1940-41:Dec.-Jan. Holiday-Season Tournaments. 1941: Pagliaro/Carolyn Wilson Win Eastern’s; Holzrichter/Leah Thall Take Western’s. 1941: Pre-National’s Play.
As players all across the country begin to combine their table tennis with Christmas shopping and holiday parties, I, too, as it were, will drop in here and there, pay selected visits to sites of fellowship and good cheer. Providence beckons:
Welcome, wielders of the paddle, whether here by train or saddle!
Welcome one and all!
York or Boston, old New Hampion, Mickey Mouse or mighty champion,
Gather to the call!
Cellarites and home league terrors, watch the champs correct your errors,
Twenty-one to one!
Gorgeous lassies slim and slender, champions of the dainty gender,
Show them how it’s done!
One and all a hearty greeting, welcome to New England’s meeting,
Table Tennis kin!
Fellowship in friendship fetes you; competition keen awaits you—
May the best man win!"
Open to this Dec. 7-8, 1940 Southern New England Open Program-poem—and the tournament sure sounds inviting, doesn’t it? Mae Clouther showed them how it’s done. So "dainty," or at least easy, were her victories—in Singles, over Alice O’Connor, and Mixed Doubles (with Eddie Pinner) over Frank Dwelly/Mildred Shahian—that it seemed she might have been winning points while sipping a champagne glass for balance. Cy Sussman took the Men’s—downed his winning Doubles partner Pinner in the final. Perhaps semifinalists Bill Price and Washington, D.C. #1 Stan Fields had come so far from home not merely to play in this tournament but to do exhibitions in New England, ala Les Lowry and unregistered "Roving Racqueteer" Harry Cook?
If so, John Kauderer’s N.Y. Metro TTA’s wintry Resolutions wouldn’t affect them. But, be alerted: Metro players could not, under penalty of suspension, play in tournaments or give exhibitions "for which any prize or title...is being offered" without the written sanction of the MTTA; in fact, they couldn’t play in any tournament "for which no title is offered" without written MTTA approval. Violators would be subject to disciplinary action, as would any ranked player who participated in unsanctioned tournaments without permission. New Yorkers were a notoriously independent bunch, but, as we’ll see, with MTTA Secretary William Gilfillan taking the initiative,* they’re about to band together to organize and publicize the upcoming Apr. 2-4 National’s at the Manhattan Center.
Good Fellows—that’s the name of the Dec. 20-21 tournament in Chicago won by Bill Holzrichter over Bill Ablin, and by Elah Rice over LaVera Weber. Billy, surely, but perhaps Elah as well, had already autographed one of the 200 t.t. balls decorating 1930’s star Yoshio Fushimi’s Christmas tree?
New Year’s Eve and/or New Year’s Day tournaments were held in YMCAs in Birmingham, Alabama, Tulsa, Oklahoma, and San Antonio, Texas (with the McCarley family—especially Cubby and his brother Jodie—becoming prominent in the T.T. Association there, on court and off).
Maybe every time Holzrichter won a tournament another ornament was hung on Fushimi’s tree? If that’s the case, and the tree’s still up, Yosh, add to your string Billy’s little white-world wins the first two weekends of the year.
At the Jan. 4-5 Battle Creek Michigan Open, in the quarter’s, Holzrichter so 9, 10, 6 subdued V. Lee Webb’s characteristic scampering shots and quips that one wondered just what sort of new year’s recovery the poor fellow would need. But then in the semi’s it was Billy who needed reviving. "Chuck," no longer "Charley," but still Bernstein, had defeated Webb to win the just-before-Christmas Grand Rapids Michigan Closed. Now he had the makings of I’m a very good player epiphany when in the semi’s he had Holzrichter down 2-0 and at deuce in the 3rd…but couldn’t win. Meanwhile, Billy’s arch-rival Bob Anderson was upset—by Hershey Miller.
At the South Bend St. Joe Valley the following week, Holzrichter again had to go 5—this time from down 2-1 in the final against another Chuck, U.S. Boys’ superstar Tichenor. Ruthe Brewer Crist, winner of both the Michigan Closed (not much residency required, eh?) and the Michigan Open (over LaVera Weber in 5), was stopped in South Bend. Winner Mary Baumbach came 1st in round-robin play, in which the best match saw Windy City Negro star Willa Gant, in gusts of 4th and 5th-game winners, rally to defeat Toledo’s "Pete" May.
Only four women entered this South Bend tournament—and just one from the entire state. So what use were the Indiana regular and group members to the USTTA, or the USTTA to them? Perhaps that’s what W.B. Hester came to think. Anyway, he’d retired, and the new President of the Indiana TTA, as one could see from the first (3-page) issue of Jimmy Shrout’s mimeographed Indiana TTA "Drop Shots," was E.W. "Ted" Chapman. John Varga was named 3rd V.P.
Although in the winter of ‘40-41 Hester’s 12-page xeroxed-off "Table Tennis Tournaments: Information and Suggestions" was available if one sent a return envelope with 9-cent postage, it’s clear that, whether Hester is still the YMCA Boys’ Secretary or not (he will soon become connected with the Canton, Ohio Y), Varga, progressing toward his legendary South Bend Coaching career, is now living at this Y and running the St. Joe Valley tournament.
To have a sponsor like the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, as the Jan. 18-19 Ohio Open at Akron did, seemed totally apropos for the Midwest circuit regulars who were driving weekend after weekend to tournaments. Maybe, instead of still another trophy, there’d be (while there still could be in these months before the War) a tire, a set of tires, for the Singles winners? But, no, merchandise prizes were not the norm, were seldom awarded.** Hersh beat Ohio #2 Sam Shannon, then #7 Harry Sage to win the Men’s. In the Women’s, Crist had 19 in the 4th semi’s trouble with Koolery, but caught a break when in the other semi’s Leah Thall upset Sally Green. Runner-up Thall, partnered with Green, also came 2nd in the Mixed to Crist and Webb.
Sally was in no mood to lose again, and at the Jan. 25-26 Indiana Open she beat, first, Baumbach, then Crist. In the Men’s, #3-seed Tichenor upset Nash in 5 in the semi’s, then downed Chicago’s Eddie Ray in a straight-game final. Tichenor also took the Boys—over Allan Levy, who no doubt in traveling with Nash was learning to be a teenager ahead of his time. And a good player, too. For Allan already knew what Tibor Hazi was advising in a Topics coaching article, "If you have the time [and money?], enter them all [tournaments, that is]...far and wide, for this is without doubt the best method of developing one’s headwork, courage, and confidence" (Jan., 1941, 10).
At the Jan. 11-12 Omaha Missouri Valley, Harry Lund, who a month earlier had again bested Ed Sirmai to win the Nebraska Open, threatened Nash supporters with what might have been a 3-zip downer in the semi’s before Garrett 23, -16, -9, 13, 11 rebounded, then knocked off Hendry in the final. The Hendry brothers, George and Don, seemed ready for the March Intercollegiates, for they easily beat Nash and John McCloskey to take the Doubles. Helen Baldwin, in good form after winning both the Nebraska and Missouri Opens, avenged her 33-31-in-the-5th late Nov. loss to teen-terror Tiny Moss—turning the table tennis ball into an undeviating psychic snowball, as it were, hurrying to catch Tiny going downhill and, at the -17, -18, 19, 24, 13 end, burying all her hopes.
Up in Minneapolis, at their Feb. 1-2 Open, Lund will beat Litman for the title, but a month later at the Minnesota Open, Litman will beat Lund. Meanwhile, at both tournaments, Moss will win the Women’s—over, first, Grace Janowiec, then Shirley Fridholm (who’d upset Grace deuce in the 5th).
Way out West, with the sunny holiday season come and gone, as if for some area-visitors it had seemed never to exist, the Jan. 18-19 LATTA-sponsored Pacific Open saw San Francisco’s Charley Sarber get by Monroe Engelberg, 19, -19, 22, 19, in the semi’s, and then with unexpected ease defeat Hollywood’s serial-veteran Don Terry in the final. Mary Povah won the Women’s over Edna LaPoint. And Harriet Turner paired with Frank Nemes to win the Mixed from Vernon Beck and Jane Little, long absent from the Eastern tournament scene after she and her sister Iris, the first USTTA National Champion, pioneered women’s play in N. J.
If California was getting new competitors, the Northwest was losing old ones. In effect, the War had already hit the Pacific Coast. Both Hal Philan (who’d won the Oregon Open over Ray Pearson) and Mrs. Audrey Fowler (#3-ranked woman player in the state) speak mournfully of the demise of the Northwest Intercity Association that featured players from Portland and Seattle, Victoria and Vancouver, British Columbia. The problem? "Because of war conditions, the Canadian players find it difficult to secure visas to get out of the country. After they do obtain visas they are allowed only five dollars in currency to bring with them into Oregon" (TTT, Feb., 1941). Philan says that, in addition to this setback, the Seattle Club "was unable to remain open, and many Seattle players dropped from competition"—which left Portland to weather the loss (TTT, Mar., 1941, 6).
All of which brings not only Laci Bellak and Sandor Glancz full circle back East—through such whistlestops as, say, Mandan, North Dakota and.Warren, Ohio—but us...to the Jan. 11-12 Baltimore Middle Atlantic States Open. Here, in the final in 5, Bellak beat Stan Fields, who only a few months earlier had become the proud papa of son Bobby, future U.S. Hall of Famer. Fields and Mel Rose outlasted Bellak and Paul Capelle in a marathon Men’s Doubles final. But Laci paired with irrepressible Women’s winner Reba Monness to take the Mixed.
In the following week’s Jan. 16-17 New York Metro Open, held in the Western Union gym while telegraph lines outside were being subjected to an ice storm, Monness won again—rallying to defeat Helen Germaine in 3 after losing the 1st, then Magda Hazi in 5 after being down 2-1. National Champ Lou Pagliaro downed Eddie Pinner in the Men’s final. But in a pre-Eastern’s match-up, neither Pagliaro/Grimes, nor Pinner/Sussman, could stop the Sol Schiff/Tibor Hazi duo from wresting away the Doubles.
Pagliaro/Wilson Win Eastern’s
So the Easterners were ready for the Eastern’s, held Feb. 1-2 at Heurich’s Gym, 26th & D Streets, in Washington, D.C.—with the first matches not scheduled to go off until 1:00 p.m. Saturday afternoon. Of course there were only four events—Men’s and Women’s Singles, Men’s and Mixed Doubles—plus a Consolation for the Men.
Topics Social Editor Gladys Hotsenpiller would ask her readers if they didn’t think there ought to be a Senior Women’s event in all majors…for women over 29 years of age, for of course in many tournaments there was a Men’s Veterans event for those over 35. But since, among the 8 members of the D.C. TTA Executive Committee, headed by President Carl R. Meininger, and the 12 members (not counting the 2 Hostesses) of the Tournament Committee, there was not one woman official, it shouldn’t be too surprising that there was no Women’s Doubles, no Women’s Consolation, and certainly no Women’s Senior’s here at these Eastern’s. In fact, though this tournament would continue year after year, into the next millennium, there would be no permanent Women’s Doubles event until 1947, no Women’s Consolation until 1954, and no Women’s Over 35 until 1976 when one was tried and quickly discontinued.
The Topics write-up of this tournament began, "To the delight of the crowd witnessing the finals...Lou Pagliaro successfully defended his title by downing fifth seeded Bernie Grimes in three straight games, 21-14, 21-12, 21-10" (Mar., 1941, 4). The crowd just wanted Louie to win? I mean, could this one-sided match have been a "delight" to watch? Or Paggy’s 46-point slaughter of (a smiling?) Tibor Hazi in the semi’s? (Based on Bellak’s view that "whenever Tibor began to lose, he’d smile," I speculate that Hazi, to try to save face over this poor performance—poor, why it was absurd—smiled a lot this match). However, Lou’s 18-in-the-4th win over Cy Sussman in the quarter’s had to have been at least entertaining. Grimes, too, deserves credit for downing Pinner, then Schiff. Also, a match that surely deserved a few words was Hazi’s 5-gamer with Charlie Schmidt.
In the Women’s, in the one semi’s, the darling of D.C., Carolyn Wilson, rallied from down 2-1 to slip by Alice O’Connor, 19 in the 5th, and, in the other, Priscilla Woodbury, down 2-0, found the strength to come back and upset Defending Champion Magda Hazi. There followed an anticlimactic final, however, for Wilson, youngest ever to win the title, did to Woodbury what Paggy did to Grimes. And this despite the fact that when, the season before, Louie had for a brief time been managing the D.C. Columbia Courts and Carolyn’s parents had urged him to give her a couple of lessons, the future young Champ had told him she didn’t really want to play.
In a Mixed Doubles semi, O’Connor, paired with Sussman, retaliated against Wilson, paired with Fields, to win 19 in the 5th. But one could understand why the Hazis again took away the title. "Everyone knows," says Tibor, "that doubles is the hardest game to play," for it " requires perfect footwork and cooperation between partners" (TTT, Jan., 1941, 10). Which means that, since Sandor Glancz will later note in an article that Tibor’s footwork "has improved a lot," his marriage to Magda will long endure? In the Men’s Doubles, Schiff / Hazi fell, deuce in the 4th, to Pinner/Sussman.
Making his first appearance in Topics is Johnny Somael, future U.S. Champion. His contemporary, Freddie Borges, tells me he "discovered" Johnny playing table tennis in a Brooklyn playground and ("Hey, kid, you oughta be playing in tournaments") urged him to come to the Broadway Courts. Somael won the Consolation’s in the deciding 3rd over D.C.’s Bobby Bensinger, National Indoor Junior Tennis Champion.
After the Eastern’s, the March 3, 1941 issue of Life featured the Hazis "playing" Eddie Pinner and Alice O’Connor in photographer Gjon Mili’s sequence of fast-action, tracer-like shots—the photos taken "with a repetitive flash, at intervals of 1/50 to 1/100 of a second" to reveal "the bouncing course of the ball and the swift, magician-like movements of the players’ hands" (T/MHS, 42-43).
Holzrichter/Thall Win Western’s
The Western’s were held on Feb. 8-9, in the General Motors Ballroom in Detroit, under the very capable direction of C. Bronson Allen, President of the Michigan TTA for the last three years, who was now retiring. To show their appreciation for "Brownie," the Detroit players gave him a birthday party at the Detroiter Hotel, and among the gifts he received was a beautiful traveling bag and, from George Blom of Detroit Wood Products, the company making the Detroiter tables, a poker table.
Billy Holzrichter won the Men’s final—over Chuck Bernstein in three closely contested games. Since Chuck’s backhand was heavily loaded, and he had a good flick from that side, Billy played ball after ball to his forehand. Both Holzrichter’s and Bernstein’s semi’s had been great crowd-pleasers. Billy, down 2-1 to Nash, won 18 in the 5th, and Chuck beat Price in a fierce, drawn-out battle, 32-30, 21-10, 13-21, 22-20. Chuck said that Price, who was not a chopper but a retriever, gave him a lot of high, no-spin balls, and that when the game got close Bill would often come in and roll a ball or two, hoping with that maneuver to create a chance for a winner. In the only close quarter’s match, Nash, behind 2-1, rallied to outplay Max Hersh. Hersh and Webb, however, after losing the first two games, took the Doubles from Holzrichter/Anderson.
The Western’s had a tradition of holding more events than the Eastern’s. George Abbott, who would succeed Allen as the Michigan TTA President, was also the new Western’s Veterans’ Champ—over Toledo tavern-owner Don Feak. Last year’s Boys’ runner-up, Allan Levy, became this year’s winner—in 5 over Men’s quarterfinalist Carl Manley, who’d been 19 in the 4th pressed by Levy’s young St. Louis rival, Don Lasater.
In the Women’s, Leah Thall had been down 2-0 in the semi’s to Ruthe Crist, but had persevered to meet, then easily defeat Mary Baumbach in the final. The Western’s also offered Women’s Doubles—wherein favorites Thall and Crist had to go 5 to overcome Weber and Tiny Moss. Tiny got a measure of revenge though—for she and Bob Anderson, behind 2-0 in the semi’s of the Mixed to Leah and Bob Green, rallied their way into the final where they lost in 4 to Holzrichter/Baumbach.
Though not yet a teenager, Tiny wasn’t timorous. Leaving her home in St. Paul, she’d taken the train alone to Detroit, where she’d been met at the station by a representative of the MTTA—Graham Steenhoven, 30 years later the President of the USTTA who on the famous 1971 "Ping-Pong Diplomacy" trip to China would be meeting Chairman Chou En-lai.
Pre-National’s Play in the East
With the Eastern’s and Western’s completed, the season was moving towards its New York climax. On Wednesday, Feb. 12, in the Bernhard Mayer Gym of the 92nd St. YMHA, the Metro TTA sponsored its 10th annual New York State Open—a four-event, one-day tournament beginning at 1:00 p.m., with a dinner break from 6:00 to 8:00 (admission: $.60 for the evening session).
The Topics write-up begins with "It happened at last!" Which could mean almost anything. In this context, however, the "it" refers to Pagliaro’s first defeat in 20-some tournaments. Eddie Pinner beat him in 4 in the final—a loss that was perhaps foreshadowed in Louie’s 16, -19, 20, 18 quarter’s struggle with the retired, or at least semi-retired New Yorker, Abe Berenbaum, who wouldn’t be playing in this year’s National’s, even though it was being held in mid-town-Manhattan. That close match with Abe couldn’t have been a confidence builder for Louie. Meanwhile, Paggy’s semi’s opponent, Charlie Schmidt, knocked out Sol Schiff, 19 in the 4th, while Pinner was taking care of Bellak in 4. In the other quarter’s, Cy Sussman eliminated Bernie Grimes in 5.
Helen Germaine had little more to do than walk to the table to win the Women’s. Runner-up Alice O’Connor beat youthful teenager Peggy McLean in the semi’s. Peggy, though, was paying her dues. Reportedly as a child she was a "weakling." So since her doctor advised "exercise," her father, Vincent, "coaxed her interest in playing table tennis on his home-made table," and, having a natural aptitude for the Sport, she graduated to high school and Lawrence’s.
In Men’s Doubles, Schiff and Bellak stayed strong to down the seasoned partnerships of Pagliaro/Grimes and Pinner/Sussman. Newark, N.J.’s former U.S. Veterans’ Champ Morris Bernstein, who at last year’s National’s had given Vets’ winner Bill Gunn his toughest match, fell to him again, 23-21 in the all-determining 3rd.
Three days after this New York Open, Reading’s 10-table Coconut Grove TTC hosted the Pennsylvania State Open. "Bellak clowned through the early rounds, then took to serious play" and beat Fields in the semi’s and Schmidt in the final. Charlie teamed with Bill Cross to down Fields and Paul Capelle in the Men’s Doubles, while in the Mixed Bellak and professional ballroom/tap-dancer Verdyn Stapleton defeated Izzy Bellis and Mrs. Henrietta Wright, Women’s Singles winner over Charlotte Ordway. One reads how writer Scott Fitzgerald’s wife, Zelda, suddenly thought she could become a really good ballet dancer and pursued that goal with frenetic energy. With Verdyn it’s as if she’s taken her cue to play passionately, participate in more and more tournaments, from the results of a recent poll conducted at Birmingham, Alabama’s Southern College—one that concluded "more students play table tennis than dance" (TTT, Apr., 1941, 12).
In the March Washington, D.C. Southern States Open, Bellis 20, 22, -17, 16 staved off Fields to win the Men’s, while Philadelphia’s Wright took the Women’s from Eastern Champ Carolyn Wilson.
Two New England tournaments—the Massachusetts Closed and the later New England Open—had pretty much identical results. Les Lowry won both over Frank Dwelly—though in the Open Frank was 2-1 up before succumbing 19 in the 5th. Mae Clouther, who’d recently given a clinic at Wellesley College for "the Women’s Section of the American Association of Health, Athletics and Recreation," also won both over a fast-improving Mildred Shahian. In the Closed final Millie averaged only 10 points a game, whereas in the Open she -15, -19, 19, 13 gave Mae a good match. Not ranked among the best players in Massachusetts last season, Millie has definitely arrived—beat Eastern finalist Priscilla Woodbury and then the Massachusetts #2 Corinne Delery. Surprisingly, by upsetting Lowry/Clouther, Millie and Bill Corcoran were the Closed Mixed Champs.
The Mar. 29 Connecticut State Open, held at the Greenwich Y, served as a last-chance warm-up for the National’s. Pagliaro, whose expenses on the road, including his trip to last year’s Indianapolis U.S. Open, were reportedly paid for by the Boys’ Club, beat Schmidt to win the Men’s. Monness defeated Mayo Rae Rolph to take the Women’s.
Pre-National’s Play in the West (Including Intercollegiate’s)
Many of the entries listed in the Apr. 2-4 New York National’s Program had to travel some considerable distance. It was a certainty that, with such avid interest and such an investment in time and money, these entries, too, would have engaged in preparatory play. I’ll begin with tournaments on the West Coast, then move eastward.
The Pacific Northwest held late Feb. and mid-Mar. tournaments—minus of course such Canadian players as Vancouver’s Bill and Harold Keenlyside, #1 and #3 in the season’s Western Canada rankings, and such lesser lights as Art Barron, future President of the Canadian TTA. In the first of these tournaments, Pearson defeated Defending Champion Hal Philan, then teamed with Seattle buddy, Class A winner Roland Jones who’d drive East to the U.S. Open with Ray, to take the Doubles from Dick Strait and Vic Wong. Considering that Pearson beat longtime rival Philan quite easily, USTTA Ranking Chair Elmer Cinnater, in a May 26, 1941 letter to Reginald Hammond, seemed too dismissive in judging that "Ray has a peculiar type of game and is always hard to play the first time but after solving his unusual style he is not so tough."
In Pearson’s absence, Philan won the rescheduled Pacific Coast Open without dropping a game. The tournament had been moved up, so that Hal, along with runner-up Portland Club Secretary Bob Hage, Club Treasurer Jim Robinson, Pacific Northwest Veterans’ winner Fred LaMear, and the Northwest’s #1 woman player, Rolph, would be able to make their necessary coast-to-coast train connections in time for the National’s.
The Mar. 1 Colorado Open, held at Denver’s Shirley-Savoy Hotel, earned a photo in Topics, for 11 of the players—including Men’s winner Cecil Woodworth of Topeka, Kansas, but not Women’s winner Mrs. Ariel Smith of Casper, Wyoming—were shown uniquely grouped around a microphone doing a pre-tournament KLZ radio broadcast.
At the March Central Western Open, held in the Des Moines YMCA, George Hendry won the Men’s and (with brother Don) the Doubles. In the Women’s final, against Omaha’s Mrs. Virginia Merica, Des Moines TTA Secretary Helen Baldwin, recent Kansas Open winner, got off to a very bad start, then, after scrambling back in the 3rd and 4th games, lost 23-21 in the 5th.
Hendry was also the winner at the Iowa Open in Cedar Rapids. National’s-bound Tiny Moss, rallying from 2-0 down, beat Baldwin 23-21 in the 5th—which of course was just deja vu, another incredible match between these two, and another disappointment for Helen.
At the Wisconsin Closed in Shorewood, in the absence of Defending Champion Don MacCrossen who’d abruptly retired, Duane Maule beat Russ Sorenson, then Bud Carson to win the Men’s. Carol Blank defeated Mildred (Mona) Buell, then titleholder Mrs. Genevieve Ehlenbach to take the Women’s.
Much hoopla preceded the first annual Feb. 22-23 Ozark Open, inaugurated to take advantage of "the 400th anniversary of the discovery of Ozark territory by DeSoto." Held in the DeSoto Hotel, it was sponsored by the St. Louis TTA, whose President was still Elmer Cinnater, now with his wife Helene proud parent of a 2 and 1/2-year-old son, Ricky. Elmer’s with the Missouri Pacific Transportation Company, is a respected Junior Chamber of Commerce man, lives in the suburb of Rock Hill Village, and commutes by car to work. He’s a statistician—"prepares and compiles such detailed data as the depreciation of motor coaches, bus tire mileage, recapitulation of division and gross earnings, payroll statements, etc." (TTT, Feb., 1941, 9-10).
St. Louis official and Topics reporter for this Ozark Open, Tommy Gibbons, speaks of a Billy Holzrichter-George Hendry "nip and tuck battle," won by Holzrichter, and also of a 5-game fight that saw "McClure and Nash blast away at each other’s defense" with Jimmy proving just a bit steadier. Though one fellow said, "McClure isn’t the star he used to be," he was still pretty damn good, and forced Holzrichter to 5 in the final.
The regular partnership of Holzrichter/Anderson beat Bill Price/Allan Levy in the Doubles. With Allan no longer a Boy, Don Lasater won that event—over another "comer," Mel Nichols. In the Women’s, pretty much a St. Louis "Closed" event, Tamma Hotze almost lost the final to Jane Allison in 3 but beat her in 5.
The 4th Intercollegiate Team Championships were held Mar. 22-23 at the Culver-Stockton College gym in Canton, Missouri. Umpires included St. Louis TTA officials Cinnater, Claude Camuzzi, and Gibbons. The home team of George and Don Hendry won with ease, for, despite talk of the best-Intercollegiate-tournament-yet, there really wasn’t any player in the 10-school field comparable to George. Moreover, brother Don tied for runner-up individual honors with Washington University of St. Louis’s Lester Perlmutter by winning three key matches—over Wilbur Eckstein of 2nd place Washington University; over last year’s nationally-ranked, now out of practice Roger Downs of the 3rd place University of Illinois, 19 in the 3rd; and over Bill Guilfoil of the 4th place Kansas City, Kansas Junior College. One female player participated.***
In Chicago’s mid-Feb. Cook County Open, Eddie Ray defeated Herb Aronson in the semi’s, then Paul Popple in the final. But at the South Shore Open that followed, Popple breezed by Ray, then eluded Joe Kolady in the final, 19 in the 5th. At the Cook County Open, Willa Gant prevailed over LaVera Weber, winning the 4th game at 19, the 5th at deuce. Weber, however, won the South Shore—over Jean Scranton, 2-0.
Miss Gant, along with Carl Manley, and Lynel Overton, President of the Washington Park T.T. Club in Chicago, were, unbeknownst to them, the subject of interest in a Mar. 23, 1941 letter to National’s Entry Chair George Schein from USTTA Executive Secretary Vic Rupp who’s about to succeed Jim Clouther as USTTA President. Rupp writes that he’s received a letter from Illinois TTA Secretary George Koehnke in which Koehnke lists these three players "as about the only ones [Negroes] likely to apply for entry in the Nationals from Illinois." Rupp, who’s also the National Tournament Chair, then says in this letter to Schein, "I do not know whether you have received entries from any of them, nor do I know whether you desire to omit them from the draw. The final decision is entirely up to the Met of course, but I am passing them along so you may know who they are."
Obviously, though Manley and Gant have played in tournaments in the Midwest—their entries would be accepted in South Bend or Detroit, as well as in Chicago—and though Overton has written articles that have been printed in Topics ("No Coaching from Sidelines, Please!"), the USTTA would apparently allow them to be discriminated against anywhere. Strange, is it, that Koehnke and Rupp feel the need to relay this racial warning even to New Yorkers, whose most celebrated Club—Lawrence’s—is run by a black man?
At the Illinois Open, played in an Amphitheatre at the Chicago International Outdoor Sportsman’s Show, LaVera Weber, down 2-1 to Tiny Moss in the semi’s of the Women’s, won the 4th, 25-23, then the 5th, and went on to defeat Gant in a close but straight-game final.
The Men’s featured a surprise appearance by National Champ Pagliaro—and an even bigger surprise, for Paggy lost his second match of the season, his semi’s to Nash. Marvin Thomas in the Mar. 3, 1941 Chicago Sun-Times offered this explanation: "Pagliaro, who staged nightly exhibition games during the nine day table tennis affair sponsored by the TIMES A. A. as a feature of the Outdoor Sportsman’s show, was obviously fatigued….Nash’s forehand smashes to the corners caught Pagliaro flat-footed and out of position too often" (38). Perhaps unexpected, too, was Bill Price’s deuce-in-the-5th semi’s win over Holzrichter, especially after the Chicago star had rallied to win the 3rd and 4th games. In the final between Price and Nash, the first two deuce games, split, must have taken a lot out of Bill, for afterwards he wasn’t in the match. Nash also won the Men’s Doubles with Paggy over Holzrichter/Anderson. However, they had to struggle in the semi’s--barely beat Price/Levy, 19 in the deciding 3rd. No doubt Price, who’ll continue to be recognized as a first-rate table tennis and tennis coach over the years, kept passing on valuable tactical advice to his young partner.
The annual, Ed Cannon-promoted Toledo Lake Cities Open Invitation Tournament ("Invitation" suggesting that black players weren’t welcome?) was held Mar. 8-9. In the Men’s, Holzrichter won a bang-up semi’s from Nash, 8, -23, 19, -18, 20, then took down Anderson who’d earlier survived a 5-game threat from Chuck Bernstein. Thall, behind 2-1, again beat Sally Green, winner of the Mixed with her upcoming National’s partner, McClure. Jimmy must have had a calming effect?, an exhilarating effect? on Nash, for they easily won the Men’s Doubles. In Manley’s absence, Dick Morgan won the Boys.’
There were three final warm-up tournaments for those in the Midwest going to the National’s—the Glen Ellyn, IL West Suburban Open, and the Hamilton, Ohio City Open, both held Mar. 22-23, and the Ohio Closed, held Mar. 29-30.
At Glen Ellyn, Sally Green had no trouble with Mayo Rae Rolph who with her fellow Northwest players were breaking their long trip East. Green, paired with hometown partner Chuck Tichenor, also won the Mixed—in 5 over last year’s National finalists Anderson and Rolph. Mort Ladin won something called the Executive Singles, Ralph Bast the Boys’. Holzrichter and Anderson, as expected, took the Men’s Doubles. But they didn’t fight it out in the Singles, for Bob was upset in the semi’s in 5 by Eddie Ray, who then had no chance against Billy.
At the 10th annual Hamilton, Ohio Open, Cal Fuhrman proved too steady—won this tournament for the 8th time, bringing back the "bullet drives" of Hamilton’s Ralph Ramsey in 5 in the semi’s, and the backhand flicks of Dayton City Champion Mark Neff, 3-0, in the final. In the Singles, Leah Thall may have anticipated an easier finish than 19 in the 4th with Martha Kiefer, but in the Doubles all was predictable. Bob Green won the Mixed with Thall and the Men’s with Ramsey, while Ohio TTA Ranking Chair Merle Arens teamed with Kiefer and Howard Thomas for the runner-up spots.
On the following weekend, at the 2nd annual Ohio Closed, held at the Virginia Hotel in Columbus, Ramsey was able to hit through Fuhrman to win the Men’s. Ohio TTA 1st Vice-President Harry Sage and his partner from their Ohio State days, Sam Shannon, who’d been upset in the Singles by Bart Loomis, came through as the Doubles Champions. Thall, challenged only by Verdyn Stapleton, took the Women’s. Ed Cannon lost the Veterans’ to Toledo TTA President Don Feak—but, hey, Ed’s Crimson Coach Tobaccos Team won the Toledo All City League, consisting of 130 players, all of them members of both the OTTA and USTTA.
And now on to glamorous New York, to the 138-entry National’s—the biggest tournament of the year.
* In a Jan. 27, 1941 letter to Elmer Cinnater, MTTA official George Schein wrote that "The Nationals as predicted was making no strides at all, until Gilfillen [sic: for Gilfillan], Secretary of the MTTA, took it upon himself to see that something was done. He lacks experience but is a very good organizer and worker." Apparently by taking the initiative, Gilfillan became the agreed upon Chair of the National’s Committee. George is indirectly criticizing John Kauderer, President of the MTTA? Didn’t think from the beginning he could organize the event? (Though in the ‘39-40 season Kauderer, who worked for the New York Federal Reserve Bank, was said to have gotten 750 entries for the City Bank Championships.) Reportedly (see Apr. 3, 1941 Tom O’Reilly column in GSS I, 232), George, a city engineer, put up some of his own money, as did Kauderer and Gilfillan, to finance these National’s, and would be relieved to get it back when enough spectators (Kauderer would later say on the average 1,000 to 1,500 a session) made the tournament a success.
**I’d read where one unusual prize was given: "at an army camp in Kansas, the winner [of the tournament] was permitted to call any city in the United States by long distance telephone and talk for fifteen minutes (TTT, Jan., 1942, 12).
***And yet the Feb., 1942 Topics spoke of a Girl’s table tennis tournament at the University of Kansas with 120 entries (12).