• Delta Tennis

How Texas Tennis survived adversity in the past

Updated: Oct 16, 2020

With all the sadness in the world right now, the cancellation of a tennis event may not be at the top of everyone's list. However, for those whose lives are deeply impacted by participation in tennis, the inability to play the sport that we love has hit pretty hard.

As the COVID-19 pandemic impacts our communities, we have been asked not to play the sport we love. This is not the first time that Texas tennis players had to respond to sudden, drastic changes to society and the economy. During the Great Depression and WWII, citizens of all ages put aside their differences to make personal sacrifices to help protect the well-being of others.

Freeman Field Tennis Team - August 1943

The boom that Texas and the country experienced in the 1920s ended as panic led to the stock market crash and the country headed into the Great Depression.  The effects of the Depression were felt all the way to the tennis court. In an interview with Texan Bud Turner conducted by the Texas Tennis Museum, he stated:

"When we went to tournaments, we would wear our tennis clothes and we would carry a paper bag and our tennis racquets, and we'd carry a sign for where we wanted to go. Three or four cars would go by and then one would give us a lift.  We would have a dollar and a half in our pocket to play a tournament and a paper sack. We’d always carry a pair of socks and a shirt for the finals in the paper sack.  I remember in Austin we slept on the State Capitol lawn overnight. The guard came, but we didn’t have anyplace else.  He just said, ‘You boys hold it down.’  He realized we were there for tennis, that we were tennis players since we wore our tennis clothes.

Country club memberships dropped with some members forced to resign over delinquent dues.

At the end of the 1930s, World War II descended upon the world.  Wimbledon, the French Championships, and Davis Cup stopped play. On December 7, 1941 Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and the people of the United States were caught up in the war.  Approximately three-quarters of a million Texans served in WWII. 

“There was just a void there for a while," recalled Edgar Weller, who was stationed in California during the war. "Everyone that was eligible was drafted.”

Tennis equipment, shoes and string were hard to get. Rubber from tennis balls was needed for tires. Gasoline rationing made local travel difficult. Travel overseas was restricted.

When the war ended and tennis players returned to Texas, they found their courts in poor shape.  They were faced with the prospect of rebuilding. 

Texas tennis survived depression and war. Out of the ruins, it eventually rebuilt. Just as it did before, we at Delta Tennis have no doubt that tennis will come back. In fact, the social distancing restrictions that have come out of the COVID-19 pandemic may steer more athletes than ever toward the sport. In addition, fee-based programs may be harder for families to afford, due to our now coronavirus-stricken economy.

Delta Tennis' mission of offering refurbished equipment and no-cost programming will be as important as ever as we rebuild our economy, our community and our lives. We look forward to the day when we can get back on the courts and be a part of this important process.

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