Wimbledon Ball boys
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what year and court?
I was a Ball Boy in 1953 and 1954. Both years I was on Court One.
What age were you ?
15 and 16
Did you enjoy the task and why?
Being a Ball Boy at Wimbledon was optional and we went because it was good fun and a chance to get away from the routine of school. Collecting the balls got a bit boring towards the end of the fortnight but we were always on our toes, afraid of missing or dropping a ball, particularly when covering the net. Prior to play starting, and during stoppages because of bad weather, we were free to roam around the Centre Court and we made friends with the military ushers
Did anything unusual/funny happen whilst you were on court?
Whilst I was covering the net, Vic Seixas hit a full blooded forehand which hit me in the nether region. He was so concerned and apologetic. He was a gentleman, a great champion, and very popular with everyone.
They were not all like that and I had the honour to be sworn at by Drobny because I was in his line of service.
On another occasion I indicated to a player that I did not have any tennis balls to give him. He slowly walked from the base line, picked up a ball under the linesman’s chair next to me, walked slowly back to the base line, turned and threw the ball at me. I was glad he lost the match.
Which player did you most enjoy meeting and why?
Vic Seixas was a great champion with a friendly personality. I always tried hard to give him a good service. Hoad and Rosewall were up and coming stars at the time.
Maureen Connelly was the ladies champion in both of the years I was there. She never seemed to be very friendly but I guess she had more important things on her mind. We used to call her “Noddy” because of the way her head bounced up and down when she walked.
There were quite a lot of good looking ladies at the time but unfortunately the more glamorous ones never progressed too far in the tournament. I would always throw a straight ball to them, and put a twist on the ball to the others. Unfortunately it didn’t make any difference to the outcome
Who is your favourite tennis player today?
Pete Sampras (Another gentleman and great player.)
Do you play tennis now and if so do you belong to a club?
I played tennis and squash up to about fifteen years ago. I then started golf so one of them had to go. I still play squash four or five times a week at Shrewsbury School Squash Club
Would you like to add any further information?
I don’t know if the girls at Withington want to address a potentially controversial subject but the following may be of interest.
During the two years I was at Wimbledon a number of articles were published in the press about Ball Boy selection. One such article stated that hundreds of tennis balls were thrown on to the sports field and all the boys rushed after them. The boys that collected the most balls were selected as Ball Boys. This was completely untrue and the only prerequisites as far as I knew, were to be physically fit and fairly nimble.
So, what if you were a perfect example of physical fitness, and a fine athlete, and very agile… and black? This was the lot of Johnny Woods, and although I never thought about it at the time, it must have given both Goldings and Wimbledon something of a headache. There was certainly no colour prejudice in Goldings but was there ever a black person on the Wimbledon courts prior to 1953? I don’t think so.
Johnny Woods did attend Wimbledon that year but he was not seen on the courts. He was given a special job of relaying the results from the outside courts to the control centre. We all thought he was lucky to have been chosen for such a special job. Little did we realize the truth behind the selection.
A few years later a black boy did Ball Boy at Wimbledon but you must read Dixie Deane’s article for the background to that.
(Johnny Woods can be seen on the 1953 Ball Boy photo on goldonian.org. He is in the back row fourth from the left.)
From: Victor King
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