Former Frank Brennan Tennis Camp Assistant Head Counselor Mike Gasser(1978-82) surfaced this week after his kids did a Google search and found the old camp photos on the the flickr site.
Mike wrote "God Jake it brings back some great times..Good for you still playing and ranked..I just hit once in a while,like an animal,hit harder now than I did at camp. I still look thru my old album and show my friends and family..tell some stories.. Like the time Roger and I ( I think you were there) went into the Field hockey dorm in the middle of the night with water balloons."
There you have it, the secret is out. Gasser, Dickinson and I waterballooned the hockey camp but never got caught. Mr. B. launched an investigation but it didnt get far. He probably found out about our raid in heaven...I hope he's not mad at us!
For all those former counselors and campers that want to write Mike his email address is:
Photo on the flickr site:
I was idly surfing the net other day, thinking about my past, and started to put some keywords into Google and came across your blog. For the past couple of days I've been totally thrown by your detailed diary from the summer of 1977 in Mercersburg. Memories have been flooding back to me, making me realise what a great time we had. Over 30 years ago now and yet some of the experiences still seem so clear, though others I have to say far less so. I remember you fairly well, if only because you were and still are the only person I've known from Idaho. I remember joking about how we spoke the same language but couldn’t understand each other (especially when Eric and I spoke to each other) and thinking you were a bit innocent, and that's exactly how your diary reads at times. And I mean that it in positive sense.
Looking at your blog I recognise some of the photos. They seem very familiar as if I actually took them (the one at the quarry for example). I’ll need to look through some old files to check if I still have them. Did I send them to you? I don’t think so. So, how did you get them? Eric?
In your blog you mention Alan Liddell. I remember that he was the person (another Scot) who got me the job with Frank Brennan. In some of the comments another Scot is mentioned – Harry Drummond. I knew him well because, although a few years older, he played at the same club as me in Scotland. I think he must have worked with Frank Brennan a few years before. Harry went on to get a tennis scholarship in Texas and then played American football as a kicker. He was wonderfully talented both at tennis and football (soccer). I remember he was going to sign for a top Scottish football team but failed the medical due to his asthma. He was a truly wonderful person and a huge influence on my early sporting life.
I hope this gets to you and you reply. It’s been amazing for me to go down memory lane and all thanks to your diary. If I can find any photos I’ll send them on. Many, many thanks once again.
All the very, very best,
Practice starts on Monday and I have 6 guys to beat, this is going to be rough. I have moved into an apartment off campus. The Halls had a room open and I had the cash so I paid rent for the semester and moved in, its very comfortable and my best friend lives upstairs so its great.
Jim Hall and I played this afternoon at the Reed Gym courts. I won but the guy got good over the summer. Holly was there and said Jim should go out and we could play doubles. Jim is considering it but he's more interested in Journalism and Film school.
I got a letter from FXB and Ill write him about getting back on next summer, I want to come back and I know just about everyone on staff wants to come back, FXB said a few guys wont be back, namely Bobby and Tom. So it goes.
He hadn't changed a bit, it was a glorious reunion and we talked about old times and people we knew and the years fell away. Roger is a lawyer, a grandpa and is back playing tennis again. He looked to so good that I thought twice about setting up a match.
Roger had asked what I've been up to since camp and it was almost too big of a question to answer. I was a teaching pro for three more years, doing a stint in Toronto, Canada and Florida.
I taught school for a year, was television news photographer for two years, then a reporter for the NBC affiliate in Boise for 13 years. Press Secretary to the Attorney General of Idaho for two years and now Broadcast Services Manager for the Idaho Farm Bureau Federation. During the years I had covered a couple of wars, hosted a talk show, flown in fighter jets, met Presidents and even a King. I had won an Emmy, was appointed to a few board of directors and did just about everything on my to-do list...but as I told Roger over lunch in Austin, It all started with FXB. He funded my college education, taught me how to succeed, taught responsibility and how to compete. Roger agreed that Mr. B had prepaired him for law school and had been a force and inspiration in his life as well.
November 20th, 1997 I was out jogging and felt a sharp pain in my chest. I could have paniced but didn't. I kept my cool. I got back to the car and drove myself to the hospital. I was immediately admitted and a few hours later I had heart surgery. I was lucky, I had a blocked left ventricle and was able to have a stent rather than an open heart surgery. I was back up and working in just two weeks. But I was sentenced to a life of either a couch potato or daily workouts by my doctor. I chose to work out and started lifting and stair stepping but found it extremely boring when one day an old friend invited me to play tennis. I hadnt picked up a racquet since 1985 and all the joy and memories came streaming back. Its like this, on the court its always summer and I'm 20 and all the worries of the world disappear and things FXB had told me on the court and off come back like boomarangs tossed in 1977.
My wife Sheryl, step daughter Kalina and I were moving in the summer of 2005 and it was a hot day in the dusty garage. I was digging through some boxes and found a big shoe box filled with diaries, letters, photos from Mercersburg. In the streaming dusty light I sat there and read caught in time, suspended in 1977 and it was so sweet that I didnt want to come back. All of my friends were with me in that garage, all young, smiling with racquets in hand. We were all so handsome and young. I realized that the garage was my cornfield, the diaries my field of dreams and then I thought If I build it they will come...I heard Frank Brennan's voice ringing in my ears..."...he missed that overhead and the ball went across the street and into the Ford Dealership a block away..." or "Think of ways to win, not lose," or "Go out and play your own game."
I built a blog and the friends, like ghosts came back to the field of dreams, to the har-tru courts.
Ive heard from Roger, Mark Sanderson, Eric Riley, Chris Russel-Vick, former counselors Eileen Brennan, Coleen Brennan, Skip Schwarzman, Eric Anderson, Jim Hall, Jonathan Markson, James Haft camper Jonathan Mudd and Joyce Hackett. I hope more will make it back .
We got in an argument over whos better the east coast or west players. I argued that we arnt going to be as good on clay but kick ass on hard courts. Bobby and I pointed to Stanford, USC and UCLA no one beats them east of the Mississippi. Of course they argued that those teams are made up of east coast players...some but not all. Bobby Dickinson and I saw Stanford first hand on our Spring road trip, they're very good.
The teaching went well, this is the last teaching day and Mr. B. went over match play, thinking of ways to win instead of ways to lose. He said its always easy to give up when it gets rough but talked about weathering the storm and playing points until theres a break. He says the breaks go the person thats out there trying their hardest. If defeat comes accepts the loss and give credit where its due, dont overly dwell but fix what went wrong, make note of things you can do next time.
I went up to the infirmary and said goodbye to Dr. Prevost, he's a different guy kind of gruff at first then a softie. He took my BP as he has done all summer and noted that it was high and that when I get home to see my family Dr. It was 146/95 and he wrote it down along with a note to my family Doctor. I told him that he did great work on sprained ankle and that I would miss someone inflicting severe pain on anterior ligiment. He said if I turn my ankle one more time he would wring my neck. It was an ugly thing and I though for sure I broke my ankle but Prevost fixed me up with ice and I was back after a day.
It was strange teaching, a huge relief in a way and it went fast. We walked up to that lovely and elegant Ford Hall and I sighed a bit inside. I will miss this place, its smells, the lunch guys especially the guy that looks like Richie Havens. Roger Dickinson was already seated when I walked by he had 3 cokes in front of him symbolizing bets won from campers and a row of milk glasses...I have no idea where he packs it all away.
On this last day Mark S. and Bevin sat with me at the table. Mark asked Mr. B if he could go to the airport and Mr. B. said 'why not.' Mark told Bevin and I about Plymouth St. in New Hampshire, it sounds like a great place to go to college. He is studying to be a teacher and I think he will do well in the profession.
In the afternoon it was all about the campers and their prepairation for the big tournament. Jon Mudd played very well today and lost to Fanning 8-4 which is quite an accomplishment because I dont think I can get that many games. It was a slow, hot afternoon but finally when Roger called balls in I knew my first season at FXB was in the books and I somehow I didnt screw up.
I played Tom Sheridan and played well enough to force a tiebreaker. I lost 9-7. I had him but forgot all about his backhand...I played the whole tiebreaker to his forehand and he cleaned me out.
I showered and got ready for dinner. Mr. B. came by the room and off we went. He had a bottle of de Rothshield's Mouton Cadet...1973. The last bottle in the case and when we got to the resturant I had glass, it was great. Mr. B had my pay check and handed it to me. It was for $700.00...thats two hundred more than we agreed on. FXB said that I saved him a fortune and that's my bonus. I am rich! This check will pay for two semesters of tuition at ISU, plus half of my sisters and will also pay for my room. I am set and I wont have any worries. I can study in peace. FXB also said he wants me to come back next year posibly as an assistant head counselor with Riley. I thought I was going to faint, what an offer! So I said I would be back and FXB promised me $800.00 for next year.
FXB talked about his family and the Jersey shore and the vacation plans ahead. He talked a lot about his teaching assistant back in Jersey, Marv. Marv came to camp as a counselor years ago with Charlie Fenske and FXB got him on at the club, hes been there ever since. FXB says Marv has every cent he ever made and is a hard conscientious worker. He says that one day he could get me on the club.
We got back at 9:30 and FXB and I walked the halls and chatted with the campers. The counselors were just getting all the kids to bed. Its so funny two weeks ago they had trembling lips and tears in their eyes after leaving the parents, now they're nervous over the tournament and thinking of ways to win, they're not thinking or missing the parents right now.
I went over to the girls dorms and said goodbye to all the girl counselors. Pat have me a big hug and kiss and told me that Vrana is giving her a ride to JFK where she will fly home to Toronto. Lenny came by to say goodbye and was playing up a storm on the piano. I said good bye to the lovely Chris Russell-Vick and threated to visit her in Kent as well as Becky Craft and Cathy Davidson. A bunch of the girl campers came to the Lounge and snapped photos of me saying good bye. Bevin was sitting on the piano bench and silent when it was her time for the goodbye hug she had a tear in her eye. She said goodbye and gave me a big hug...it was touching.
I made it back to the room at 11:00, I packed everything up with lights out at midnight. Mr. B is coming by at 6:30 in the morning....I have layovers in DC, Chicago, Salt Lake and Boise...before landing in Pocatello at 10:30...what a long day Friday will be!
I went to the campus bank and cleared out my savings account. I'll have spending money for lunch in Chicago, I should be home by 7:30 pm. I called Mom and Jerry and told them my arrival time, they will pick me up at the Poky Airport. This is the longest I have been away and my Mom sounds excited to see me.
I started saying my goodbyes to the campers. Jon Mudd sat at my table and I asked him to buy me a T-shirt at the U.S. Open and he agreed! I gave him 10-bucks and cant wait to get the shirt. I told him that next summer I would come and visit his family in McLain.
I gave Roger five bucks I borrowed from him back in July. We were at Wises and I was broke and lent me some cash. I think he forgot that I owed him because he was surprised that I paid up. He had so many bets going with campers that I probably didnt register.
This tennis is an amazing sport, through tennis I got my first plane ride, got into college, lettered in a NCAA Division 1 sport, got a bunch of cool roadtrips to California, and best of all got me here...to this beautiful campus and through tennis I got to study under FXB, coach of Billie Jean King and now President Jimmy Carter. Mr. B confided in me tonight that he and Mrs. B have been invited to Camp David for a weekend with the Carters! He was so excited but Im sworn to secrecy. He said something about it being the First Ladies' birthday and they were going to play some tennis and then have a dinner for the immediate family.
Mr. B also said that I saved him so much money this summer that I have guilted him into another dinner at Foot of the Mountain, so we are going out to dinner tomorrow night and then its on the plane for Idaho.
I sat down and talked to Bobby D. tonight. He said that he will miss ISU and some of the great friends he made there but hes glad to be staying in Arlington. I told him all about the team and the new coach and how he cleaned house and Im the only player coming back from last year.
He wished me luck and was sincere and nice.
Mark Sanderson invited me to come a few weeks early next year and stay with him in New Hampshire before we come back to camp. We must first ask Mr. B if we can come back. We both seem to be in good standing with the boss, but Ill ask tomorrow at dinner if we can come back next year.
I walked over to Irvine Chappel at sunset. Bryan Barker was playing up a storm on the carolline it sounded like a lot of Bach and Beetoven, at sunset it was an amazing sight all orange with the humidity thick in the air and the music just floating over the campus and through the dorms. Campers were sitting on the steps and listening it was magic and as he often said, a joy.
I hit with Dunja Heinrichs, she takes lessons from Mr. B and is a fantastic hitter. She'll be a senior at Old Tappan High and is solid muscle, runs like a deer, and cute as a button. She has been playing the boys in the afternoon and can beat most of the camp. We played a set and I got lucky beating her 7-5. She was killing me from the baseline so I ran her with short angles mixed with deep balls to the corners, When I had her deep I dropped her and then hit the mouse trap lob to win point after point. Dunja hates to lose and we talked afterwards, I told her that she needs to keep me pasted to the baseline.
Mark Sanderson and I gathered up the balls tonight and concluded that this is the best session yet. We're only down 4 cans in two weeks. Every night we make the rounds to all the rooms and pick up rogue balls, that pisses the counselors off to no end. Feinberg and Solomon were watering the courts and FXB drove up. A couple other counselors were there and they were giving Sanderson and I a hard time for being such hard-asses. That pissed FXB off and he stepped up and said that it wasnt about the balls, it was about pride and doing a job well and that one day they might understand how important it is to do a job well no mater how trivial and unimportant it may seem.
Mr. B lapsed into a story about the ditch diggers in Patterson that he used to watch as a kid. He said they worked hard because it was pride with them. No one on the crew wanted to let the other down, when they worked they worked as a team. It was perhaps the only satisfaction they had because of the depression. Mr. B. said they were driven because they had families to support and jobs were scarce, he said they worked hard just to get home at the end of a day and have a meal with their families. I understood where FXB was coming from...I doubt the other did. Mark and I walked back to Fowle feeling pretty good, FXB could see how serious we took our assignment. Ball duty is not very glamorous duty but we broke our chops all summer out of fear, the pressure was on us not to lose balls. When FXB and I went to the warehouse yesterday he had 4 gross of balls left, he beamed that the year before he had to buy 5 extra cases.
We got the kids in bed and they were hyper, when I got back in the room at 10 there was a black trimmed Jack Kramer on my bed, the pro Kramer select. It had a broken string but was in perfect shape. FXB had given me his racquet, the same racquet he took to Camp David to teach the President. I was pretty excited about the frame, not that I will ever hit with it because its a piece of history.
I met Lenny at 10:30 and we went across the street to Tippetts Lounge so he could play the piano. All the girl counselors were there and it was festive, we broke out the cookies,candy and cokes and listened to Lenny play. He played everything from classical to jazz and pop, absolutely perfect.
At 11:30 I got back to the room and Mark was still up reading, he called home and his parents are coming down from Mass to pick him up. He's excited to see them and cant wait to get home and beat some of his high school teamates at East Longmeadow.
I drifted off to sleep, dreaming of Idaho and those wonderful Reed Gym courts on the ISU campus where I taught myself to play tennis on the backboard. In a few days Ill be back there beating the hell out of Mike Zaladonis and some of my ISU teamates.
At 10:30 FXB and I went to the bank and he wrote me a check and then we wired my travel agent the money for the trip home. He asked about college and asked if the parents were footing the bill. I told him that I payed for the first year and will pay for it all. The parents dont have the money to send me to college. I get by with grants, loans and have applied for scholarships. I did well last year, I worked in the SUB cafeteria washing dishes every afternoon until tennis season kicked in. I saved every cent and had just enough airfare to get here. Charlie Fenske only had one scholarship for the team and he gave it to Bobby Dickinson. I told Mr. B that I had saved money last year and will have enough for an apartment from Sept to December. I landed a Student Defense Loan for tuition and a BEOG grant. I will live off the camp money and it should last me until March. I think Mr. B was impressed that I could save that much money. We stopped by the warehouse on campus and picked up the last box of balls and T-shirts. We passed out the shirts after lunch for promo photos FXB wanted to take of the kids.
Most of the counselors at camp are on schoarships or their parents are picking up the tab. How great would that be? I already have a job lined up in the Student Union Building working as an usher in the movie theatre, if that doesnt work out I can get my dishwashing job back for SAGA Foods. I cant wait to get back to school, I have some great journalism classes planned and some really fun history and literature classes.
I have totally worn through my grip on the Kramer, I broke the string in the spare racquet and it did not go unnoticed by FXB. He had a spare grip and took my racquet in the afternoon and put it on. This guy can really grip a racquet, it feels great. He also took my other racquet and got it strung. He would have done it but didnt have his stringer. I gave have him the $6-bucks and he said 'forget it,' the guy in town owed him one.
It was a hot, sweaty day but everyone stayed out on the courts and played after 4. I hit with X, Roger and Sandy. Roger and I killed them in doubles. We lobbed and dropped them to death and it was a fun, great match. Every single point lasted forever. We won 7-6, 6-4.
Afterwards Jon Mudd came by and we, along with camper Tom P. went to Highs for mint chocolate chip ice cream cones. We sat on the curb eating them and talking when an Amish Family pulled up in a buggy. The horse was beautifully groomed and the harnesses were perfect. The kids were all scrubbed, clean and well behaved. I have never seen anything like this. We dont have Amish people in Idaho so this was a special sighting.
The morning was hot and very humid again. The kids are starting to fold in the heat. We noticed that there’s some flu going around, I took two little kids up to the Infirmary and left them there. Dr. Prevost said that they were dehydrated and it probably wasn’t the flu. He ordered us to give water breaks every hour.
The kids were back on the court by 10:30, all in all we had 8 kids that had mild dehydration, its so hard to make these kids drink, I suggested that we call Peggy and have the dining hall staff bring us a big 10 gallon canister of lemon aid. We had it by 11 and that solved our hydration problem.
It was my afternoon off so Tom S. and I drove into Haggerstown to see the afternoon matinee of Star Wars. It was so visual and stunning, what a movie, the visual effects were mind boggling. It was a journey from beginning to end and I was lost in time. It was nice to be in air conditioning all afternoon, it was so cold in there. I told FXB he should see the movie and he asked if it was a musical, I said no…he said he likes the musicals.
We got back at 5 pm and noticed that the courts were deserted while the pool was packed. The kids were having a great time in the pool. We went back to the dorm, changed and went swimming until dinner, it was fun because a few of us played some water polo at the far end of the pool…talk about hard work!
Dinner was very good, we had lasagna and garlic bread and we all went back for seconds and thirds. For desert they had this Italian sherbert….and it was delightful. After dinner we had a huge soccer game with the sports camp. The first match pitted our campers against theirs, then the second match it was their counselors against ours…we destroyed them because of Riley, Hamilton, Varna (who is an amazing all state soccer player) Lenny, Feinberg and Solomon and Greenspan…all of whom also played high school soccer. I got in for a few minutes…but was so bad that I pulled myself out. Riley says I have a head like a six pence…whatever that means.
Mr. B came by and reminded my that we have 6 teaching days and a wake up and then we are out of here, he was in a great mood. He asked how I was set for cash and I told him that I still had 20-bucks in the bank and I should make it through okay. He said that there was this local lady that had called and wanted some lessons. He said Tom and Riley had first dibs…he said she was paying $15 bucks an hour! Wow.
It was a long morning, by noon it already had reached 88, according to Mr. B. The heat is nothing compared to the west, it’s the humidity that takes it all out of you. Tom Sheridan put me out on court 13 all morning, that’s the price I pay for video taping and not hitting balls yesterday! Court 13 is the court that is the softest, for some reason no mater how many times we roll it, nor how much water we dump on the court we can’t get it to pack down tight…by mid morning its not much better than a sandbox and its been a ruin of many a good counselor.
We use court 13 as the teaching court for the beginners and everyone must do time there. Usually its just once per session but time doesn’t pass…the clock stops and it’s a bit hotter, its dustier, the water fountain is in another zip code. I barely survived.
In the afternoon I got to operate the V.T.R. and showed the kids the tape of their hitting yesterday. It was nice and cool in the drying room behind the gym…stark contrast to the courts where it was in the 90’s. That part of the afternoon flew by…at 4:00 the courts were empty because of the heat. Except for Sanderson and X and John Day and I. I played Sandy because he wanted another shot at my after beating him yesterday. I was up 2-0 when I realized how well I was playing, how crisp my shots were…that’s when I started to crumble and he beat me 6-4. I couldn’t do a thing with that 110 mph serve. I also tried to lob him because of the heat but he didn’t miss a single overhead.
I had dinner with Jonathan Mudd and then we hit after dinner, he's a cool kid with excellent ground strokes. His stories are interesting about his family and he wanted to hear all about Idaho. He told me that they have relatives in St. Maries…that’s 12 hours north of where I live but it’s a lovely town. He was telling me about his band that he and his buddies put together and they play high school parties and dances in Mclean, Va.; that sounds very cool; we have a teen idol right here in camp.
I got another letter from Tennis Coach Marty Holly at ISU. He said that he's recruited 6 players from California but said I was welcome to walk on. It turns out that Im the only one that got the letter, so I don’t know what that means other than the new coach has cleaned house. I think Charlie Fenske must have interceded on my behalf. Bobby Dickinson got a phone call from Holly earlier in the season and he told him that he was going to enroll at Texas Arlington. I’m writing back that I’m game and will challenge my way back on the team. Hell, I did it once already.
I left the window open last night and the air was fresh and clean, out in the halls though, it was choas as new campers scrambled to get ready for breakfast. I could hear Mr. B. out in the hallway talking to campers, one kid asking if he could call home. Three, two, one…knock at the door; Mr. B. is standing there with a homesick 9 year old. I take the kid to breakfast dropping him off at a table of 9 and 10 year olds and the problem is solved. Later in the day I ask him if he wants to call home, “what for?” definitely, end of problem.
Mr. B welcomed all the kids to camp in his talk and then lapsed into a long talk about how this isn’t all about tennis. The kids are here because their parents love them and want a life for them that will challenge them, and sharpen them for the world. That tennis is a great way to connect with good, talented people, that tennis is a sport you can do for a lifetime, and perhaps the most interesting point: For the most part one cannot play a perfect match of tennis, just as one cannot have a perfect life, that once you think you have either mastered; it caves in on you. You can get frustrated and quit, or you can get up and find a way to win. One can pursue the perfect set and might come close …but odds are there’ll always be a mistake, a ball in the net, a missed serve, a ball hit out. He talked about how this game mirrors life, that life can knock us on the seat of our pants, but we must compete to live and while things may look perfect it seldom is, but to strive for perfection, strive to be the best person you can, to practice and work at it; is noble…and he called tennis a very noble game.
I watched the kids during the talk, they sit on the baseline and they draw and play in the green clay as Mr. B talks, you can see the wheels turning in their minds. When FXB talks its silent and his voice booms over the lower courts all the way to the cornfields across the street. I remember once in the first session I overheard a little 10-year old say that Mr. B’s stories were better than TV and that reinforces a thought that I had, that his talks are so visual and so real that you think it happened to you, that’s the mark of good storyteller.
We started video taping the kids on the expensive sony reel to reel video deck. We have a machine just like this at Idaho State and they are the best and the most expensive, I think our department paid 3500.00 for ours…Mike Kunz and I give the gear the white glove treatment, we’re the only ones that can touch it.
After feeding for an hour I got to go up on the balcony with FXB. We were shooting these girls from Tappan that Mr. B teaches during the year…Dunja and Randi Henrichs. He was talking about how talented Dunja was, she has beautiful strokes, kind of a tomboy, and then he lapsed into this story about BJK.
Mr. B told me than in the summer of 1959 he went to the Eastern Grass Court Championships where this 16 year old kid from Long Beach was up against Wimbledon champ Maria Bueno. He said that this little girl with cat eye glasses stood barely 5’6 and had as he described it 'more freckles than fear'. FXB said she did the unimaginable, she took hold of the match and that from the start he saw something special in the kid. Instead of being intimidated against the number one player in the world, that this Moffit girl walked on the court like she was going to win. He said that she attacked so well that it put the champ on her heels. He said that in the end Bueno had to change her game and attack to pull it out but the match was the talk of tennis that summer. Afterwards he talked to Billie and said she was red faced and mad and he was impressed with her fire. He said that he introduced himself and told her that one day she was going to be good, and that with some work she can beat anyone. They struck up a friendship and Billie started staying with Brennans every summer. FXB said they would pack up the station wagon and coach Billie through the summer circuit. He said that she so fit into the big Brennan clan that she was dubbed the 10th kid. Just three years later she beat Margaret Smith in the first round of Wimbledon.
Terence had a good day at camp, I couldn’t help but notice his Fred Perry shirt with the BJK monogram on it, further evidence of the days when women players won clothes instead of money. Just like I asked Coleen Brennan during adult camp, I asked Terence is there a lot of Fred Perry stuff at the house? Terence said a closet full. BJK fought for the money, could careless about the clothes.
We got through the taping and then broke for lunch. It was a good lunch day…pizza and the kids were excited. Some were impressed with the fact that they could drink as much chocolate milk as they want and glasses were stacked up.
I sat with the camper Jon Mudd that I met the day before, he’s a junior in High School, He is tall and decked out in Fila Bjorn Borg stuff, he has a Donnay racquet and even the headband. The first thing I noticed about him is that this guy is a comedian. He had me laughing the whole time with his impressions and jokes. On tape he has excellent ground strokes and can hold his own with the best tennis players in camp, he’s a good athlete.
At 4 I played Mark Sanderson and beat him 6-4. I decided to hit off pace balls at him…he’s a power hitter and that screwed up his timing. He went back to the room because he was tired, I stayed and then hit with Pat Rountree, who is hitting very well.
I helped Pat with court duty and we brushed the courts, dragging the long brooms from end to end and then we turned on the sprinklers and sat on the balcony at sunset until the puddles started to form. We talked about her family in Toronto and her studies at York. She told me about their cabin up north on the Georgian Bay and how she usually spends her summers up there. I told her that I had met Peter Burwash a few times, he’s a famous coach that has a camp at Parry Sound. She was acquainted with him, the tennis world is so small. What a great gal.
Sanderson and I skipped breakfast because we were up so late last night. I remember hearing the kids stirring out in the Lounge, many were up early to watch cartoons, others headed to the courts, while most packed. The parents started arriving at 11-am and it was an endless parade of Volvo station wagons, argyles, Lacoste and topsiders. The parents were surprised to see their healthy suntanned kids. There were many smiles and hugs and so many reunions. We got to know the kids so well and then to meet the parents is a treat, its amazing how much the kids and the parents are alike.
Mr. B is always front and center when the parents arrive and they flock to him like a moths to flame. We always brief him on the kids so he has a report in his mind if asked how the kids did. He wants to hear all the success stories and also difficulties if asked.
At 11:30 Peg arranged a big chicken barbeque for the kids and parents, this is where the dining hall staff shines, they do such a great job and its always a yummy spread of salads, lemonade and ice cream deserts. I stuffed myself and I swear Sanderson has a hollow leg…the most surprising counselor on barbeque day is Roger Dickinson, he downed at least two chickens, where a thin guy like that can put that much food is one of the great mysteries of life.
Mrs. B came to the barbeque for a few minutes and I introduced myself and she said, ‘so you’re Jake, Frank’s told me all about you.” I hope that’s good--we talked for a while and she asked me to keep an eye on Terence, to make sure that he mixes in with the other kids. I don’t think that’s going to be a problem the kid is here a day and is best friends with a few counselors and the outgoing campers, he has that Brennan knack of making friends.
I played tennis in the afternoon with Sanderson. I was down 4-1 in the first against that killer serve and saw something…If I pick that ball up on the rise and return deep it catches Mark off-guard. I started catching the ball on the rise and returning it deep to the backhand, he started missing. On the second I approached and again he started missing. I broke and held and broke again…its 4-4 and he’s looking gassed and perplexed. I threw a few drop shots in the mix and some lobs and pulled out the first 6-4. I took the second 6-4 with just one service break, so Im happy.
I then hit with Chris Russell-Vick and we worked on lobs and overheads…I swear at one point I hit 30 in a row, her feeds were so perfect. She can lob and drop on a dime and give you some change. Its no wonder that she’s ranked in England and sponsored by Dunlop.
At 4pm we went to the Quarry for a swim…Andy Greenspan, me, Tom, and one of Andy’s friend that stopped by for a visit. The Quarry is an amazing place where they used to mine granite for buildings…its so deep and the water is emerald and people dive off the cliffs into the water. There were many crazy looking towny types there so we kept our distance. We found this little cove and we were diving and swimming there and to our surprise came upon 3 gals that were skinny dipping and diving off the cliffs naked. They were stunning and looked very much like the Siren’s I read about in my World Literature class, I swear…We chatted with them and they wanted us to join them but the water was soooo cold that none of us dared to drop our drawers! So much for adventure.
Tom’s parents came to visit from Michigan and they took us to Foot of the Mountain for dinner. I had the shrimp dinner and strawberry pie…and then a milkshake to go. What wonderful parents they dote on Tom and because Im his friend I got the treatment as well. These are about the most perfect parents one could have.
We stopped by Coves Gap, the birthplace of James Buchanon and Tom’s dad and I had a conversation about how strange President Buchanon was that he was a bachelor, his avoidance of the slavery issue and sat out the war on his farm near here. He died a bitter man and many people at the time were upset with him for not making an attempt to avoid the war, it was a good talk. Coves Gap is amazing…tall beautiful woods and a pyramid where the cabin once stood…now it stands near the gym on the Mercersburg Campus.
Mr. and Mrs. B left in the afternoon and when we got back Tom and I checked up on Terence. He was in the upstairs lounge talking to Dickinson , Vrana and Fanning…they had all gone downtown for dinner and were in good spirits. Roger was listening to a Phillies game on the radio. The TV had a Pirates game on it was sports choas so I went downstairs to read. X dropped by for balls and he and John Day were heading out to play 5 sets…I didn’t ask why. Five sets…are you kidding?
We went out at 9. Pat, Chris, Eric, Mike, Bevin, Marc and I went to the Mercersburg Inn for drinks. Stephie the manager made us popcorn and she came and sat with us. The place was empty and she was happy to have company. I stayed until 11:30 then walked Bevin back to Tippits. It was a beautiful night with a billion stars and the crickets and fireflies kept us company.
We have so many competitive juniors that Mr. B sent us to the High School for the afternoon so the kids could get some playing time on hard courts. They’re all playing in a big national tournament in Cleveland next week and its on Hard courts. I got to go and we got to play afternoon matches with them and I beat Glen a kid that Mr. B. teaches during the year. I barely took him in a competitive match 7-5, 7-5. The kid could play for Idaho State next year, instead he’ll be a sophomore in Franklin Lakes.
Mr. B came by talked to us in the afternoon, he wanted to make sure the kids all had tough matches. Bobby Dickinson played Rick Fanning and barely beat him 7-6, 7-6. Tom Vrana played one of the kids from Hawaii and ran the little guy into the ground but the kid still split sets with him. These are nationally ranked juniors and a handful.
Afterwards I stayed and hit with Pat Rountree. She is such a tall, cute girl and hit’s the ball a ton off her forehand. She’s one of our best counselors on and off the court and Mr. B likes her because she is all business. She runs that girls dorm like a platoon sergeant, and she loves to boss me around but she doesn’t get far, she’s had a crush on me all summer, Mr. B says I should give in, I told him what makes you think I haven’t? He gave me that amused look, he knows everything that goes on here.
Mr. B. told me that Mrs. B was coming down on Saturday, that she was bringing Terence and that they were going out to dinner to some French restaurant in the Maryland countryside on Saturday before she headed back early Sunday morning. He’s excited to see her because I noticed he did his laundry and cleaned up the apartment. Mr. B and laundry should not be mentioned in the same sentence. He washes his socks and underwear in the sink and his tennis shorts in the tub. I offered to take a load with my laundry a few weeks ago but he always refuses. He thinks twenty five cents for a load of laundry is highway robbery and reasons that the air is free.
I sat with X at dinner and we talked a lot about music and again I asked him why Ringo Starr isn’t a great drummer, he gave me that look of his and with great condescension said that he’s a fill drummer that while he’s great at improvisation he's not technically sound. I’ve watched X practice on his pads and he’s precise and perfect like a metronome, I know little but know that X sounds pretty good.
If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
All things considered Mr. B likes the two hander, he says Evert, Borg and Connors have made it work for them…as well as Solomon and Dibbs. Mr. B. says for the shot to work the player has to have superior foot work and racquet preparation.
The kids were ready for tennis this morning, they had so much energy, I think it comes from the blue skies and the fresh smell after a long rain. Everyone was energized and the counselors all realized that we have just two more teaching days and then we can coast into this ‘tweener’ weekend. A ‘tweener’ weekend is a weekend between sessions and it’s one of the few weekends that we can actually go out on the town. The Scots have already scheduled Saturday night at the Mercersburg Inn, and then possibly McKinstry’s pub. These guys like their beer and they can drink a lot of it.
Lunch was fantastic today, they made pizza and it was cheesy and good and the crust was perfect. Many of us went back for seconds, I downed at least two pitchers of milk…afterwards I went back to the room and started reading, its my afternoon off.
I had to run to the bank, I’m broke. I’ve really been through the money over the past 7 weeks I’ve spent $50.00 and I only have $75.00 left in the bank. I went through my receipts, and found that I spent a big load in Washington. Mr. B had asked me how I was doing for money and said I could get an advance if I needed it. Mr. B. is the camp safety net, He advanced Bobby and Roger $20.00 a piece, I guess Mr. Dickinson had called Mr. B and had him advance them money.
Mercersburg on a summer afternoon is a delightful place, it was a beautiful walk to the bank with everything so bright and fresh. I knew that I was becoming a local when that Stoner kid, the camp terror nodded at me. Mr. B. hates the kid with a passion because as he tells it a few years back he caught him the girls dorm one night and found out from campers that he was selling drugs. He seems alright to me, but we’ve only nodded in the street. I know I could take him if I had to but he doesn’t seem like the fighting type.
I stopped by Brian Barkers house on the way home and he was sitting at his T.V. set drinking ice tea. Of course he had problems with the TV set when I showed and I gave the television a good going over, there was nothing wrong with it. He started telling me a story about coming over here in the 20’s and how in his youth he and a rival were the best caroline players in England, that he came to the colonies and his buddy went to Oxford. He says he made the right move. I bid Brian good bye and he told me to send Mr. B by for a tea with a wink (Brian’s been known to mix his tea with Irish whiskey).
At 4 I played a match with Pat and Ken and Chris, They beat us bad…8-2. It wasn’t Feinberg’s serve or his volleys that killed us but Chris Russel-Vick’s world class lob. She just ate us up…when we were both back after chasing a lob she would put it away with that crazy overhead of hers…that looks much like Frankie Durr’s from the pro tour.
After that set I played Feinberg in singles, it was a close match but I lost 4 and 4. He beat me in the most basic way…he held serve and broke once. It was a mental fight with both fighters moving the opponent off the court. I dropped him and then tried the mouse trap, the lob but he recovered too fast and would often move from defense to offense. Then there were the serving games, that’s the most critical thing on clay, just hold your serve. This transition to clay has been tough! Feinberg plays for Johns Hopkins University and says they had a good year.
After dinner Sheridan and I went for a car ride to Foote of the Mountain resturant for pie. I had the best strawberry and whip cream pie of my career, the pie took away the sting of the double loss this afternoon. Tom thinks I need to not force the points…he says I’m getting in the middle of a point and trying to end it, he says you cant do that on clay. I agree.
I went up to Lenny and Kunz’s room tonight and we listened to the new Earth Wind and Fire Album, I love that song “Shinning Star’ and “Way of the World”. They also have Pink Floyd's Darkside of the Moon that’s such a mind trip and sounds great in the headphones.
There’s a full moon with white puffy clouds, I went over to the girls dorm and hung out with Bevin on the steps, we talked till about 11:30. We discussed everything from school to families, she talked a lot about her sisters, they sound so cool, I would love to meet them. I wish I could go to the Cape with her after camp.