In 1956 Kurt Baker (again), with help from Bernie Douthwaite and Ed Murphy, started up the Genesee Valley Table Tennis Club again. This time, it was located on the third floor of the Katz Home Decorating Co. at the corner of Joseph Ave. and Sullivan St. The club (GVTTC) boasted approximately 60 members, and leagues were played on Monday and Wednesday evenings, and Sunday afternoons.
The game in our earlier era was usually divided into attacking or defensive style players. Paddles were covered with pimpled rubber and steady, conservative play marked the competition. Rallies for a single point sometimes lasted several minutes and matches could take over an hour.
The top player of the earlier time was Ben Morgan (who passed away at age 45 in the 1950’s), Ben was a 9 time County Champion! He lost in the finals of the Central Canadian open to Tim Boggan, USA historian/Hall of Famer, losing a hard fought 2-0 game lead. Other top players were Ted Mosher, Bill Dengler, Rick Kavulciuc, Pete Lyman, Al Wickes and Bob Brickell.
In 1961 the club moved to Ridgecrest Plaza in Greece. The club had 6 tables, cement floors, moderate lighting and a relatively low ceiling. The club was open to members 7 days a week. Leagues were held on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday (Classic League) evenings, and Sunday afternoons. Club officers in this era were Dr. Joe Costanza, Cliff Hagen, Bill Hunt, Bill Butts, Bob Brickell and Walt Stephens, who doubled as the U.S. Eastern Regional Tournament Director. Two tournaments were held each year at the Carter Street Recreation Center.
The Industrial league deserves mention, as it originated back in 1939, and was also organized and run by Ted Mosher. The first winner was the team of Hunt’s Hardware. By the mid 1950’s though, the league had changed to the Industrial Management Council (IMC) league, and only larger industries were included. The IMC league had difficulty finding a permanent home, and would roam all over the city, playing out of YMCAs, even the YWCA! They also met in a dank room under the Concord bowling alleys, and of course playing at our club sites. The dominating Kodak Park teams won the league every year but twice, when the Kodak Apparatus (Elmgrove Plant) team prevailed. But that wasn’t until the 1970’s! Other teams that belonged to the league were Rochester Telephone, Bausch & Lomb, Rochester Gas & Electric, General Railway Signal, Kodak Office, Pfaudler’s, Rochester Products, R. T. French, Stromberg Carlson and Taylor Instrument.
Inverted (sponge) rubber was introduced to the world in the 1950’s, and many Rochester players switched from pimpled rubber to the smooth sponge. The game changed dramatically. With the new rubber came the opportunity to impart great spins on the ball, thereby changing the complexion of the game entirely. The loop shot (heavy topspin) and close to the table attack play became the most common strategies. The United States Table Tennis Association (USTTA) also initiated a rules change to discourage defensive “stalling” tactics and minimize the time of games. This change was called the expedite rule. Long rallies became rare. Defensive players became a minority, as they couldn’t provide consistent or suitable returns to counter the barrage of topspins and hits they faced.
The best players of the time were Helmut Schaller, Mike Ezzo, Don Coluzzi, Dave Hunt, Ted Mosher, Bob Brickell and Vytas Grybauskas. Special mention must be made for the dynamic duo doubles team of Vytas and his mate and fellow Lithuanian countryman Connie Maciulis.
The club had an especially strong junior program at the time, and tournaments were fiercely contested. No less than 7 boys shared the junior titles in a 2 year span in the late 1960’s. Names like Jeff Anderson, Andy Anvelt, Tom Brickell, Gary Burroughs, Craig Graci, Steve Kazak and Tom Kress (who went on to a career in professional bowling) dotted the scene. Bob Green, from California, former #3 player in the U.S., lived here for a short while and was most generous in his help for the juniors.