>>FOR DECADES, A LOT OF PEOPLE CONSIDERED TENNIS A COUNTRY CLUB SPORT PLAYED BY THE PRIVILEGED. IN SPITE OF THAT, OR MAYBE BECAUSE OF THAT, TIGHT-KNIT TENNIS CLUBS SPRANG UP IN AFRICAN-AMERICAN NEIGHBORHOODS ACROSS THE COUNTRY. IN COLUMBUS, THE BEATTY TENNIS CLUBS WAS FOUNDED IN 1949 AT A PARK IN THE CITY’S THRIVING AFRICAN-AMERICAN NEIGHBORHOOD.>>YOU KNOW, WE HAD OUR OWN TENNIS FACILITY, BECAUSE, YOU KNOW, THERE WAS NO TENNIS FOR A LOT OF PEOPLE, YOU KNOW, OF COLOR BACK IN THE DAY.>>STEVEN RYUSE GREW UP IN MOUNT VERNON, OHIO. AND, LOOKING FOR MORE COMPETITION, STARTED COMING TO BEATTY PARK TO PLAY AROUND 1970. HE WRITES ABOUT THOSE DAYS IN HIS MEMOIR.>>THESE WERE PLACES WHERE WE COULD PLAY. YOU KNOW, WOLF PARK OR BEATTY. I MEAN, MOST OF THE TIME I PLAYED HERE. YOU KNOW, WE WOULD, LIKE, GET TOGETHER ON A SUNDAY OR A SATURDAY, AND WE WOULD PLAY HERE. AGAIN, LIKE I SAID, THE COURTS WERE CLAY. WE DIDN’T HAVE ENOUGH MONEY TO HAVE HARD COURTS. THEY WERE JUST — AND WE ROLLED THEM AND STUFF. AND THEY ALWAYS MADE US KIDS DO IT. SOMETIMES, WE WOULD, YOU KNOW, EAT IN THE CENTER RIGHT THERE. OR WE WOULD GO TO ONE OF THE GUYS THAT LIVED CLOSE AND THEN HAVE DINNER THERE. YOU KNOW, IT JUST DEPENDS ON WHAT WE WANT TO DO THAT DAY. IF IT RAINED, THEN WE WOULD GO TO SOMEBODY’S HOUSE. BECAUSE SOME OF US, YOU KNOW, I CAME FROM MOUNT VERNON TO COME HERE AND PLAY. BECAUSE THERE WAS NO OTHER PLACE TO PLAY AND GET SOME COMPETITION, AND MAYBE GET SOME TIPS, YOU KNOW, JUST TO GET YOUR GAME BETTER. I HAD NEVER HAD A LESSON IN MY LIFE. YOU KNOW, JUST SOME OF THE GUYS HERE, YOU KNOW, THAT WOULD HELP YOU OUT, THAT WOULD HELP YOU WITH YOUR STROKES, OR JUST GIVE YOU LITTLE HINTS OF WHAT TO DO. IT WAS JUST REALLY A NEAT SITUATION TO COME OVER AND FEEL, YOU KNOW, COMFORTABLE AND NOT UNCOMFORTABLE SOME OTHER PLACE.>>BEATTY TENNIS CLUB TEAMS TRAVELED TO TOURNAMENTS ACROSS THE MIDWEST. AND ONE WEEK BEFORE SHE MADE HER HISTORIC APPEARANCE AS THE FIRST AFRICAN-AMERICAN WOMAN TO PLAY AT THE FAMED FOREST HILLS COURTS IN NEW YORK, ALTHEA GIBSON PLAYED A TOURNAMENT AT THE BEATTY COURTS. THINGS WERE CHANGING IN COLUMBUS TOO. PLAYERS WHO ONCE HAD BEEN LIMITED TO THE COURTS AT BEATTY PARK BEGAN PLAYING ELSEWHERE.>>AND MAYBE THERE WAS A LITTLE BIT MORE OF ACCEPTANCE TO PLAY ANYWHERE. YOU KNOW, AND THEN A LOT OF THINGS, LIKE, PEOPLE WEREN’T PAYING THEIR DUES AND THIS AND THAT. AND THEN THINGS CHANGED. WE WERE ALLOWED TO PLAY ALL OVER THE PLACE. YOU KNOW, WHEN BEATTY DID KIND OF, LIKE, YOU KNOW, DIE A LITTLE BIT, THERE WAS STILL A LOT OF ACTIVITY AT WOLF. AND IT WAS LIKE MIXED.>>THE BEATTY TENNIS CLUB REMAINED ACTIVE UNTIL 1983. TODAY, A COMMUNITY TENNIS ORGANIZATION PLAYS AT WOLF PARK ON EAST BROAD STREET. BUT MANY YOUNG PEOPLE ARE DRAWN TO OTHER SPORTS.>>I MEAN, WE’RE STILL NOT SEEING A LOT OF, YOU KNOW, BLACKS ON THE COURT. IT IS AN EXPENSIVE SPORT. OKAY? THEY’RE GOING TO DEFINITELY PLAY BASKETBALL OR SOMETHING ELSE WITH THEIR FRIENDS AND STUFF, BECAUSE THEY CAN. I MEAN, ALL YOU NEED IS A BASKETBALL. YOU CAN MAKE — YOU CAN WORK ON YOUR SKILLS.>>IN HIS MEMOIR, RYUSE WRITES ABOUT GROWING UP IN A SMALL TOWN WHERE HE WAS OFTEN THE ONLY AFRICAN-AMERICAN IN HIS CLASS OR ON THE COURTS. HE SAYS THE BEATTY TENNIS CLUB HELPED HIM LEARN HOW TO PLAY AND HOW TO MAKE HIS WAY IN THE COMMUNITY.>>YOU WERE NOT RIDICULED OR, YOU KNOW, PEOPLE BOTHERING YOU ABOUT PLAYING TENNIS AND STUFF. AND THAT WAS KIND OF COOL. THAT’S WHAT WAS SO GOOD ABOUT BEATTY, YOU KNOW, AND WOLF PARK TO THIS DAY. A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE STILL GOING DOWN TO WOLF PARK. BUT THERE’S ALL KINDS OF COLORS NOW. IT DOESN’T MATTER, YOU KNOW. EVERYBODY’S JUST PICKING UP A GAME. IT’S ALL — IT’S BLACK, WHITE, WHATEVER YOU WANT TO CALL IT. IT’S — AGAIN, IT’S EVERYBODY.

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Dennis Veasley

One thought on “Columbus Neighborhoods: Tennis on Columbus’ East Side”

  1. Yes, joining a tennis club can be expensive. However, compared to many other sports tennis is NOT an expensive sport.
    You need two rackets and a some balls and the park like Beatty or hundreds of others in the area. In my opinion the one-thing that is missing today is PARENTAL involvement. If parents take their kids to the tennis court their kids will find an interest. No one says they have to play like pros. Most schools in the Columbus area offer some sort of extra curricular tennis activities that will be far less expensive then hockey or football.

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