1977 Post script

The diary has a life of its own, and it has brought Frank Brennan back; his wisdom, his gruff but soft touch. Anyone that met the man never forgot him...ask former President Jimmy Carter, ask the Duke and Dutchess of Kent, ask Robert Duvall, ask Billie Jean King or even Bud Collins.

Skip Schwartzman sent a priceless photo of Alan Liddell and himself...it was snapped on court 1 near the great oak tree, Skip's hair is wild and free and you got to love the hats. Counselor Jan Short took the photos and according to Skip had siblings that were also counselors.

Send your photos and a description or even a story and I will post them here!



1977 Post script, Boise, Idaho June 17th, 2007

Two years ago I found myself in Austin, Texas. I remembered that the Dickinson' boys from camp were living in the Long Star State, there was my Idaho State Tennis Teamate Bobby, Roger who graduated from Texas Tech, and then Todd. Todd was such a good kid on all levels, he could handle any task, but also thoughtful and a great player to boot. The Dickinson family all were deeply entwined in Mercersburg and Northern New Jersey Tennis. I did a Google search and found Roger's Dad in Arlington and he told me that Roger was working at the Texas Department of Labor just blocks away from Driscull Hotel where I was staying. I called him and two hours later that smiling face that I hadn't seen in more than 25 years was there in the Lobby of that great hotel, he took me and my colleagues to lunch.

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 .


Friday August 13th, 1977

Dawn broke just before 6-am and we were up and at 'em. I showered, shaved and got the last of my belongins packed. FXB was at the door at 6:30 and we were off to Haggerstown. I rode up front of FXB's station wagon, while Mark rode in the back.
FXB was in an excellent mood and we talked all the way about his family and how with BJK in 59 and 60 made it an even 10. He said Mrs. B. looked after her but never treated her and differently than her own. He said Billie loved that. He said that when she first showed up she had racquets off the rack and nylon strings. FXB, being a master stringer got her fixed up with VS gut and a Wilson sponsorship. He said that really made a difference because it got her believing that she was something special, and FXB said she was. There was no out there like her.
He said she was a sponge at the dinner table, soaking up all the strategy talk, all the player talk and she loved it. She called home and talked to her worried, homesick parents once a week...FXB said she was never homesick.
We got to the airport with just minutes to spare, we all walked out to the Tarmac and I said goodbye to a great roomate. Mark is such a good hitter and doubles partner with a great temperment and atitude. Next year I promised that I would visit New Hampshire before camp.
FXB was all worried that I wouldnt have anything to eat in Chicago and forced a five dollar bill into my hand but said he's putting the cash on my tab for next year. He told me to meet with the new tennis coach as soon as posible and get all that squared away.
I waved goodbye to my new bestfriends and boared the Alleghany flight to DC. When I came here back in June I didnt know a soul, now I have hundreds. It doesnt get any better than this.
It was a long day but finally I landed at the Pocatello airport. Mom and Jerry were waiting at the Airport and we took the crowded Subaru home. They were very glad to see me. Pocatello looked brown from the heat, but looked great. It was a beautiful summer night and the air was clean but cool. We got home to the small house on Fredregill. When we unloaded the car my sister Brenda was there and said hi, she told me all about her summer and had grown a foot.
The trains in the freight yards squealed slowly past, there was the familiar sound of steel on steel and then the big booms as the cars coupled in the yard. I stayed outside a second under the big trees and looked up at the stars they were bright and clear. This has been the greatest summer of my life, better than a book, too unlikely for a movie and no one will believe it.
I got to get some sleep because tomorrow ,Im kicking ass on the Reed Gym Courts and I have Frank Brennan in my corner.


Thursday August 12th, 1977, Mercersburg

Stayed up last night and chatted with the guys in the second floor Lounge. Roger was there listening to his radio with his liter of Coke, X showed as did Lenny, Mike, Kenny, Marc, Vrana and Fanning. Fanning has been with us all summer as a camper but we accept him as a counselor. He won all the camper tournaments against tough competition especially in the third session where he beat the Sommerville kid from Hawaii.

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!


Wednesday August 11th, 1977 Mercersburg

I thanked FXB for the racquet, its a beauty and custom made from Wilson and strung by FXB himself with the very expensive VS gut. The top of the frame is worn from the unique way FXB picks up balls. Someday this racquet could end up in the Smithsonian.

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.


Tuesday August 10th, 1977 Mercersburg

It's hot and the morning broke clear with blue skies and no wind. We took the posters off the walls. We folded our clothes and are living out of our bags, at least I am. I'm packed and ready to go. My plane leaves at 8:20 on Friday from Haggerstown Airport and Mr. B said he'll take me to the airport Friday morning. So I have a just a couple of days left. We ironed out all of the travel plans, Mr. B said he will have a check ready for me on Thursday and I am set.

We had a good day of teaching, I was on the beginners court all morning with Cathy Davidson. She is very good with the little kids and we had a blast. The pace is much slower and we play games to keep them interested. I made a game up called the "Slice is Right" where I have the kids hit underspin forehands and backhands back to me, they caught on so fast.
At lunch I chatted with the girls. We talked about the summer and Becky is so anxious to get back to Binghampton she'll stay there until September and then its off to Wellesley College. She's so bright and full of life and is a joy to talk to and so is Chris. Chris Russell-Vick is heading back to London and then its off to college. Pat will pack up her Honda and make the long drive back to Toronto.
When I get back to Idaho I have to meet with the coach, my Dean and academic advisor. I'll rent an apartment from Jack and Mary Hall, they have a great house a few blocks from the ISU campus. Jim Hall is one of my best friends and we will work on our cable access TV show and some film projects, and continue to work on our documentry film on Austin when I get back. Its a bit crowded at the Fredregill house with both Brenda and I there. I dont have a car and am on the bike so I need to live close to campus. I can pay my first semester rent from the Camp check and Ill be set for the semester. All the counselors have plans worked out and thats dominating talk at the camp.

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.


Monday August 9th, 1977, Mercersburg Academy

It was a hot morning and FXB talked a lot about match play and getting it done today. He told us about a gal he was coaching who lost a match in the Bergin County Open and when he asked her what had happened she said that it was okay, she would win the tournament next year. Mr. B. said there's only now. He said that gal didn't made it back to finals and never won the Open. He said to always go out and play like there's no tomorrow that its also a good way to live. That if youre not living a hundred percent today that your'e cheating yourself the joy of winning, of living, of achieving. It was a great speech.

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.


Sunday August 8th, 1977, Mercersburg

A bunch of kids went off to church this morning and I made the church run with Pat Rowntree. She pulled around and picked me up in front of Fowle Hall, she was in the old blue Academy van and after a drive across town ,we dropped the kids off at church. After the delivery we stopped at Highs and got some coffee and donuts! We talked an hour or so about the summer and she said shes heading to the cottage for a few weeks when she gets home. They have a place north of Toronoto and it sounds lovely. We had such a nice talk and it was fun. We got back to the Academy round 11:30 and stopped at the courts and watched all the counselors matches, then we headed to lunch in Ford Hall.

I sat with Jude Gatewood and Cathy Davidson at lunch, although I have talked to Cathy on and off all summer I havnt talked at all to Jude, shes been standoffish and not social. But on this afternoon she was pleasant. She talked about growing up in DC and going to college. Jon Mudd joined us and those two had a lot to talk about because both grew up in the District. Cathy is from Mass and is the patron saint of all little kids, they love her and she looks after them like a hawk and that has not gone unnoticed by FXB; he told me that he wants her back next summer. Jude however wont make the cut because she was one of the counselors out the other night. I think that Riley was out but he came back early.

I played Kenny F. in the afternoon after lunch. This guy is a much better tennis player, from a tougher university...We have played 4 times and I'm 0-4. The last time we played it was a 2 and 1 drubbing. I noticed that anything short is bad news with this guy because he winds up, hits hard and deep. My plan was to keep it deep, keep him back by the fence and then drop and angle him. It worked. He started missing and hitting short...I dropped him, then lobbed him...I attacked off the short balls, didnt give any serves away...I beat him 5 and 5. He wasnt happy. Keeping the ball deep, keeping it in play was the key.

I got on the pay phone in the lobby and called my travel agent in Pocatello to get a flight home. The Mudds had invited me to their home in Mclain for a few days but I couldnt make it work with the airlines. Saturday was booked solid, so I had to book a flight on Friday. Mr. B came out and saw what I was doing and let me use his phone in the apartment. He asked how much the airfare was, I got the flight from Haggerstown and then the DC to Denver to Boise to Poky flight for $175.00. I had to ask Mr. B for an advance to pay the airfare he said he would have a check for me tomorrow and we could wire it to my travel agent. That airfare will really cut into the $600 I'll get for the summer, but it was worth every cent and I doubt I could have saved this much working in Poky, so all is good.

Mark and I picked up all of our dirty clothes, we're going to do some laundry tomorrow for our long trip home. Mark called his parents and they are going to come and pick him up on Saturday. He is excited to get back to Springfield, Mass. It sounds like such a beautiful place, he says that he should have about a month before getting back to Plymouth State.

Its dark and late and Mark is already asleep, I will miss the crickets at night and the fire flies. I will miss that the wet,sweet smell of grass at night that drifts through these windows. I will miss the carillion bells and Bryan Barkers amazing music. As he said many times over the summer, quoting John Keats,"A thing of beauty is a joy forever."