1942: USTTA Begins to Feel Impact of the War: Changes in Leadership, Membership. 1942-43: Season Slow to Start, Shows Drop in Tournaments. 1943: USTTA Institutes Junior (Under 18) Play. 1943: Holzrichter/Green Win Western’s; Hazi/Clouther Take Eastern’s.
As the blind poet said, "They also serve who only stand and wait." The single Slate of USTTA officers submitted for the 1942-43 season met with no resistance, and so Vic Rupp, though he’d never been an "ardent player," was re-elected President, and Thomas "Bob" Berna would continue as Executive Secretary in charge of the Philadelphia Headquarters, and presumably, too, as Tournament Chair and co-Editor of Topics with Rupp. Staying on as well would be Larry Minneker as First Vice-President, Carl Nidy as Second Vice-President, and Morris Bassford as Treasurer. One of Bassford’s non-table tennis activities was being an air raid warden, so perhaps it was he who introduced the "Thought" in Topics (Nov., 1942, 8) that there ought to be a table tennis table in everyone’s basement—not only for recreation, but for protection. "The construction of the table tennis table is such that it has the strength of steel. While the table will not stop a bomb, it will give you protection against falling debris if you are under it." (Would Barna giving Exhibitions in London bomb shelters take extra comfort in such a thought?)
Coming in to replace the former First Vice-President Jerrold Woodruff was E. Everett ("Ed") Kuhns (while Dougall Kittermaster took over Kuhns’s job as Illinois TTA President). And taking the place of C. Bronson Allen as Recording Secretary was Bob Wood, past President of the Nebraska TTA. So, all in all, not much of an Executive Committee change, eh?
Except that no sooner had the season started than both Rupp and Berna simultaneously resigned. Which, as Ed Cannon put it, "was almost enough at first glance to cause the U.S. T.T.A. to close shop for the duration." Rupp "found his increased responsibilities as an official of a large manufacturing plant, now working entirely on important war orders," rather all-consuming—the more so I’m sure when he learned that his right-hand man Berna was entering the Army Oct. 7.
Elevated to the Presidency then was Minneker. In addition to being Membership Chair, he would co-edit Topics with his friend and fellow Toledoan Ed Cannon, whom he also appointed Tournament Chair, and who became, as the other V-P’s moved up, the Third Vice-President. John Kauderer then took Berna’s place as Executive Secretary. By mid-season there were more changes. Wood went into the Service, and the position of Recording Secretary remained vacant until at season’s end when Kauderer assumed that office, and the position of Executive Secretary was momentarily left vacant.
Minneker, according to Cannon, had gotten into table tennis back in 1936 when, in charge of operations for the Ohio Department of Bank Liquidation that held a mortgage on the Toledo Athletic Center, he’d "added an Industrial Table Tennis League to the Athletic Center activities," and, though he’d "never swung a paddle up to that time and had no particular interest in the game,...he ended up as Secretary of the League." Now, half a dozen years later, as USTTA President, he had the heavy responsibility of moving the Association Headquarters to...his Superior Street home.*
Aside from the scarcity of equipment—"[t.t.] manufacturing companies are accepting orders under the ‘delivery not guaranteed’ condition"—one of the two major Association casualties of the changing times was of course the Membership, which had been drastically reduced. In Nov., 1942 it had fallen to 1740, a loss of roughly 1000 regular members in the last two years. By Jan., 1943 ("It almost pains us to report the condition of the membership," says Topics), it was down to 1320. Given the considerable reduction in revenue, the other major casualty was the official 8" x 5" USTTA magazine, which would lose much of its readability. Though it was still part of the membership package and sold to the chance outsider for $.15 a copy, it was reduced to half its former 24-pages and contained no photos whatsoever. Indeed, through Mar. of ‘44, its cover always consisted simply of an Honor Roll list of names of members in the Service (those names occasionally misspelled). Talk was that this Topics was going to be sent "to as many of the Army, Navy, Marine and Air Corps Camps as possible." Whatever that meant.
New USTTA members were desperately needed. A Topics editorial says with unconscious irony that "there are thousands of boys and girls in the high schools who will not be ready for war for a few years to come [sic], but are ready for table tennis NOW." So, o.k., again the all-too-familiar questions are raised: Who’s going to get these teenagers to play the game seriously? Who’s going to get our Membership up to where it should be—to at least 10,000 members?
Apparently not Cory Snow, Inc. out of Boston. They’d advertised in Topics for three issues just before the National’s, then gave it up. Their pitch? "Wanted: A sporting goods account with a sales problem—an organization who really needs help in solving a sales, service or advertising problem." Such an organization trying futilely to sell itself and needing help was of course the amateur-minded USTTA itself.
Tournament Chair Cannon urged the hardly novel idea of each affiliate holding a Fall, 1942 Membership Tournament "for the benefit of maintaining our present membership status." He also suggested—this was about the time Field Marshall Montgomery attacked Rommel at El Alamein—that affiliates hold "Victory Open" tournaments, the net proceeds to go to one of the Service Relief Associations, while "the winners and runner-ups could be...[awarded] Defense Bonds and Stamps which in most cases would be donated" (TTT, Oct., 1942, 8-9).
1942-43 Season Slow to Start
The Illinois TTA did run a Membership Open—and consequently it led all other USTTA affiliates for the month of October with 36 new or renewed memberships, while, as of Nov. 1, in total memberships it had 132, second overall only to Ohio’s 151. Same old results for the Chicago men in this Open, though: Holzrichter beat Ray, then Ablin. Holzrichter/Ablin took the Doubles over Anderson/Ray. 18 in the 5th. But in the Women’s, ranked players were upset. Charlotte Ochs, after defeating LaVera Weber, took the final from Vee Bishop, wife of Topics’ Associate Editor Wes Bishop, who in the semi’s had downed U.S. #20 Jean Scranton.
This October, Holzrichter enlisted in the Naval Reserve and went, like Jimmy McClure before him, to the Great Lakes, Illinois Naval Training Station. Still conveniently able to play in a number of tournaments, though not of course weekly as he’d heretofore done, he lost the Dec. 13 Chicago District Closed—one of those "Victory Opens" Cannon had recommended—to the visiting Harry Cook. Harry was in the area on Tour with Doug Cartland, and the two were permitted to play in this Closed only by joining the Illinois TTA. Billy, up 2-1, had a lead in the 4th, but became "a little overconfident and was missing the corners," and so perhaps lost patience. Topics said "Cook did not hit a ball throughout the match" and that "his defense was marvelous" (Feb., 1943, 8).
Although Cook had to go 4 to down Bob Anderson, Holzrichter in his semi’s was able to blank a tournament-soft Cartland. In the quarter’s, however, Doug did 3-0 do away with Russ Sorenson, Milwaukee City Champ who in his home play was leading two leagues—one, not with six-man but six-player teams consisting of three males and three females. Maybe more Rosie-the-riveting play here than one might have thought?
At the Dec. 5-6 Southern New England Open in Providence, Johnny Somael won the Men’s over Les Lowry in straight games. Mae Clouther retired the W. A. Henry Women’s Trophy when her placements proved much too controlling for 16-year-old Peggy McLean. Rhode Island had a new President, Ernest J. Linberg, and several good players in new State Champ, Milton Isserlis, Ed Bruckshaw, and Ted Friedman, but by Jan. 1, 1943, its membership had dropped about 70%, down drastically from 131 to only 41.
As of Jan. 1, Minnesota, under President Helen Grant, was tied with Indiana for 5th among affiliates with 73 members. At the Dec. 5-6 10,000 Lakes Closed, held in the Minneapolis Y, Dave Krawetz won the Men’s over Ed Litman, and Tiny Moss the Women’s over Grace Janowiec. Lowell Van-Fleck/Shirley Fridholm upset Litman/Moss to win the Mixed.
Just behind Minnesota and Indiana, with 72 members, was Colorado—where in Denver, thanks to affiliate President Charles Cox, Jr. , a September tournament was held that brought in 17 new members and 21 renewals. Bob Best was the Men’s winner, besting Jim Wolfe, and Rita Kerns was the Women’s winner in 5 over Lois Woodward.
At the 4th annual Colorado Closed, held Dec. 12-13, Best (with the help of Jim Cress and Sue Tornow) again accomplished the triple-trophy hat trick. In the Singles final he beat Private Phil Hurst. In the Women’s, Leslie Friedman 8, 14, -23, -22, 19 barely escaping a never-say-die Tornow, won over McCall who’d defeated Woodward who’d defeated Kerns. I can’t help but think much of Denver’s success has to be attributed to the relatively deep strength of the women players, and the fact that there are matches for them not only in Singles but in both Mixed and Women’s Doubles. Always nice to have both a competitive and a social mix.
Michigan’s top players had certainly been socializing—boys to Mr. and Mrs. Nash, Mr. and Mrs. Burns, and Mr. and Mrs. Hersh. With Detroit and Michigan TTA President George Abbott, Chair of the 1942 National’s, now in the Navy, the Michigan Association, who’d lost 1/3 of its members, elected the following officers for the ‘42-43 season: John Twigg, President; George Blom, 1st V.P.; Perc Secord, 2nd V.P.; Del Wheeler, Treasurer; and Margaret Wheeler, Secretary.
Organizing way out west was the San Diego affiliate that, as of Jan. 1, had all of two USTTA members. The Consolidated Aircraft Corp. founded the Consair TTA, run by Paul Chastain, former Oklahoma star who’d taught table tennis at the Tulsa Y and then was a radio sports announcer in Ponca City. Carl Heyl beat John Bergstrom, formerly of Minneapolis, to win the first annual Consair tournament. But the San Diego County title, also played for at the Consair Club, was won by Bud Creamer over Don DeVlieg, formerly of Rockford, Illinois. After this final, Sergeant Laszlo Bellak put on an amusing exhibition with Heyl.
Bellak no longer had an address in Portland, and for a while, after giving up its "posh quarters in the Worcester Building," the Oregon TTA no longer had even a temporary club site. But current Pacific Coast Champ Harold Philan and Bob Hage, who’d accompanied Hal to the ‘41 U.S. Open, accepted an invitation to play an Exhibition match at the Burrard Club in Vancouver "for the purpose of raising funds to buy milk for English children." In the Nov. 9-14 tournament held in conjunction with this Exhibition, Philan and Hage were 1-2 dominant in Singles and Doubles.
Second Half of Season Shows Drop in Tournaments
The Texas TTA had 38 members as of their annual New Year’s Day tournament. Winners were predictable. In the Men’s, Cubby McCarley over Carl Breutner. In the Men’s Doubles, Cubby and brother Jodie, now the Texas TTA President. Marjorie Willcox won the Women’s from Marteen Ronk, and teamed with Louie Scharlack to annex the Mixed. Manning Fowler beat John Stewart to take the Veterans’.
Like the Kansas City, Kansas TTA, the Toledo TTA lost their Club site. "Due to rationing and travel restriction," players had to abandon the Heather Downs Country Club for the more centrally located Walter Weller Post of the American Legion. An Open House tournament for about 80 players was held there on Jan. 14, and a Thursday-night 12-team All City League was forming. Also, a Handicap League meant to appeal to high school and "basement players" was scheduled to get under way at the local Y.
Teenage winner Allan Levy needed no handicap to win the Men’s at the Jan. 16-17 St. Louis County Closed. After a -23, 19, 19, 12 semi’s struggle with Don Lasater, Allan had an easier time against Marv Nichols who in the other semi’s had downed his brother Mel in three close games. In the Women’s final, Mrs. Delores Kuenz defeated Mrs. Tamma Hotze Webster.
The Topics write-up for the Feb. 9-11 Denver Closed called Denver the "City of tournaments." But in truth—the more so no doubt with tire-and-gas travel restrictions—their Opens and Closeds featured the same players contending among themselves. This time it was Best over Wolfe in the Men’s; Friedman over Kerns in the Women’s.
A special 20-entry Women’s event for the WAAC’s (later WAC’s) was held at the Feb. 20-21 Central Western States Open in Des Moines, site of the WAAC’s Officers Cadet School, where in April Ohio’s Gladys "Pete" May would be commissioned a Second Lieutenant. Play—without Miss May—was held in the "beautiful Shrine Temple Building," and the "entire proceeds"—which might have been considerable since the Des Moines TTA was 3rd behind Ohio and Illinois in USTTA memberships—were given to the Infantile Paralysis Fund. John Tatom won every event he entered, as did Helen Baldwin, though in her final against Virginia Merica she had to go 5, yet swept the three games she won by scores of 5, 8, and 10.
Holzrichter Wins Western’s
Participants at the Feb. 6-7 Western Open were "greeted with a heavy blizzard and the temperature dropping to 5 above." Matches were held in the gym of Toledo’s Walter Weller Post of the American Legion, and winners were awarded War bonds and stamps.
One of those winners was "Holzrichter, U.S. Navy, now streamlined" (Billy would later, on regaining his normal 200-pounds playing weight, say he always regretted someone not forcing him to take off, and keep off, 25 pounds). In his matches from the 16th’s through the final, Holzrichter’s opponents found only slim pickings—earned, respectively, a 3-game total of 30, 35, 39, 37, and only 41 points by runner-up Allan Levy.
There were, however, plenty of early-round exciting struggles. John Varga, this season’s Indiana #1, lost a -20, 17, 24, -18, -16 eighth’s match to the Ohio #2 Bob Green. Dayton’s Howard Thomas was stopped by Coach Varga’s #1 South Bend junior Dale McColley, 28-26 in the 4th. And Ohio teenager Dave Spence, a protege of Green’s, was beaten in 5 by advancing semifinalist Max Hersh. Covering reporters might have found local color in Michael "Gus" Louris’s 5-gamer over fellow Toledoan Paul Landwehr. Or in Cal Fuhrman’s 23-21 in the 4th win over Toledo TTA President Ralph Berry. Or with Toledo #1 Pat Gillen, who in the 16th’s eliminated Don Feak—hometown winner with Ed Cannon in the Veterans’ Doubles, and runner-up in the Veterans’ Singles to popular Pontiac, Michigan barber Perc Secord.
Also, before stopping Chuck Burns, Lee Webb had first to down Marv Nichols in 5, after Marv had eliminated Cleveland’s Sanford Gross. Sandy was about to go into the Service and, as his friend Sam Shannon would tell us, after Sandy had endured "130 consecutive days in the Italian Campaign" and won a "Silver Star for gallantry in action," he received "a medical discharge" that enabled him to return home" and resume tournament play.
USTTA Institutes Junior (Under 18) Play At Western’s
Teenagers were the recipients of a new USTTA event, played in the Western’s for the first time, and thereafter in all the National’s to come—the Under 18 Junior’s. However, this new event would soon have to undergo modification because for the moment there was no separate Boys Under 15 event—that had been subsumed into the broader Under 18’s.
Earlier, the Wisconsin TTA, to stimulate interest in high school play, had, on its own, introduced a 16-20 age division into some of its tournaments, so the idea was not new. Many local coaches felt that youth needed to gain experience by competing against their peers before being thrust into seasoned competition. However, it was a view, one later subject to change, expressed by John Varga in the Jan., 1943 Topics (4) that allowed the Junior-event idea to catch hold.
John said he wanted to raise the Under 15 Boys’ Singles to include those "17 years and under." But, he added, once a boy won that event at the U.S. Open, he could not, regardless of his age, play in any Boys’ U-17 again. And if he were a runner-up in that Open event, or a winner of the Eastern’s or Western’s U-17, the only Boys’ Under 17 he could play in again, regardless of his age, was the U.S. Open one. And as if those limitations weren’t enough, he fancifully (not to say absurdly) suggests that…a boy couldn’t win more than 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8 U.S. Open Boys’ Singles, or more than 1-2-3 U.S. Open Men’s Singles (though, if he hadn’t won the Boys’ title yet, he could, if his age permitted, still try for that).
John’s reasoning was twofold. One, this extended age limit would give the youngsters more play, give them "a better chance to ripen into outstanding men players" (traditionally up to this time, and especially in the 1930’s, it wasn’t entry-fee practical or perhaps even seemly for youth to play in both the Boys’ andthe Men’s). And, two, it would "cause less players to fall out of the game at an early age" (why? because "boy wonders" wouldn’t be able to dominate the Championship for years, and thus other juniors—how many?—would be given hope that they too could be a U.S. Champion).
The more sensible modification—that both a Boys U-15 and a Junior U-18 event be incorporated into major tournaments—was soon adopted, beginning with the 1944 U.S. Open. And by then Charles Dorsey’s Jan., 1943 statement—that up in John Varga’s South Bend, we Hoosiers "are breeding champions of the eight and nine-year-old variety" (9)—will, with the arrival of Gordon Barclay, be taken quite seriously.
Green Women’s Winner at Western’s
Neither at the Western’s nor at the National’s—not until 1949—was there an Under 18 Junior Miss. Girls —not of course that there were very many of them—would have to be content playing in the Women’s.
The Western’s Women’s winner was Sally Green who staged a down 2-0 and down 8-2 in the 3rd comeback to defeat Leah Thall. At that critical juncture when all seemed straight-game lost, Sally smacked in a cross-court forehand—and seemingly with just that one shot turned the match around.
The Cannon sisters, after winning a 5-gamer from Edna O’Connor/Norma Landwehr, lost the Women’s Doubles final to Thall/Wilson. In the Mixed, National Champions Holzrichter/Thall -17, 13, -17, 20, 18 precariously prevailed over Burns/Green. Topics said of that Mixed final that the "deception in play, almost impossible gets and long volleys kept the crowd on their feet throughout the match." Would that someone have described that "deception in play" for us.
Hazi/Clouther Take Eastern’s
Preparatory to the Feb. 20-21 Eastern’s, both a Christmas tournament and the Jan. 23-24 National Capital Open, sponsored by the DC TTA, were played at the Columbia Courts. Tibor Hazi, unchallenged on both occasions, won the Men’s. In the Jan. Open he beat Lou Gorin before knocking out heavyweight Gordon Barry in 4 in the semi’s. Gorin’s Capital performance included teaming with Jimmy Shea, DC TTA 1st V.P. for the 1943-44 season, to take the Men’s Doubles from Hazi and Sol Perolman. Carolyn Wilson again won the Women’s—but she couldn’t have had any fun in either tournament, for she was way too good for the competition.
Balmy skies for the Morris Bassford/Beryl English-run Eastern’s at the Washington, D.C. Columbia Courts. The Topics write-up said that Hazi, on his way to winning this tournament over Schiff in the semi’s and Defending Champion Pagliaro in the final, "sailed through" Cy Sussman in the quarter’s. But this was hardly true—Sussman was Hazi’s most difficult opponent. Talk was that Tibor usually had time to very effectively change his grip during play (two fingers drop from the forehand side of the blade, steadying thumb comes up as he switches to backhand attack), but here, suddenly, he seemed to lose his grip altogether. With games 1-1, Tibor’s leading in the 3rd 20-11—only to lose 9 in a row before finally prevailing 23-21. In the 4th, Tibor’s up 20-12—only to lose 6 in a row before getting match point.
In Men’s Doubles, Schiff/Somael, after playing a 16, -21, -20, 20, 17 semi’s stunner with Hazi/Schmidt, defeated Pagliaro/Miles who, despite knowing one another’s moves so well, didn’t seem really to be gelling that well together. Sol was on leave for this tournament, for on January 13, he’d enlisted in the Army. According to Ben Dattel’s son, Barry, Ben was entering the Service with Sol, and because Sol said, "Ben, join me—come on over in my enlistment line," Ben was spared being sent to where those in the line he had been in were sent...all to Italy, all to die.
Topics omitted the Eastern’s Veterans winner, but it was likely Don Feak, who with Cannon repeated their Western’s Veterans’ Doubles win—an unusual instance of players holding both Eastern and Western titles in the same season.
Mae Clouther took the Women’s, it would seem without once toweling, for neither Edna Sheinhart nor Peggy McLean in the final had a chance against her. Peggy, though, had satisfying wins—over Barbara Cannon, then Davida Hawthorn in 5 in the semi’s, after Davida had upset #3 seed Carolyn Wilson, 18, 19, 23.
The Washington, D.C. TTA President John L. Meininger, who’d be re-elected in May, then appointed to the USTTA Executive Committee, shared with Feb. Topics readers a letter he’d recently received from a self-described four-year "duffer" who had this to say:
"...Table tennis should become an almost universal game, sport and exercise. I have mentioned its value to the eyes in my case (and there is a good scientific foundation for this), but of course it has the advantages of making the mind alert and exercising practically every part of the body without over straining. It is also a fairly cheap pastime. It can be played by all ages and by both sexes. It is a good family game and party game. It can be played any time of the year and during any kind of weather. Furthermore, one gets the kick of meeting his opponent face- to-face in always continuous competition. One does not have to wait long for his time at bat, as a ball player, and the shots or strokes are more varied than in tennis. It’s a good all-around game, sport and exercise and it should have a big future" (6).
Yes, to this duffer, table tennis is obviously a pastime—much more of a game than a sport. But why is this encomium—really to recreational ping-pong—printed in a magazine that’s cramped for space—or would be, should be, if it had readability? Meininger and USTTA President/Editor Minniker are seeking to convince Topics readers (themselves?)...of what...why?
*For information on these USTTA officials I draw on two issues of TTT: May, 1942, 12-13, 20 and Oct., 1942, 4, 7, 9. Few USTTA members knew how bad a shape the Association was in. Future USTTA President Carl Nidy’s May 25, 1945 letter to his E.C., Board of Governors & Committee Chairmen would explain:
"As we became involved in World War #2, our membership dropped to the extent that at the time we actually became involved in war, we were no longer able to maintain [the Philadelphia headquarters office]….A good source of our revenue was received from the sale of seals for equipment and the manufacturers of such equipment were restricted in sale to the Armed Forces, Red Cross, etc. Our revenue dropped to the point where it was necessary that the USTTA borrow money from its affiliates in order that we might close up the Philadelphia office in good shape.
Larry Minneker took over as President at a time when we were without funds and personally guaranteed the USTTA that the organization would not go into the red during his administration. By furnishing much of the equipment, help, etc., Larry ended up his two year administration with a satisfactory organization and $2000.00 in the bank for the USTTA."