1948: U.S. Women’s Corbillon Cup Play. 1948: U.S. Women’s World’s Singles and Doubles Play. 1948: Miles/Tybie Thall Win World Mixed Doubles. 1948: U.S. Players Star in Ireland’s Leinster Open. 1948: Feb.-Mar. Pre-Sectional Tournaments—Appearance of Pauline Robinson; Historic New Albany, Indiana Club; Resurgence of Play in California.
Although Tybie Thall would tell Peggy Allen that she “couldn’t understand why, when having a shampoo [in London], the assistant made you lean forward, thereby wetting your face, when in America they do it the sensible way and lean back,” she had nothing but praise for this Feb. 4-11, 1948 Wembley World’s, the cost of which was perhaps $50,000. “It was worth coming to England,” she said, “just to see this wonderful show, so wonderfully organized.”
U.S. Corbillon Cup Results
In 16-team Corbillon Cup play, the U.S. women with a 5-2 record finished 3rd in their group. We blanked Belgium (4-3), Jersey (0-7), and Scotland (3-4), beat Wales (1-6), 3-1 (when Clouther lost 23-21 in the 3rd to Audrey Bates), and just got by Austria (2-5), 3-2 when former World Champion Trude Pritzi could score only in singles (beating Clouther 16-7 in the 3rd after the 20-minute time-limit rule had been imposed). In neither of our losses could we win more than just one match. However, we did have a good opportunity against Rumania. Granted Angelica Rozeanu who, beginning in 1950 would win six straight World Singles Championships, was too strong for us (though Clouther did take a deuce game from her), the Rumanian #2, Sari Kolosvary was not (Leah beat her 8 in the 3rd). Had the Thall sisters not lost the close doubles (19, -19, -18), Mae might well have gotten the better of Kolosvary.
But of course we also lost 3-1 to the favored English team, and against them we couldn’t indulge ourselves in wishful thinking. Though the Thall sisters were clear winners in the Doubles over Peggy Franks/Vera Dace Thomas, neither Leah nor Mae in the Singles could put any pressure on the naturalized Beregi and the veteran lefthander Thomas.
In the final against Hungary, the heroine, ironically, was the former Hungarian star Beregi—“red-haired, plump, cheerful, imperturbable”—who not only beat both Rose Karpati and Defending World Singles Champion Gizi Farkas, but in the doubles was said to have practically carried the badly off-form Thomas to a 3-game win.
In the 73-entry Women’s Singles, there were only three 5-game matches prior to the 8th’s, and two of these involved U.S. players. In a match that I just speculated might have occurred in the Team’s, we again lost to Rumania when Kolosvary outlasted Clouther, 19 in the 5th. That brings us to… ready Tybie?…England’s Pinkie Barnes. (See her on the cover of the July/August, 1948 issue of Table Tennis.)
Pinkie (nicknamed so because of her complexion) believed that “what a girl wears and how she looks is important.” Her advice: “Take to heart all that the beauty experts say about hair, and brush it till it gleams. As it is apt to get unruly when you play, wear a ribbon round it to match your outfit….By all means use some make-up, but don’t plaster it on. A player looks better with it than without it.” Her motto: “The better I look, the better I play” (Table Tennis Review, September, 1946, 9).
In their 4-game match, Tybie looked…well, better than Pinkie. But in her next match, against Ireland’s Minshull, she lost the first two games. Then, as if with the abandon of the little kid she used to be playing tackle football, she 6, 10, 10 rushed right in and crunched her opponent. Next up: the Hungarian Karpati, who’d had plenty of 20, -19, 15 trouble with Sweden’s Halling in the Team’s. Since Minshull, who’d averaged only 9 points a game against Tybie in that lopsided finish, had destroyed Halling, wouldn’t that make Tybie the favorite against Karpati? Except again she lost the first two games, and though she fought back, winning the 4th at deuce, this time she couldn’t recover. Barnes, meanwhile, prettied herself up—and won the Women’s Consolation.
And Tybie’s sister, the vivacious Leah—how’d she do?
Alas, win or lose, nothing could be more uninteresting than Leah’s four straight 3-game matches—the last her –14, -16, -10 quarter’s with Farkas who, after losing to Beregi in the Team’s, had drawn her in the 1st round and taken swift revenge, then had eliminated the promising Czech, Elisak Fuerstova.
The remaining quarter’s were dull too: Thomas over Pritzi; Pokorna (who’d been pressed into the 5th by Franks) over Karpati; and Rozeanu over Scotland’s Helen Elliot.
The one semi’s—Thomas over Pokorna—was likewise boring; but the other….
Rozeanu, nee Adelstein, I’d mentioned in Vol. I when as a youngster in 1937 she’d played defensive star Pritzi a 16, -20, -20, -17 match that ran over the 1 hour and 45 minute time limit but which officials had allowed, saying that they didn’t need the table. Now I see from the ’48 Wembley Programmethat the “then fascist-minded government of Rumania forbade her to come to London [for the ’38 World’s], and eventually suspended her altogether when in an international match she beat all her opposition in the then  Corbillon Cup-holding German women’s team” (13). She was thus perhaps even more motivated than other Europeans who because of the War had been denied many of their best years in the Sport. Moreover, in the semi’s she was playing Farkas who’d beaten her in the semi’s in Paris.
It appeared Rozeanu had victory in hand after winning the first two games easily, but Farkas, steadying into determined push-play, made a dramatic comeback that sent the match into the 5th. Here stonewalling on the part of both players prevailed, points were ground out, and after 18 minutes of play, the Umpire warned, “two minutes more.” After 20 minutes, the Umpire thought the score was 25-24, but (indicating a strange, not to say incredible discrepancy) the Table Manager thought it was 22-all. (Had it not been, whoever was ahead should have been declared the winner). If the score were 22-all, which apparently was the understanding, disputed or not, that play proceeded from, the players should have been told, but were not, that the next point would decide the match. Rozeanu, apparently, got that point.
So she was the winner? Nope. The Referee, the esteemed Morris Rose, had made up his mind not to impose the time-limit rule and to controversially allow the match to go on. Later, he said that he remembered a time in the past when the rule was imposed at deuce (today’s Expedite Rule cannot be introduced at such a critical stage in the match) and that Montagu, ITTF President and Chair of the Advisory and Rules Committee, had expressed his disapproval. He took this remembrance as his guide (which Montagu then went on record as saying was not a good reason for the “mistaken instruction”). The continuation of this match brought on ensuing complications, the more so when Farkas eventually “won” it, 29-27. After the Hungarian girl was so exhausted she had to be helped off court, the battle was over, but not the haze of battle. Rozeanu and her fellow Rumanians protested, and the Jury members, with the involved countries’ representatives abstaining, decided that the match should be played over. This time Farkas won in straight games.*
Since Thomas had beaten Rozeanu in the Team’s, albeit 25 and 19, perhaps the English would have preferred that she play her rather than Farkas. But against the Hungarian girl, Thomas, up 2-1, was doing just fine, covering her weak backhand by running around to hit in her vaunted forehand….Only then Farkas 16, 12 found a way to exploit that vulnerability and prevent her from following through to the longed-for end.
Dick/Tybie World Champions
However, Thomas, partnered by Peggy Franks, was able to bring home to England for the first time the Women’s Doubles Championship. In the final they beat Beregi/Elliot who in the quarter’s had sent into risked-rumpledom that most photo-oppable of pairs—our Mae and her pick-me-up partner Barnes. Meanwhile, needing a careful attack against the solid defense of Rozeanu/Pritzi, the Thall sisters, after losing the 1st , got back into the match by winning the 2nd , also at deuce, and finally won in 5. But though in the Team’s the Thalls had beaten with 13, 14 ease the pair they now faced in the semi’s, Thomas/Franks, and so seemed to have a great chance for the Championship, they –14, -14, -17 couldn’t contest at all.
U.S. pairs in the Mixed found themselves, on paper at least, with an outside chance of playing one another in an early-round match. But while Reisman/Clouther advanced rather easily with a Walkover and a win over a Welsh team, Nash/Leah Thall, on eliminating an English pair, met Bergmann/Beregi. Though strong, these new British subjects might be beatable, for Carrington/Barnes had extended them to 23-21 in the 4th. But Garrett and Leah couldn’t challenge them, and, after losing an opening 26-24 game, neither could Marty and Mae.
Miles reluctantly agreed to play his opening Mixed match with Tybie—but only because Captain Bill Price insisted, under threat of suspension, he do so. The World Singles was of course what mattered to Dick, and with that gone he’d just as soon head for home. (Of course, if he never appeared at a World Championship again how was he going to see Andreadis to collect that $100 from him?) Tybie and Dick hadn’t played together before—Dick wouldn’t even partner her in practice. She said he deliberately came half an hour late for the opening match, was smiling because he thought they’d been defaulted, and was irritated to learn they’d been given a Walkover against Belgium. The wooden Wembley playing floor lay over an ice rink, and, the venue, though not as cold as the Paris one, was cold enough. “I don’t want to be out here,” Dick, who might have been in overcoat and gloves, told Tybie, his breath as frosty as his demeanor.
They were in the 64th position in the Draw and, after that opening Walkover, they proceeded past a French pair who for whatever reason had received a Walkover from Price and his arranged English partner, and who, according to Tybie, were upset when (“You make fools with us?”) Miles at the end of the match didn’t bother to shake hands with anybody. Years afterward Dick would say, “Yeah, I acted like a real shit.” The turning point for the U.S. came in the quarter’s against the strong English team of Leach and Thomas when, behind 2-1, they managed to win the last two games, 24 and 19 (after being down 17-14).
In a 1949 English Open interview with Peggy Allen, Tybie would recall how for years as a young child she was on a Sunday morning radio program, reciting poems she’d learned, and had grown up taking large audiences so much for granted that “nerves” were never a problem for her. To keep focused here in her matches she just kept repeating to herself, mantra-like, “Hit this ball”—as if to say: “It’s the only ball I’m going to hit all day. And I’ve got to hit it in better than I ever hit one in before.” This technique—and/or Tybie’s sun-bursting enthusiasm that thawed Dick’s cold pride at even trying in this for him unworthy and meaningless event—produced a gutsy winner. Then their momentum, and Dick’s meticulous footwork—“It was phenomenal,” said Tybie, “especially considering we were strangers to one another’s movements, how he was always in position”—carried them 18, 20, -18, 16 on through the formidable pair of Sido/Rozeanu.
But off to a very bad –13, -14 start in the 11:30 p.m. final against Vana and Vlasha Depetrisova Pokorna, a pre-War World Women’s Singles and Doubles Champion, Dick, by now thinking to himself that Tybie was “a crazy hitter,” told her, “Listen, this is embarrassing. Just push the ball back—you don’t hit a ball until I tell you to.” And now—“with Miles driving fiercely” and Tybie taking “Vana’s sneaky service with coolness” (“I tried to return the balls deep,” she said)—they weathered 18 and 19 games, then, with Tybie in a zone, hitting in forehands, they couldn’t have played a better 5th. Carrington said in Table Tennis that Tybie “treated us to a display of mixed doubles play which few women could ever equal.” She “inspired her partner to fight back. She chopped Vana’s drives and services safely back [the open-palm serve rule, new to Europeans, helped her to do that?], pushed his difficult chops, and drove with ferocity whenever possible” (February-March, 1948, 13).
On winning—as in a fairy tale, the clock had just struck midnight—“Tybie threw her racket in the air and came over for a hug,” Dick said. “But I pushed her away.” Uh, perhaps. But Tybie remembers the moment differently—remembers Miles, jubilant, pulling her by the hair, then saying later, “I wasn’t excited.” “Afterwards,” said Dick, “good players congratulated me, fussed over me—it was sickening.” The photos don’t lie, though—Dick did allow a smile when he and Tybie were presented with the Heydusek Cup.
U.S. Players Do Well In Ireland
Before coming back to the U.S., our Team (minus Price and Nash who’d left for home or gone elsewhere?) went to Dublin, birthplace of the great Irish writer James Joyce, whose Ulysses Miles used to carry around with him almost as a talisman. I’d not read of anyone on our Team complaining, but Bellak told me that the sea-trip from England to Ireland was one of the worst anyone could take. Everything had to be fastened down. Of course he remembered that particular crossing when Barna, Szabados, and he were playing cards, and Victor wouldn’t let them quit, not even when Mike and he were vomiting right there at the table.
In the Men’s final at the Leinster Open, held Feb. 13-14 in the Abbey Lecture Hall, Dick beat Marty in 5, after Marty’s “magnificent retrieving” had taken out Barna in 5 in the semi’s. “Want to come to Ireland and coach?” someone would later proposition Marty. .“We’ll give you $50 a week.” Bergmann, who in March would marry an Irish girl, was forced to withdraw from the Singles, supposedly “on doctor’s orders”; however, he did team with Barna to take the Men’s Doubles over the Irish pair of Martin and O’Prey. Although Miles didn’t play Doubles, Reisman paired with Leah to win the Mixed over Barna/Clouther who’d eliminated Bergmann/Tybie in the semi’s. In the Women’s Doubles, which Tybie sat out, Leah and Mae were much too good for the opposition. Completing the more or less U.S. title sweep, Tybie had an unusual victory in the Women’s Singles—she beat her sister Leah in the final, -15, 16, 18.
Feb./Mar. Pre-Sectional Tournaments
Back home, John Kauderer was telling J. P. Allen of the N.Y. Sun that the “fine showing” of the U.S. Team “is a heap of vitamins for the game in this country….It has started things humming. So much so that…[there will be] a series of sectional championships for the second week of March.”
Kauderer of course knows these sectional tournaments have been on the USTTA calendar for months, but, with a U.S. pair having just won a World Championship, who could blame him (or Allen) for seizing the opportunity to stroke the Sport, put a positive spin on it?
Prior to the Mar. 13-14 Eastern’s, there were five Topics-reported tournaments in the Eastern Zone. The first was the Pennsylvania Open, held Feb. 7 in Bethlehem under the auspices of the PTTA (its President Thomas “Bob” Berna) and the BTTA (its President Lillian Caretta). Since 1932 Bethlehem players had been forced to move their Club to seven different locations, the latest of which was the “Paddle Pusher’s Paradise” (so named for the “just folks” who played the Game?) on the second floor of the City’s Recreation Building.
Morris Chait, who in Nov. with Miles and Reisman had given New York another Intercity title, won the Men’s over Tibor Hazi with embarrassing ease. In contested matches, Ben Dattel defeated Cal Skinner, and Jules Toff just got by Gus Wolov, deuce in the 3rd. Chait also came first in the Junior’s—beat Norm Schuman who with Hazi took the Doubles from Chait/Whitey Sheraga. Peggy McLean (no, she didn’t send in a photo of herself as Defending Champion for the Program as requested) was the Women’s winner—over Ruth Millington in the semi’s and Millie Shahian 22, 16, 20 in the final. This tournament marks future U.S. World Team member and Hall of Famer Pauline Robinson (later Somael)’s first appearance in Topics. She’d immigrated to the U.S. from England, for her family had “lived in Wembley until the early ‘40’s. Grandfather was Manager and Secretary of Wrexham Football team; Father was a Bisley crack.” So it was in her genes for Pauline to be sports-competitive. Here of course she lost decisively to Millington. In the Mixed, surprise—Izzy Bellis came out of retirement to win with McLean from Pete Fisher/Millington.
Les Lowry won the Feb. 8 Greater Boston Men’s Closed—over Frank Dwelly who’d been pressed both by Art Sweeney and Henry Steadman, 5-game quarter’s winner over Benny Hull. Massachusetts was an unorganized state, but it did have one affiliate, hence the Feb. 15 Western Massachusetts Closed with President Jim Carey bringing in dozens of new USTTA members and Mr. and Mrs. Charles Forant of Chicopee Falls at the center of the local competitive action.
At the Feb. 29th Bridgeport Closed, George Ferris won honors—the Singles over Fran Delaney, whom he’d also beat at the Connecticut Closed, and the Doubles with Hal Finlayson. Rose Marie Korsak was the Women’s winner. Bridgeport, along with Providence, and the Massachusetts towns of Boston, Springfield, and Newton were part of a New England League, which Lowry (1) and Dwelly (2) were individually leading, with Ferris (3) right behind them.
The USTTA’s Southeastern Zone had only sporadic play, and seldom was notice given of it in Topics. In April, the newly formed New Orleans affiliate would hold an early spring Closed tournament in which George Foerster would win the Men’s over the two top-seeded players, Saul Schneider and NOTTA President Beryl Laufer, both of whom would be giving table tennis clinics at various rec centers in the City.
At the Central Zone’s Mar. 20-21 Wisconsin Closed, held in Kenosha, who should come wham-bang back but the Wild Wampus. Don MacCrossen won the Men’s—over Holton, Maule, and Feb. Dairy State Open winner Russ Sorensen, all without dropping a game. The Men’s Doubles saw a replay of the Dairy State final—with Bill Holton/Sorensen again winning over Suhm/Mullin. Metten again beat Schneider for the Junior title; Milwaukee’s Rotter again took the Boys’, this time from Kenosha’s Richard Raynaud who’d eliminated Watertown’s Tommy Breunig. Carlyn Blank Zimmerman accomplished the hat trick: won the Women’s—over Marion Mueller, who’d gotten by Mona Buell; won the Women’s Doubles with Judy Schmidt; and the Mixed with Sorensen.
In the Central Zone, too, was the inaptly named Southern States Open, held Feb. 15 in Louisville, KY. In the Women’s, Dorothy Balke proved too 4-game strong for both Martha Kiefer and in the final Norma Felton. The Mixed was won by the established partnership of Bill Woosley/ Kiefer. Joe Carter of the University of Cincinnati took the Intercollegiate’s. In the Men’s final against Green, Fuhrman was up 1-0 and at 15-all in the 2nd when the Chief Referee called the Expedite Rule. Cal, at a big disadvantage because he hadn’t much of an offense, protested, and when the Referee insisted, Cal defaulted. As a result, the USTTA suspended him for a year. After that he said to hell with the Sport and called it quits.
When I met Cal in the early 1950’s, he’d been in Dayton for some years, had moved there from Hamilton, Ohio, and had a rather nondescript job as an impeccably-dressed clothing salesman, then became manager of an upscale men’s shop. A Nationally-ranked defensive star, he’d been the last of the early pioneer 1930 players to maintain an unbroken attendance at U.S. Opens. That such an on-the-move aficionado could eventually become pretty much a stay-at-home recluse amidst clutter and some 30,000 record albums led him in his old age to a sad end.
Dayton columnist Dale Huffman, in an In Memoriam tribute to Fuhrman, tells us that when Cal was 76 years old burglars broke into his home “three days in one week” and stole his stereo. Because he lived only “on his Social Security check, and sometimes would go without food to buy records,” the fact that he could no longer play music was devastating to him. He was “so shaky and distraught,” so fragile anyway—he weighed only 100 pounds—that police took him to a hospital for treatment.
After Huffman wrote about Cal’s plight, “people sent money, and others donated a stereo.” Neighbors watched his home and when the thugs came back to rob him a fourth time they were caught. Then in 1992 Cal was arrested for “not painting his home as ordered, and…thrown into jail.” This outraged his neighbors, who again befriended him, and offered to paint his home themselves. Cal spent his last days in a nursing home, and died Mar. 20, 1997, at the age of 82, in a local hospital. As Huffman regretfully put it, He died broke, and he died sad, and he didn’t even have any music in his room.”
Historic New Albany, Indiana Club
Among the players with Fuhrman in this Southern States tournament were Bernie Hock, Jack Pangborn, Benny Helm, and Grayson Hanks, and since all of them were or soon would be playing regularly at the Ekin Ave. Club in New Albany, IN, just across the Ohio River from Louisville, I think it’s as good a time as any to give you some background on this historic Club. First and foremost, know that from 1935 on into the new millennium it has been housed in the same building—that is, for 67 years now.
Thanks to diligent research by John Riley, a felt force for quarter-of-a-century in New Albany table tennis—research that brought forth both an article by Les Reynolds for the local Tribune, and an account by half-century Club habitué Herman Hoffman—readers can compare and contrast the beginnings of this Southern Indiana Club with the evolution of their own.
Reportedly, during the Civil War, this Ekin Ave. building was a hospital, afterwards a factory, then in the 1920’s its basement, as well as its ground and top floors, became an all-purpose recreation area. In the basement: horseshoes, archery, a rifle range, a basketball and tumbling room, a post World War II teen center. First floor: a social area with a record player. Likely this area was also used for “a senior citizens club in the late ‘50’s, occasional wedding receptions, a wood shop—even dog shows and obedience classes” (into which mischief-makers would enjoy throwing cats). Second floor: crafts room, storytelling area, rooms for square dancing and, beginning in 1935 according to legendary bat-maker Hock and his lifelong Indiana Hall of Fame friend Eugene Bricker, who were playing there, table tennis—though play was initially for a short time in the basement (on only one table), then on the first floor, and finally by 1949, according to Hoffman, on the second.
Riley, who, writing in 2002, says he only recently learned that “there is a hidden tunnel behind one of the walls that takes you all the way under the building and ends out in the parking lot” (a tunnel wherein slaves were hid), tells us about the last move upward to the Club’s thereafter permanent location on the top floor:
“…[Players] cleaned up one side of the second floor and installed lighting. They had a local sheet metal shop make funnel-looking hoods; when you screwed the light bulbs in, the light bulbs held the hoods up. Those hoods were still there when I got there in the mid 70’s. Fluorescent lighting came in the mid 80’s, also air conditioning. The wooden floor on top of the wooden framework is made of 2 and 1/2”-wide boards like in the older homes in the area. The floor has no type of protective finish on it but is smooth from many years of play….You don’t feel the floor move but there is some cushion there.”
Hoffman recalls (and his experience is much like ‘50’s contemporary Connie Warren’s) that he was 12 years old when his dad read an article in the New Albany Tribune that said Bernie Hock was available to coach “ping-pong” to kids 10 years and older. So since the Ekin Ave. Rec Center was within walking distance, his dad took him there and bought him a racket (“$2.50,” says Herman, “was big bucks in 1946”). There he was coached not only by Hock but by Bricker, and Jack and Toby Pangborn, Benny Price, Joe Peers, Benny Helm, and Grayson Hanks.
Hoffman has clear memories of his teenage years at this Ekin Ave. Club:
“By early winter 1948-49, we began working on the present ‘upstairs room.’…I was allowed to help with the clean-up, paint up, and the hanging of our state-of-the-art lights. Were we ever proud of them. The shades were made (by us) from a special pattern, conical. The sheet metal was green outside and white inside. I remember there was a different pitch to the cone for the light at the table center, and the lights just off the corners of the table. Even our occasional guests remarked on the ease of seeing the ball from anywhere!
We had free (gratis) and almost unlimited use of the room, as that was considered to be a service of the City. We voted to charge individual players one dollar per session (school kids a quarter), and before too long we began to replace the old, homemade tables with new Detroiters. Two of our original tables were made of inch-and-a-half plywood with the grain of the wood running crosswise, and a twelve-inch filler strip under the net!
…Ball technology was unbelievably bad. If you bought a half-dozen balls, four of them would be egg-shaped from lying in the carton, and had to be hit for a game or two before they returned to their proper shape. Breakage of balls was a constant problem, and because of the roundness problem, there was, and probably still is, a rule that there must be a warm-up period whenever a new ball was put into play.”
More Zonal Tournaments
Rest assured that two weeks after this Louisville tournament, in the Ohio State Open at Cincinnati, there would be carefully selected, first-rate balls for the players. For playing in the Men’s final there were…Miles and Reisman! Likely they’d been brought out by Bob Green to hype the Columbus U.S. Open, which Bob would be directing—it was only a month away. Fortunately—since Dick was to beat Marty 3-0—Reisman had been able to provide plenty of amusement in his 5-in-the-5th match with Fuhrman, and plenty of thrills in his down 2-0 and at deuce-in- the-3rd semi’s match with Gordon Barclay. In the Women’s, Fife, on knocking out Mary Kaylor Landfair 24-22 in the 4th, brought her game to a high pitch, and in a straight-set final zipped by Felton who’d unexpectedly had to go 5 with Landfair’s sister, Joanne Kaylor. Regular partners Landfair and Harry Sage won the Mixed from Kaylor and Miles—after being down 2-0 and then 20-13 in the 5th!
Michigan juniors took on the role of adults in the late March tourney at the Pontiac Y. Bob Short won the Men’s over Jimmy Reed in 5. Even more difficult for Short was his long 19, -20, 18. –23, 19 find-a-hold wrestling match with Adolph Magnus, Jr. in the Junior final. Royal Oak’s 16-year-old Virginia Bromley upset Michigan State Champ Mary Jacober to take the Women’s. The Royal Oak-Pontiac rivalry (the towns are only about 12 miles apart) was apparent when Royal Oaks Senior winner Paul Collis had his toughest match with Adolph Magnus, Sr.
Over in the Western Zone, Omaha put on the Feb. 14-15 Missouri Valley Open. Minnesota’s Harry Lund, wanting to show his support for the tournament, came down and made the trip worthwhile by taking the Men’s—over Bob Ferguson who two weeks later would win the Des Moines Central States.
Out in the Pacific Zone, play was beginning to hum. The Seattle TTC, under Governor/President Bill Rehman, had become an Affiliate. However, in their Mar. 5-6 Washington State Open, Vancouver players took home most of the trophies. In the Men’s all-Canadian final, Bill Keenlyside was much too strong for Vic Tully who’d been fortunate to advance after being down 2-0 in the quarter’s to Seattle’s Jim Wilson. Earlier, Keenlyside had taken out the #1 seed, Seattle’s Sam Babener, former member of the 1941 Boston Intercity Team. Seattle’s Mike Creamer lost to Tully in the semi’s, but had a very satisfying 19-in-the-5th win over the strong Harold Keenlyside. Men’s Doubles went to the Keenlyside brothers who’d been behind 2-1 in the final against Tully/Barron. The round robin Women’s winner was Vancouver’s Mrs. Jean Rose. Runner-up: Mrs. Ursic (wife of Seattle’s late ‘30’s USTTA Washington State Governor/President, Rudy Ursic?).
After San Diego and Long Beach had led the way, Table Tennis was beginning to be more and more re-organized in California. On Wed., Feb. 25, 1948, the Los Angeles TTC had its first meeting—at Lee Korf’s Table Tennis Emporium. The following officers were elected: President: Phil Hurst; Vice-President: Bill Nelson; Secretary: Bill’s wife, Jean; and Treasurer Christian Seil. Nelson offered a tongue-in-cheek Profile of Emporium owner Korf who’d be his doubles partner next month in Hollywood. Here’s what he said in part:
“Lee, at first meeting, would give a person the impression that he is either an artist or a musician, hardly a table tennis player; a musician because only a piano or violin could do his coiffure, etc. justice; and an artist because he strokes his shots as would a Salvador Dali with a brush in attempting to illustrate a battle scene of mud pies.”
LATTC Members paid an annual fee of $1, and had to be USTTA members who didn’t belong to any other club. Some who attended at least one of the monthly meetings that spring of ’48 were Sam Silberman who 14 years earlier had won the Parker Brothers’ American Ping-Pong Association’s National Mixed Doubles with Ruth Aarons, and whose coaching later helped Emily Fuller to become the 1938 and ’39 U.S. Women’s Champion; future Mexican Federation President Helios Farrell on his studious way to becoming a nationally-known eye doctor; and Austin Finkenbinder who, before coming to L.A., had played in Chicago, and who, as his friend Si Wasserman explained, due to a congenital defect (Austin couldn’t walk at all until he was almost six), found his mobility “severely limited.”
At the Feb. 29, Mar. 6-7 Hollywood Championships, Don Terry was the real-life serial star who kept the audience breathless with his adventures. In the Men’s, in the quarter’s, he was forced into the 5th by Bill Wells, who’d downed John Hanna in the eighth’s. In the semi’s, he upset Abbott Nelson in 5. And in the final, against the # 1 seed Frank Nemes, he was at 23-all in the 5th …before finally dying a hero’s death in the last reel.
But, o.k.—there’s a new serial at the local theater: Men’s Doubles. Wasn’t that Nemes/Terry in a gun battle with Lee Korf/Bill Nelson? What was happening? Nemes and Terry were hopelessly pinned down—were match-point down, 20-11, in the 5th . Had to be a situation from which they couldn’t escape. And yet…amazing, there was still popcorn-stuffing hope, the spectators were enrapt.…Indeed, this may have been one of those times that Nelson in his Profile of Korf had warned us about—when, on missing some shots, “the supremely confident Korf…turns into a howling, raving lunatic, gibbering and screaming wildly as if possessed.” For, unbelievably, or rather believably, while the crowd was also losing control, Nemes and Terry had tied it up! Only to be killed off after all….
Never mind, other kin-characters were there to take their place. While Korf/Nelson were gunning it out through another five serial-chapters with Wells/Gene Roseman, Hanna/ Nelson atop the mountain pass kept up an exchange of shots with Lee Freeman/Chris Seil: 25-23-all in the 5th they were…until Freeman/Seil fell, and the #1 seeds went on to give ending come-uppance to Korf/Nelson.
Whoever did the short write-up for Topics tried to capture the tournament’s Hollywood flavor: “Perhaps the biggest upset of all came when State Women’s ruler Tiny Moss suffered her second singles defeat in five years in California in the semi-finals, bowing to Jane Little of Long Beach, who’d also handed her her other loss.” But Little did not win the Women’s Singles—Mary Reilly beat her in the final. And in the Mixed, there was another serial ending: Nemes/Jean Nelson defeated Abbott Nelson/Moss, after being down 2-0. Final added attraction: the Junior’s, won by Art Cohen over Lewis Levick, heralded the arrival of Bob Ashley, whose later picaresque travels would eventually mirror many a Globetrotter’s.
At the Mar. 27-28 Burbank, CA Championships, Nemes was again the Men’s winner—in 5 over Abbott Nelson. Semifinalist John Hanna had a challenging 23-21 in the 4th quarter’s match with Phil Hurst. Since Hurst was the LATTC President he was fair game for some friendly fun—especially by the area’s best teenage player, Art Cohen, who again won the Junior’s from Lew Levick. Wrote Cohen cutely, “One of the reason’s that Mr. Hurst’s game is so colorful is because of his famous flop shot. It is called a flop shot because he hits the ball as he is taking his famous swan dive to the floor. For a big fellow Mr. Hurst is extremely fast. He has a tremendously hard forehand that can only be returned by the average player.”
In another burst of exuberance Cohen turned his attention to the LATTC Treasurer. “When you first approach Mr. Seil you get the impression that he is a cocky little fellow with glasses. The reason you get this impression is because it is true….As Mr. Seil is famous for throwing his bat across the room, Mr. Freeman is famous for throwing his bat out the window.” No occasion for them to have a bat-throwing contest at the moment, though, for in the Men’s Doubles they beat both Nemes-Terry and then Hanna-Nelson in 5. In the Women’s, Jane Little avenged her Hollywood loss to Mary Reilly—but again Little didn’t win. This time Tiny Moss beat her easily.
The early May Southern California Open in Long Beach would further ignite player enthusiasm. Why? Because 3-time U.S. Champion Lou Pagliaro would win it. He was doing Sports Shows round the country with Henrietta Wright (he’d be in Duluth, while Schiff and Somael on another Tour would be in Flint). Wright was remembered by Pagliaro’s daughters because she had a pet parakeet that liked to drink beer. “At the time,” Louie later told me, “I didn’t drive, and one time in the winter Henrietta hit the brakes as we were going down a snowy, icy incline and she lost control and our car turned over twice. People came running out of houses to help us, but luckily we weren’t hurt. After that I didn’t want to ride with her anymore and began going on exhibitions with Ham Canning.”
Louie had been with Canning at the Southwest Sports and Vacation Show in Dallas, and the two of them had then come West, where Canning, having toured with Coleman Clark, presumably had connections. Understandably they turned up at Long Beach where Canning was the Defending Champion, and where this year Paggy beat Frank Nemes, then Lee Freeman for the Singles title. Louie also teamed with Canning and his USO overseas exhibition partner Mary Reilly to take the two Doubles.
All of which meant we wouldn’t be seeing Lou either at the upcoming Eastern’s, or, two weeks later, at the National’s.
*For details on this match, read, first, the article in the Apr., 1948 issue of Table Tennis, “Was Farkas A Lucky Champion?”, sub-titled an “Official Statement” (18), then, in the May issue, Referee J. M. Rose’s rebuttal (16).