The History of the Rowayton Platform Tennis Association
Rowayton paddle tennis got its start in the fall of 1968. Sally Plaut, whose memorial bench is perched on the deck of our paddle hut, and Bob White were the pioneers. They formed a group of enthusiastic sports minded Rowaytonites who raised $5,000 to erect the first court (which is now court #2). They got us out there on weekends and taught us the basics. It didn’t take long before we were all saying “What did we do with our winters before Paddle?”
I surveyed a few of the “old timers” and picked up several almost forgotten facts about early paddle in Rowayton.
– The first court was made out of wood and covered with ground up walnut shells placed on the surface for traction.
– We would stand in line to sign up for weekend courts… they were active from October to April during the days and nights, and especially the weekends.
– We would shovel the courts (on a voluntary basis) or carry buckets of hot water to melt the ice before play.
– When the first night lights were installed, we had to put a quarter in the meter for an hour of play. This became a nasty chore… especially when, at match point, the lights would go out!
– Some of the “old timers” have noticed a dramatic shift in the game – nothing like it was in the early days. Playing was a highly social event, and mixed doubles was very popular (It also might have added to the divorce rate). Men’s night was every Wednesday and it was a free for all. The good guys played with the not so good guys and everybody got a lot of exercise and had a good time. There were no A, B, and C flights to worry about.
– During the mid 70’s there were not as many women in the work force as there are now, thus many spent several mornings a week playing paddle. At that time a number of women joined the work force, thus reducing the “action” on the paddle courts. This seemed to affect the “boom” paddle had for several years. Nevertheless, Tuesday morning remained Ladies’ Day and a new league was formed with our neighbors in Darien. The league was called The Darien Rowayton Womens’ Paddle Tennis League.
– Queing up on Thursday nights to sign up for courts for Saturday night for paddle parties. Since there was no paddle hut the group would go back to someone’s home for beer and pizza. This was the very social period for Rowayton paddle tennis.
– Rowayton men’s paddle flourished in the 80s and early 90s due to the great depth we had. If someone was on a business trip to Europe, there was someone else equally adept to fill in and play during the weekend matches in the Fairfield County Paddle League. The men’s team dominated the league for many years.
– Dick Squires – Mr. Paddle – moved into Rowayton in the mid 80’s. We dressed him up as “King” with a paddle tennis ball tiara, put him on a float and dragged him down Rowayton Avenue for the Memorial Day parade. He loved every minute of it and so did we, as well as the cheering crowds who lined the streets. His memorial bench is facing court #3.
As Dick Squires put it… “Once you start playing, chances are real good that you will become an addicted Paddle Nut!”
Rowayton’s National Champions
1966 – Dick Squires/Ed Winpenny (Men’s National)
1980 – Jay Packer/Mike Gillespie (18 and under)
1980 – Jay Packer/Mike Gillespie (23 and under)
1983 – Bill Mimnaugh/Dick Squires (45 and over)
1985 – Bill Mimnaugh/Wally Cook (45 and over)
1996 – Alan Brasher/Duke Felt (50 and over)
The Rowayton “Pioneers”
We gathered many of the names of the “Rowayton Pioneers.” If we have left anyone’s name out… please accept our apologies since the old brains don’t work like they use’ta!
If you would like to add names to the list please email Frani Taylor.
Late 60s to Early 80s
Bob and Robin White
Bill and Arvilla Wobenhorst
Bob and Alice Callaway
Rick and Brenda Pank
Peter and Ann Law
Carol and Dick Wrigley
Dick and Joan Packer
Tom and Maxine Slattery
Skip and Joan Raymond
Bill and Ann Martin
Bruce and Sandy Falconer
Don and Mimi Wilson
Tom and Diane Glover
Jack and Fran Spangler
Ralph and Betty Kelley
Duncan and Ann Barnes
Joe and Ann Banks
Dave and Barbara Mercer
Andy and Sally Rowan
Charlotte Judge and Putsie Ritchey
Peter and Joan Diamandis
Bob and Sandy Aldrich
Frani and Bucky Taylor
Bob and Judy Fraleigh
Dick and Adria Miner
Vic and Kate Varjazy
Bud and Betsy Bain
Alan and Pat Brasher
Peter and Andy Kinney
Phil and Francie Vietmeyer
Bill and Mia Benjes
John and Patsey Vanderkeef
Bill and Jean Miller
Tom & Bev Gildersleve
Bill and Hellen Sanford
Norma and Al Chevalier
Pat and Jim McDonald*
Marylou and Bill Holland
Ty and Sue Cobb
Woody and Barbara Leaming
Bill and Sandy Henneberry
Gene and Chris Cronin
Dave and Deana Supple
John and Jane Kellog
*Notes from Jim McDonald:
Ehrick and Rhoda Haight
Ehrick was the Paddle Association’s first chairman, probably recruited by Sally Plaut for his engineering skills. I remember Ehrick drafting me into the work crew that dug a long trench to bring an electric cable to the court.
George and Indie Ahl
At one point, George and I were the eighth-ranked mens double team. In later years we probably wouldn’t have made the B list!
March 13, 2014
Congratulations to Bob Callaway,
longtime member and supporter of the RPTA
The APTA Hall of Fame Committee is pleased to announce the election of Bob Callaway into the Platform Tennis Hall of Fame.
Bob started playing “paddle” in 1963 and has taught the game for over 35 years.
He has taught players who have won over 60 National Platform Tennis Championships. Bob has also authored the book Platform Tennis, published in 1975, and has written numerous articles for Platform Tennis Magazine.