On Friday night, July 23, the East Chop Tennis Club began a weekend-long celebration of its 100th anniversary. Grill night, a potluck barbecue, set things off, which was followed at 7:30 p.m. with an evening of historical recollections.
As a warm up to the main event, Allie and Paul Hyzak put on a slide show of donated pictures. There were more than 700, which spanned the entire history of the club. The 200-plus members in attendance were enchanted.
Following the Paul and Allie show, Lee Hunsaker, the 100th committee chairman, introduced Jim Guest who moderated the discussion of personal memories. Jim set the tone for comments that followed by describing what the club had meant to him in the 1950s. Is he that old? He still plays a mean game of tennis!
Several members spoke about the old piano along with those who played it — some with considerable skill and others not-so-skilled. Ken Blacklow recalled he had “great fun watching Frank Neil play the piano and smoke his cigar in the early evenings of the 1980s. Sometimes we had sing-alongs while he played.”
The Coke machine was fondly remembered. “It is weird,” writes Jim Richardson, “but my standout memory of the ECTC when I was growing up was the Coca-Cola machine on the porch. The machine had ice cold water in it so that after inserting your dime into the machine a dripping ice cold bottle of Coke would appear. I used to drive my parents insane begging for a Coke.”
Many members spoke about the important volunteer spirit at the club. Anne Guest Hazelton fondly recalled “helping my father, who was club president from 1950 to 1960, nail down tapes at the beginning of the summer.” That same Al Guest helped me as club manager in 1970 rake leaves and stones from the courts in preparation for their first rolling of the season.
Former pros were praised. Mark Willis thanked Jeff Riotte for teaching him the backhand (“swing low to high”) that he used to pass his mother in a crucial point in 1964. Beth Huss Young learned sound tennis strokes from Craig Dripps, but remembered most fondly when Craig would sing out, “It’s garbage day on East Chop,” during her lesson as the truck passed by. Kate Appenzellar Hancock and Terry Appenzellar had a somewhat different memory of tennis lessons. They struggled with lessons for several years which never took.
Former members were fondly remembered. Bob Blacklow said he will never forget playing tennis with Bush Richardson in the early 1970s. “You not only learned about the game, but also about sportsmanship and life,” he said. Mary (Fluffy) Morris Woodcock remembered going to the junior dances and hoping that she would dance with Caddy Brooks.
A few older members in the audience obliquely alluded to activities that centered around the back room after hours. Joan Potter was more direct. She fondly recalled drinking beer in the back room in 1952 with David McCornack. “We were a big item that summer,” she said. Sadly, those were memories I could not share. I was never able to talk Lyn into visiting that place.
Several members praised the club as a place to meet people. Betty Henrikson met her husband-to-be at a tennis club dance in July of 1944. Howard was a Navy pilot newly assigned to the Vineyard Naval Air Station. “Howard and I took off on a whirlwind summer wartime romance, ending with our marriage in November 1945.”
Finally, members spoke of their appreciation that so little had changed over the years. Pat Carroll remembered as a young kid riding his bike, day or night, to or from the tennis club and feeling safe. “Many of my grandchildren who play tennis there today feel equally comfortable riding to the courts,” he said. Graham Dripps wrote that “the physical appearance of our club is the same in 2010 as it was in 1947 when I first became a member.”
The evening closed with a skit that Joan Perrine learned many years ago from Stuart McCornack. The skit involved bringing to the stage all the people who had worked so hard to produce the event. As such, it served as an encore. The enthusiastic applause of those in attendance was just one more expression of what this club has meant to so many people.