1983: End-of-the-Year Miscellany.
In the last chapter, we read about another year at the USOTC’s. That lets me segue into another major—only this one (Timmy’s, Nov.-Dec., 1983, 6) never happened, except in Steve Isaacson’s imagination. Here he is to tell you about it:
“Dick Miles captured the $100,000 first prize in the 1st Annual $370,000 Invitational North American Championships! The 10-time U.S Champion was the choice of the R2D2 computer especially designed by Neal Fox for this event. However, Sol Schiff thinks he was unfairly disqualified and has retained counsel on his behalf. Erwin Klein, the originally declared winner prior to Schiff’s removal, has also sought legal advice, not only to try to recapture the 1st Prize but also for punching tournament sponsor Tim Boggan in the whiskers!!! The fourth finalist, four-time World Champion Jimmy McClure, said he was happy to have won $50,000 and invited everyone to dinner!! (He may have second thoughts when Timmy’s check bounces!!)
Here’s how it all happened: Tim Boggan, with close to $400,000 to squander as a result of the phenomenal success of ‘Timmy’s North American World of Table Tennis’ (and Sally’s part-time job) rented Madison Square Garden and invited the top 16 North American players of all time to vie for prize money almost equal to that of a minor tennis tournament! Since ‘Timmy’s World’ is also the semi-official organ of the Canadian Table Tennis Association, two of our north-of-the-border players were also invited.
In keeping with the current trend of round robins, the field was divided into four groups of four players each, with the winners proceeding into another four-man group for all the cash!! Each loser was guaranteed $10,000 from the total prize fund.
Even before the first match started it was evident that this would be a tournament strife with moaning and groaning, not to mention griping and sniping!! Perry Schwartzberg, Dan Pecora, and Bobby Fields tried to enter the “A’s” and couldn’t believe there wasn’t any. And Ping Neuberger tried to organize a ‘Penny a point’ Women’s event! In order to shut them up, Timmy gave them each a box seat and a free ‘Timmy’s World’ T-shirt!!
In the first round robin, Californian Erwin Klein, dutifully coached by Si Wasserman, had little trouble with Canadian Champion Max Marinko and offensive ace Bobby Gusikoff (whose questionable suspension was lifted prior to this tournament). Against Eric Boggan, however, the red-headed Klein was two games down before he could solve Eric’s foot-stamping!! Boggan, who was forced to fly all night to New York following his undefeated Bundesliga season in Germany, simply ran out of gas. After the match he was heard to say, ‘Oh, shucks!!’ and had to content himself with a front row seat for the finals. Marinko was justifiably disturbed that he was not allowed to play at his 22-year-old Yugoslavian best, but even at age 35 he still managed to upset 1959 U.S. Champion Gusikoff!
In R.R. #2, Miles was in deep trouble against Laszlo Bellak after surprisingly easy victories over Dal Joon Lee and Billy Holzrchter. Down two games to one and 15-6 in the fourth, Miles correctly stopped play and protested Bellak’s age!! Former Hungarian World Champ Bellak had snuck into the field at age 21, but just as Marinko had to play at his best North American age, so too did Laci (‘Lotsy’). With 20 years added to his age, Bellak quickly lost his lead and the match! In other play, Holzrichter upset D. J., as did Bellak. D.J. screamed long and loud at the draw, but $10,000 is $10,000!
R.R. #3 was ridiculous!! One by one, Derek Wall, Danny Seemiller, and little Louie Pagliaro fell to USTTA President Sol Schiff. Sol used his devastating fingerspin serves to completely dominate his bewildered opponents. At match point with Seemiller, Sol’s serve bounced once on Danny’s side, climbed up his shirt, spit twice in his eye, and laughed hysterically! When last seen, Seemiller was traveling back to Pittsburgh avidly perusing Schiff’s best seller, Mr. Table Tennis; while Wall had journeyed to a local bordello!!
The closest round robin was #4, which pitted Jimmy McClure, Marty Reisman, Bernie Bukiet, and Johnny Somael. When the dust cleared, McClure, Bukiet, and Reisman each had two wins and one loss, and Somael was eliminated with an 0-3 record. Since three-way ties are broken on a games-won-and-lost basis, McClure snuck into the finals by the slimmest of margins.
And now the final round robin!! The four best North American players of all time:
Erwin Klein, Los Angeles—four times U.S. Champion with one world title;
Dick Miles, NYC—10-times U.S. Champion with one world title;
Sol Schiff, NYC—1934 U.S. Champion with two world titles;
Jimmy McClure, Indianapolis—two-time U.S. Champion with four world titles.
Most of the learned spectators predicted that the left-handed genius from Los Angeles, Erwin Klein, would capture the $100,000 1st Prize, and he wasted no time in spanking the 1930’s stars Schiff and McClure! Neither of these two multiple World Champions could take a single game from the all-around attack of Klein. Miles, after beating McClure in five, was then dispatched three straight by the finger-spinning Schiff, who also topped McClure in straight games. (‘Aw—c’mon, Jimmy!!!’).
The 1st Prize had now apparently come down to the final match between undefeated Klein and once-beaten Miles. Schiff had already finished with two wins and one loss, so Klein, even in the event of a 3-1 loss to Miles, would still win a three-way tie on a games-won-and-lost ratio. As a matter of fact, even if Klein lost three straight to Miles, the score would read: 1. Klein, 2-1 (3-3). 2. Miles, 2-1 (3-3). 3. Schiff, 2-1 (3-3). 4. McClure, 0-3. And Klein would probably still win on the ‘points’ won and lost tiebreaker. So, for all intents and purposes, the tourney was over.
In the background, though, there appeared to be a heated discussion at the scorer’s table between Rufford Harrison, former USTTA President Otto Ek, former U.S. World Team Captain George Schein, Tim Boggan, and Bill Haid. Meanwhile, out on table #1, Klein, savoring his victory, was an easy winner in the first two games, then lost the next three that were meaningless. Final results: 1. Klein, 2-1 (3-3), $100,000. Schiff, 2-1 (3-3), $75,000. 3. Miles, 2-1 (3-5), $50,000. 4. McClure, 0-3, $25,000.
But wait a minute! What’s this? The R2D2 computer has made a fantastic ruling!! Sol Schiff has been disqualified!!! The officials and the computer have agreed that Sol’s controversial finger-spin serves were strictly illegal!! Apparently he’d been warned after the preliminary round robin that those serves would be prohibited in the finals. Sol, as usual, had ignored that ruling, made a unilateral Executive Decision and finger-spinned (finger-spun?). So all of his final matches were forfeited. Now the final results read: 1. Miles, 3-0, $100,000. 2. Klein, 2-1, $50,000. 3. McClure, 1-2, $50,000. 4. Schiff, 0-3, $25,000.
And that is why Klein and Schiff are suing, McClure is temporarily happy, and Miles is rich! (Doug Cartland had 50% of the winner, so he’s happy too.)”
As it happens, while the results of this $370,000 tournament are appearing in one issue of Timmy’s, Eugene Wilson is preparing his “Senior of the Month” article—on none other than Isaacson—for the next. Thus it seems fitting to match these two together back to back. Here then is Gene on Steve:
“Steve Isaacson, the current Senior of the Month, is fairly new to the classification of Seniors: it seems like such a short time ago that Steve was one of our leading junior players.
Steve was born on August 26, 1937 in Chicago, Illinois. He was the younger of two sons born to Harold and Belle Isaacson. Steve’s business acumen, athletic ability, and good looks come naturally. His father was a successful insurance executive who in his youth was a world-class speed skater. The good looks apparently come from his mother who was a prom queen when a student at the University of Wisconsin.
Steve is a graduate of Senn High School in Chicago. He is a doer in whatever is on his agenda at the time. Now he is on the committee for his high school’s 30th class reunion to be held in 1984. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin in Madison with a Bachelor of Science in Speech in 1959.
Steve and Sari Weissman were married April 10, 1972. They do not have any children but do have two foster children, Danielle, 3, and Misty, 6, gorgeous-looking girls who, ten years from now, will surely fire many a high-school heart.
Steve is a very talented cartoonist and owns ‘The Cartoonery’ in Skokie, Illinois. He has the ability to draw customized cartoons from his clients’ verbal descriptions of what is wanted. He tells me that he believes he is the only one in the world who does this type of cartooning, and says that business is great. His wife Sari owns a Lingerie shop called ‘I See London’ in Evanston, Illinois, reported to be one of the finest stores of its kind in the Chicago area.
Steve has won enough trophies and awards in table tennis to fill this page if I were to list all of them. There are so many that I do not believe Steve could correctly say who he beat in the finals, or even say who his doubles partners were in all of them. Steve is most proud of the fact that he was twice picked to be on the United States Team, the years being 1954 and 1955. A few of his Illinois State titles are: U-11, U-14, U-17, Men’s Singles (six times), Senior’s (five times), and various Doubles Championships (20 times). (How’s that for being consistent for a long period of time?) Also, he was National Collegiate Champion, 1957 and 1958, ranked #3 in U.S. Boys 1950 and 1951, and ranked #3 in U.S. Juniors 1953 and 1954.
It is not often enough that highly-ranked players contribute very much time and effort in the administration and promotion of table tennis, but I am happy to say that Steve is one of those in the select group that has done just that and still continues to do so. Steve has also run or helped run many tournaments in Madison, Wisconsin and in Chicago, Illinois.
Also, Steve was Chairman of the USTTA Intercollegiate Committee, 1958-1959, and Chairman of the USTTA Selection Committee in the 1960’s and during this period he devised a ‘Playoff System’ for choosing United States teams, thus eliminating subjective selections.
These are not the only positions he has held. In fact, he has held almost as many positions as he has won trophies, which are plenty. He has written many articles and has drawn many cartoons for Table Tennis Topics. He was for some time the table tennis editor of Tennis Magazine.
Steve is the founder of the United State Table Tennis Hall of Fame which has done much to honor the past table tennis champions and officials as well as contributors to the sport. This highly regarded facet of table tennis did not just start automatically. It was the brainchild of Steve Isaacson who got the idea while he was table tennis editor of Tennis Magazine. In 1966, with the help of the USTTA Executive Committee, Steve made plans to induct Ruth Hughes Aarons, Jimmy McClure, Sol Schiff, Dick Miles, and Leah Neuberger during the Nationals held in Detroit. But Graham Steenhoven, the USTTA President at that time [later known for heading the U.S. “Ping-Pong Diplomacy” Team to China], did not think too highly of the idea of a Hall of Fame so refused to set aside any tournament time to give the awards or to allow the use of the microphone to honor the proposed inductees. [Steve made plans for this first Hall of Fame induction “with the help of the Association’s Executive Committee”…but the Association’s President was not cooperative? It would seem some clarification about that is needed.]
Steve continued to have passionate feelings that the people who had contributed so much to make table tennis what it is should be honored in some manner. He was certain that a Hall of Fame was a good way to do it. So he bided his time for some years. When Bill Haid became USTTA Executive Director, Steve approached Bill on the idea of a Hall of Fame. With the full cooperation of Bill Haid the Hall of Fame has become since 1979 an important part of table tennis. Long after most people interested in table tennis will have forgotten about his great forehand and many titles, Steve will be remembered as the founder of the United States Table Tennis Hall of Fame.
I, as well as the readers of Table Tennis Topics & Timmy’s, wish Steve Isaacson and his wife many additional years of happiness and success in their respective businesses. This personable and hard-working young ‘senior’ deserves it.”
By Jan. 1, 2012, with Dick Evans having succeeded Steve Isaacson as Board President, the U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame will have 134 members—87 Players and 47 Official/Contributors, 12 of whom had received the Mark Matthews Lifetime Achievement Award. The 1983 inductees into the Hall (shown here in an accompanying Hall of Fame Banquet photo) were, left to right: Dal-Joon Lee, Sharon Acton, and Valleri Bellini—with Jimmy McClure and Sol Schiff, to the far left, accepting for the deceased Bernice Chotras and the very ill Johnny Somael. These Hall of Famers’ accomplishments have been detailed in my previous volumes, and are currently (2012) available at the USATT web site (www.usatt.org)—on the home page under Hall of Fame Profiles. The Hall of Fame Booster Club, begun in 1981, continues with its 1983 Bronze ($10), Silver ($25), Gold ($50), and Diamond ($100) memberships that help to sponsor the Board’s activities.
In passing, we learn that an Amateur Sports Hall of Fame is being established in Johnstown, PA, but it remains to be seen if any of our table tennis players, past or current (such as our 1983 Athletes of the Year, Insook Bhushan (won four gold medals at both the National Sports Festival and Pan Am Games) and Brian Masters (Pan Am Men’s Singles winner) will be recognized. This would seem unlikely since the distinction between an “amateur’ and a “professional” was not made in our table tennis history until rather recently and continues to be in question world-wide.
In this regard, Nancy Hill Persaud (Timmy’s, Jan., 1984, 20) calls our attention to a passage from David Harrop’s “World Paychecks…”: There are several sports in which the line between amateur and professional is blurred, and often a sport has become professional when that distinction ceased to exist. This is what happened with Tennis….Track, particularly the modern marathon, is another, though less notable. The day is not far off when fly-casting, ping-pong, log-rolling, and any other activity that involves competition and attracts enough of an audience to warrant commercialization will become a professional and eventually an international sport.” [Yes, that day is not far off for table tennis—indeed, in 1983 it’s already here.]
I used the words “In passing” above, and they call to my mind now table tennis players I’ve not yet mentioned who dying in 1983 received obituary attention in either SPIN or Timmy’s. Here they are in alphabetical order:
Richard Alden: “of San Diego who died of a coronary in late April while visiting his friend Dick Evans in West Virginia. Although Richard was on his way to do computer consulting at the University of Maryland, he was a chemist by profession who specialized in, among other things, the properties of crystals. His interests were many and varied—he was fond, for example, of cross-country bicycling and playing blackjack according to his own system.
Table tennis players will remember him not only for his fine volunteer work as Pacific Regional Director (‘The very best regional Director the USTTA ever had,’ said Neal Fox) but, with his wife Sally as helpmate, as the indispensible #1 Group Control Desk Operator at every Las Vegas Closed. He was, in the words of his good friend Dick Evans, ‘a wonderful man who will be greatly missed.’”
Here Dick risks a poem in Topics (where, some thought, poems aren’t supposed to be):
“For Richard (1935-1983)
The pillars of policy prohibit
the union of ping-pong with poetry,
but this they must allow:
a pure crystal sized in the hand
of the master,
then shattered into a million fragments
of faceted light.
To have stood in that glow charges
Again the spirit.
Too brief. Then the darkness.
Good night, sweet prince.”
Art Barran, “a great person and a great table tennis enthusiast, died Dec. 29th”—that was the sad news Canadian TTA Technical Director Adham Sharara had to share with us. “Art started his table tennis activities in Vancouver in 1938 at the age of 29. Thereafter he became a volunteer organizer of table tennis at the local, regional, provincial, and national levels. Art was President of the CTTA from 1971 to 1975 and during that time was the leader of the National Team to several international events. The highlight of his table tennis career was when he visited China in 1973 at the personal invitation of Chuang Tse-tung, three times World Champion.”
Tom Wintrich reports that Carl O. Duimstra “was killed on Father’s Day in a tragic boating accident at Elephant Butte Lake in New Mexico. Duimstra was employed at the Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque. He served as Vice-President and President of the Sandia TTC and was its Tournament Director from 1978-83. The Sandia Club is 80 strong and has 30 tables. Carl also coached the Sandia High School table tennis teams between 1975-77. His son, Carl, Jr., was the number two player during that time.
Carl’s favorite shot was a nasty sidespin loop, but he always smiled when he zipped one by you. He was a 1600 player that delighted in testing his opponent, but was always gracious in defeat. More importantly, Carl symbolized the friendly spirit of the Albuquerque Club. Pallbearers included his good friend George Ingram and ATTC President Vic Smith. Duimstra is survived by his wife Margaret, three daughters, a son, and three grandchildren.”
“Alan Evanson for many years played in Junior, Youth, and Men’s events in the Virginia-Maryland area. He died this fall in an automobile accident in McLean, VA.”
“Pauline Robinson Somael [who in 1991 would be inducted into the U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame] died of a heart attack in her New York City home on July 31st. Her husband, Johnny Somael, who was inducted at our June 12th Hall of Fame Banquet during the U.S. Open, died, grief-stricken and in ill health, his eyesight failing, within a week of his wife’s death (they’d been married 25 years, and he just hadn’t the strength to go on without her). I’ve commented on the Somaels’ table tennis lives in previous volumes; however, I want now to give you some of the human-interest material on them that surfaced (Timmy’s, Sept.-Oct., 1983, 25) following their deaths.
Here’s John Read:
“Those of us who played at the famed Broadway Table Tennis Courts, the Mecca of Champions from the mid-1930’s to 1955, will long remember Pauline, who’d arrived in the U.S. from England and, wanting so much to be the U.S. Champion, worked very hard at the sport she loved, and became one of the top four women players in the U.S. from 1948-1960 [though never the National Champion, she was a U.S. Team member at the World Championships]. Most of us from ‘the old days’ will remember Pauline’s dogged determination and unfailing spirit. She was a good friend, a good person. She never had an easy time in life—she deserved not to suffer as much as she did in her later years.”
Mary McIlwain remembers that “when Johnny got out of the Army he’d grown up—though his boyish ways never left him. He was a very private person who lived for the moment he was in. At that time he was happy, optimistic, and fun to be with.” Leona, one of his three sisters, said John “was the apple of his father’s eye, and that all his family was so proud of him.” As for Pauline, both Mary and Johnny’s friend Fred Borges said, “she had terrific drive in all that she did, and had a keen knowledge of the game and its players—as indicated by the column she wrote for Topics in the 1950’s.”
John couldn’t appear for his June Hall of Fame induction. But Mary and Chana Antkowiak prepared a tape of the ceremonies with a message at the end from Borges, and sent it off with copies of the Hall of Fame Program to the Somaels, which of course they much appreciated.
“Both John and Pauline were both so proud of their only child, their daughter Katie. Though Pauline’s mind was filled with uncertainty as to John’s condition, not to mention her own, she was planning on going to England to be with Katie when she had their first grandchild in November.” Though that wouldn’t happen, the Somaels in later life received a big boost from the Pagliaros. During John’s illness, Lou and Jo saw them at least once a week, drove them wherever they wanted to go, and had them to their home. Paggy was a real Champion.”
Another supporter of the Somaels was Mildred Shahian. Here’s an exchange of letters between Pauline and Millie. Nothing like getting to know someone through what he/she writes. First Pauline:
I thought I’d drop you a line. It’s been so many years! I was talking to Ping [Neuberger] a few weeks ago and she gave me your address. John and I got very ‘table tennisy’ the past month. Probably because he’s being put in the ‘Hall of Fame’ this year, and we’ve been reminiscing and looking through old scrap books, etc. What a wonderful time that was.
I re-subscribed to Topics as a sentimental gesture—Tim sent me a few from last year and I almost died when I saw that they now have a Senior Citizen World’s! Oh, how I would love to play in it. Also I could play in the Senior Women’s in the Nationals. I hit 50 you know! BUT! You’ve probably heard through the grapevine that I’ve had cancer. The second time was a tumor on my spine, so I can’t play and I’m so nice and thin it is a shame. I’m not supposed to lift anything heavier than a pencil but of course I do. John too is not well—he’s lost most of his sight and was in and out of hospitals all last year—but we’re still hanging in there.
Our daughter KT went to England to visit and stayed! She’s engaged to a very nice Englishman so it looks as if she will become dual nationalized or whatever the hell they call it. We did teach her to play TT and she played in a couple of tournaments but she never really took to it as you did. However, she asked me to send over her racket and I did. There is a club in the town she’s living near—it’s in Cornwall. Also, I had a lovely letter last week from [England’s World Women’s Doubles Champion] Diane Rowe [later Diane Schoeler, wife of Germany’s World runner-up Eberhardt Schoeler, and still later the only woman President of the Swaythling Club International (a Club for players/officials who’ve repeatedly represented their country at World Championships)]. I’m trying to catch up with all my old TT friends and acquaintances (and not just because I’m about to croak!) I just, as I say, feel sentimental.
I looked up our record—you and me—10-1 for you. OH! And to think I never won one damned National title to comfort me in my old age. John still reminds me that he was the Champ and I wasn’t. Do drop me a line and tell me what you are up to these days. John sends regards.
All the best,
And here’s Millie’s response:
Please forgive the delay in answering your letter. Between sickness and the intense heat, I have done absolutely nothing. Also, so many ideas have been jumping around in my head that I was absolutely overwhelmed.
That era when I spent so much time with you and John were the happiest days of my life.
I always loved John even when you showed up.
I remember telling John what a nice girl you were (you had told me that you liked John). He said, ‘No. No. No.’ I heard, however, that on your 18th birthday you both disappeared for quite a while (at the Canadian’s I think)—which explained to me…at least the ‘No. No. No.’
I also remember when John won the National’s. I wasn’t there, but I talked to Les Lowry, the loser to John. Les, also a very sweet guy, told me he didn’t choke, up 20-13 in the fifth, but that John outplayed him each and every point—and this despite the fact that Sally Prouty [five-time U.S. Women’s Champion] had put a four-leaf clover under each leg of the table. I mentioned to John that Les had not played since the National’s, and he said sincerely, ‘If I knew he’d feel that bad, I would have let him win’—and I believed it.
Then there was the time that you and I were to play at the National’s (Detroit). They told me we could play until 11:00 p.m. and finish the match the next day. Before I could object, you said that you wouldn’t be able to sleep all night, waiting to finish the match.
You know, people (at least the ones I deal with in the Midwest) don’t love to play like we did. One time John told me that he had tried to quit, but he couldn’t because table tennis was like his right arm, and I liked that.
In England, you gave some great TV interviews about your acting career and other notable events. Very amusing. Also, when I accompanied you and John to buy silverware, the customs man advised you (after you’d asked if you could stay longer than planned), ‘Madame, you are an English citizen and you can stay as long as you want.’
Sometimes I went out with John and [Gus] Rehberger in New York. John posed at times for [artist] Rehberger and would always advise when passing a big billboard showing a huge battle scene, ‘That’s my hand.’
It doesn’t sound funny now, but I remember John telling everyone that he played mixed doubles with you, and that you told him, ‘I lost my serve,’ and then proceeded to lose five points in a row (on serves). It was hilarious when he told it.
One time when I was complaining about Mae Clouther [U.S. World Team member and Hall of Fame inductee in 1984), John advised me sweetly and sincerely, ‘She’s no competition for you,’ and that made me feel better for many years, even when Mae still got most of the guys.
When we were in England, we managed to get into eat before a lot of other countries, and Johnny Leach [two-time English World Champion] complained about the rich Americans, and John said, ‘He’s better off than any of us.’ This was true. Our people were John and you and Bernie [Bukiet] and me. There were a few others, but we were as poor as anyone—in money only.
At the U.S. Open this year, Jim [Lazarus] and I did not get a chance to go to the Hall of Fame ceremony because we had to get back to Jim’s mom. We missed the semi’s and finals which hurt. For the first time the choppers played very, very well. Eric Boggan, who is playing out of this world, beat Huging the  German Champion, deuce in the fifth!! John would have loved the matches. The players now know how to play well with the sponge—delicate shots, hard shots, etc.
John really deserved to be in the Hall of Fame. He was up there consistently for many years—plus he won a National’s. When we were overseas, John beat Bernie Bukiet every day for money, confusing Bernie with his spin. FINALLY, one day, Bernie won, but in winning he knocked down the net, so the point went to John, and John won AGAIN.
As for me personally, I have diabetes, which is a bad disease. But if you eat right and exercise, you can feel fine. If you don’t eat right, you get very thirsty and very tired.
I am glad you said that you and John were hanging in there! Hang in there, Somaels!
I could go on and on with the memories, but I don’t want this to be a book and take a few more months to complete.
I am jealous to hear that you are thin, which has been the battle of my life. I lost about 20 pounds when I got sick, gained back about 10 right away (water), but now I can begin losing at a decent weight.
I do wish you both the best for many years to come. I am sorry to hear that John is having so many problems. Have been praying for both of you.
Love to both of you. It was wonderful hearing from you.
Within a month of this letter, both Pauline and John would be dead. And although for a great many life would go on, here’s California’s Scott Wan (Timmy’s, Sept.-Oct. , 1983, 26) talking about another kind of “death” (a momentary one… or perhaps not so momentary) and the “life” that table tennis can provide to offset a sudden loss:
“Everyone has experienced the sadness of having friends move away to far-off places. Sometimes chance brings them back again. Sometimes the goodbyes are forever.
Ours is a very fluid society. Families are often uprooted and people move about a lot for a wide variety of reasons. My memory is filled with faces I have little hope of seeing again. Where are my former classmates now? Where are the comrades who shared the same Army barracks and served in the same Company with me for two years? Where are the members of church choirs I’d sung with years ago? I thought my heart was hardened enough over the years to the reality of this sad aspect of American life. Still, each time someone or a whole family which I have grown fond of moved away, I felt I lost something important.
Just recently another family has been added to the list in my memory. Both the husband and wife had been members of our table tennis club for a number of years and very active in club functions. Their ages were about mid-thirties and they had a young son. Sometimes the child came along with dad and mom to the club’s Tuesday evening tournaments. While dad and mom played their matches, the child had his own games, usually on the floor of the non-playing section of the club. Dad was a business consultant who became unemployed early this year. A position was offered him, but it was in Idaho. We hoped he would reject the offer and wait for another one nearby. But the family’s welfare must be given higher priority than our wish. Their names are not important. They could be people in your club. The story’s the same everywhere. And our joy has been less without their presence.
Ever since table tennis was invented, men and women who share an interest in this game have come together to form clubs. I believe that interest alone is not the reason for people to be drawn together. The bond is profound and complex. There is more than the excitement of competition, more than the desire to win, more merely than to satisfy man’s ego, more than a few hours’ exercise each week to work off the excess poundage. Humans are social beings, and I believe underlying the surface for joining a club—the aggressiveness and sometimes arrogance involved—every person has a quiet quest for something which is called fellowship.”
On now, as I begin to close this volume, to the U.S. Closed at the Tropicana in Vegas…where humans are sure to show themselves as social beings.