I first remember playing ping pong in my friend's basement in Cherry Hill, NJ at about age 9; we got our own table a couple years later for play in our basement in Richmond, VA and 4 years later the basement in Raleigh, NC.
When we moved to Chautauqua, NY I was a Junior in high school with privileges to the CHS Junior/Senior Lounge, which had a ping pong table. My younger sister and I practiced on the kitchen table in the cottage we were renting, we used a hot mat and a wooden sign as paddles and the salt & pepper shakers, napkin holder, etc. as the net. Brian Lawson was among those who helped me improve. By Senior year I had plenty of Study Hall time in the lounge and was a pretty good ping-ponger upon graduation.
My first taste of what I'd call table tennis came when I went away to Binghamton University in the Southern Tier section of New York state. I started with a hard bat, having beaten all the sponge/inverted players I knew by playing this way, thumb and index finger on the back of the paddle, playing backhands and forehands off the same side of the bat. I guess this had been somewhat validated by seeing Danny Seemiller give an exhibition at Jamestown Community College with his brother Ricky, Insook Bushan and one other person I can't recall. Not that I play like Danny, but he DOES use the same side for forehand and backhand offense. I also played occassionally at the Jamestown Community College student union.
My RA (Resident Assistant) was a recreational sponge/inverted player that told me most of the modern players hit backhand and forehand with opposite sides. After watching a few of the better players I bought a Butterfly flared handle with D-13 rubber, red on both sides -- the alternate color rule was a couple years away yet.
We played Wednesday nights in the University Union Games Room, 5 tables, 1 on carpet the others on tile amid the din of video games (I held high score on Galaxian for several weeks and later was a decent Joust player here also). Winner held the table. I found out after awhile that most of the good, regular players weren't students at all, but "townies". I really learned the game here from two older men, Jack Diamond and Larry Cooper. Jack was a left-handed looper with the spinniest rubber he could buy, Cooper played Phantom (long pips) on both sides, one side with sponge, one without.
Larry Cooper worked for IBM and ran a club over at the IBM Country Club in Endicott on Monday evenings. They had 8 nice wooden legged Detroiters they rolled out on two custom made carts into the multi-purpose room there. It was pretty much the same crowd. When I didn't have a car it was a two bus ride then almost a mile walk trip. Snow, rain, wind I almost never missed a week. Thanks Jack ! Thanks Larry !
I went on to graduate school at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. The club there wasn't affiliated with the USATT at the time so it took me a few weeks to find them. When I did they were playing on two tables crammed tandem into the hall outside the racquetball courts at the Jewish Community Center. Joe Segal, a lifetime USATT member, had arranged that. Shortly the city let us use a multi-purpose room at an elementary school, J.B. Fisher (?) on the South Side but we had some trouble there and settled down to the basement of a (?) church on Monument Avenue, Tuesday and Thursday evenings and Saturday afternoons. Many weeks I played all 3 days, isn't college a wonderful time?
Joe Griffis was traditionally the top player then at the Richmond club but he wasn't playing much while I was there and I never met him. I'm bad with names but Milt Burner was a top player, as was a law student named Ron. Ike, Kevin, Sylvia, Dana Hanson and Scott Kasson were all regulars. I sold Milt's son, Chris, his first paddle, last I heard (12/1999) he was working for Butterfly in North Carolina.
Once I graduated I reluctantly took a "real" job. It was a good job with Boeing outside Philadelphia. At that time there was no club in Philly proper, we played at the (?) church across the river in Pennsauken, NJ, just over the Betsy Ross Bridge. Cost me bridge fair, club fee and an hour's drive each way every trip. The club was run on 6 tables by a senior citizen named John (lastname?). Sometimes there would be 20 players waiting and 12 playing. The good players played on 3 talbes and the rest on the other three. I was right in the middle at about 1500 and usually played where I could get more table time. Top players were Enoch Green and Bill Sharpe. George Rocker was also still playing, you'll never meet a nicer guy.
With the distance and the crowd, and my new-born son I was a semi-regular. We did also set up a table in the high bay of the Simulation Lab at Boeing Helicopters sometimes for a bit shortly before I left. John Bray was instrumental in that effort.
ACUI at VCU; Intramurals at Binghamton
Back to The Chipster Zone
Click here to send email to Chip Patton