-Captained Boston team 5-4, for Boston University’s Les Lowry won all three against Holzrichter, Kreer, and Condy, and Dwelly took Kreer. Boston went on to finish 4th (4-3) by blanking Columbus, and winning its two other ties, 5-4, from Indianapolis and St. Louis. Although Topics doesn’t report any individual results, the ties of the teams not in contention had to be fun because any one team was a threat to beat any other.
"Columbus" (2-5)—with Non-Playing Capt. Dick Farr, Bob Green, Dave Spence (undefeated in the Ohio Tryouts that gave Columbus the Ohio team title), Mark Neff from Dayton, Ralph Ramsey from Hamilton, and Bob Harlow from Toledo (but not Ohio #1 Guy Blair, or Dr. Harry Sage down in Florida taking a post-graduate course in Opthamology, or Dayton’s Cal Fuhrman)—beat Indianapolis and Milwaukee. "Indianapolis" (2-5)—with Indy’s Jimmy McClure (one of the few stars who supplied action shots of himself for publicity purposes) and Charles Dorsey, and South Bend’s Gordon Barclay, John Varga, and Dale McColley—downed Milwaukee and St. Louis. Milwaukee (1-6)—with Don MacCrossen, Duane Maule, Russ Sorensen, Bud Carson, and Ken Kasten (who’d take over the MacCrossen Co.)—had a lone win over St. Louis. And once powerful St. Louis (1-6)—with Bill Price, Fred McAvoy, John McCloskey, and Bob Brodski (but not Garrett Nash, George Hendry, Allan Levy, Don Lasater, or the Nichols brothers!)—lost four ties 5-4 and could defeat only the Ohioans.
Host Detroit fielded Max Hersh, Chuck Burns (back playing after his knee problems), Arnold Brown, Glenn Whitcroft, and V. Lee Webb (who, because of an injury didn’t try out for the Team, but as U.S. #13 was put on it anyway). Positioned as the home team, Detroit won its first five ties and so climaxed as best it could before losing to N.Y., 5-0, and Chicago, 5-2 .
The deciding tie of the tournament, as everyone figured it would be, saw the Jimmy Shrout-Captained Chicago team extend the winning George Schein-Captained New York team, who’d not lost a single match. Kreer and Berne Abelew for Chicago, and Pagliaro for New York (undefeated here—and so, with his three U.S. Championships to back him up, a lock for the U.S. World Team) sat out this tie. This was a big one for Holzrichter, for he earned his way to Paris with wins over Schiff and Somael. And Johnny killed his chances not just by losing to Billy but also to "Andy." Chicago would come up short this tie, 5-3, but the issue was very much in doubt when Condy astounded everyone by forcing Miles to deuce in the 3rd. "Billy Condy had a terrific forehand," Holzrichter said. "When he got hot, he got unconscious." Primarily for this great match Condy won the Outstanding Player Award. In these important Team matches Miles was undefeated, Schiff, who’d been runner-up to Dick at the last U.S. Open, lost only to Holzrichter, and Billy only to Lowry. So the Men’s Team—with its four National Champions—was set.
Renewed East-West Women’s Matches
Because the U.S. had to field a representative Corbillon Cup Team at the ’47 World’s, at least two women would have their way paid to Paris. The East-West Women’s Matches (played only once before—in the ’39-40 season) would likely determine who those Team members would be. Initially two separate round robins composed of selected high-ranked players were held—one in the West, at the North-Town Club in Chicago, Nov. 9th -10th (15 players eligible); the other in the East on Long Island, Dec. 7th (9 players eligible). The three top finishers from each of these two sections then came together at the Mae Clouther-managed Colonial Club in Newton Corner, Massachusetts, Dec. 14th for a mandatory 9 Singles matches (each player being pitted against the three players from the opposing Team) and 2 concluding Doubles matches to determine the East or West winner. The woman with the best Singles record would receive the Emily Fuller Trophy.
In the West, 13 players began competition, but 5-time U.S. Champion Sally Green had apparently "not fully recovered from her summer operations, for she collapsed after her 2nd match and was unable to continue." The only two players Sally faced, Delores Kuenz and Betty Jane Schaefer, thus had to play one match more than others in the field and, ironically, they were the ones who could least afford to do that since, crazily, they had to hurry back to St. Louis to play in a tournament there this same weekend. Carrol Blank, though eligible, opted not to play—could think only about planning her April wedding? Twin sis Carlyn, plagued by leg-cramps, had all she could do just to finish her matches and so, along with fellow Milwaukeeans Lois Carlson and Mona Buell, had a record to forget. As did 19-year-old Toledo University soph Barbara Cannon whose older sister June just married Toledo player Dick Blasé. Denver’s plucky traveler, Rita Kerns, shared a 6-5 record with Chicago’s Dolores Mortenson and Peggy Widmier who started with the jitters but did have a nice win over Tybie Thall. After playing almost continuously, Kuenz (with a 4-8 record) "was so exhausted that she finally had to default her last match to Leah Thall," the # 1 West qualifier (10-0) who didn’t lose a game. The much improved Missouri #4 Schaefer (6-6) did better than expected, for had she won one more match, she would have finished 4th behind qualifiers Tybie Thall and Mary Specht (both 9-2).
Topics didn’t report on the East Tryouts—but National Champ Bernice Charney didn’t compete because she’d become Mrs. George Chotras and moved, at least for the moment, to Reno, Nevada. (No, she couldn’t have played for the West if she’d wanted to, for she hadn’t yet established a 30-day residence—which was all you needed to play in a City or State Closed?) Almost certainly Reba Monness and Mae Clouther tried unsuccessfully to qualify, for they were serious enough to later pay their own way to Paris. (Odd photo of photogenic Mae on the Jan., 1947 cover of Topics—she’s sitting on the table, hands on brought-up knees, derriere pushing back the net as if ready to start a ride on a swing.) The East Team, then, to meet the West was Peggy McLean, Davida Hawthorn, and Mildred Shahian.
The East-West Final was won 6-5 by the West, and undefeated Leah Thall was given the Emily Fuller Trophy and of course awarded a place on the U.S. Team. Since both Peggy McLean and Davida Hawthorn defeated Tybie Thall and Mary Specht, it would seem that, for the second member of the U.S. Women’s Team (the "Fighting Fund" would pay for only two), there’d be little to choose from between the two New Yorkers. True, Hawthorn, down 1-0 and at 21-all in the deciding 3rd, could easily have lost to Specht (who, though she played good doubles, was also beaten by Shahian), but the fact that Davida won when she had to could be a point in her favor. Of course Peggy had beaten Davida two weeks earlier in the New York City Open. Anyway, for whatever reason—perhaps because Hawthorn had won the ’45 National’s—it was Davida and not Peggy who was selected.
*See TTT issues: Nov., 1946 (6), Dec., 1946 (5), and, for the USTTA Membership Report, Jan., 1947 (12).
**Source: Dec. 6-7, 1980 Pacific Northwest Table Tennis Open Program (23), ed. by Bob Viducich.