Everyone remembers their first job. Staples High School Class of 1963 graduate David Grant — now a California resident — remembers his.
As far back as I can remember, my parents loved playing tennis.
My father and his regulars played doubles from 9 to 11 every Saturday and Sunday morning. My mother played singles with her friends. Now and then my folks played mixed doubles, but that was usually only for a tournament.
My mother, the clothing designer, wore her Midge Grant tennis dresses. My father wore a white t-shirt and sharkskin shorts.
They played at the Doubleday courts next to what was then Staples High School on Riverside Avenue (now Saugatuck Elementary School). The pro was Freeman Marshall; everyone called him Doc. I started taking lessons from him when I was 10, and continued for several years. Doc Marshall was also my high school tennis coach.
The Doubleday courts were made of clay. They take much more maintenance then asphalt or concrete. They have to be watered regularly and get a weekly dose of calcium chloride so they don’t dry out. They needed to be rolled often, brushed daily, and lines had to be painted on as needed.
Doc Marshall hired me when I was 14 to help maintain the courts. I rode my bike 3 or 4 miles to the courts, arriving (if I was on time) by 7:30 to get the courts ready for each day’s play. At first my lines were a little squiggly, and needed to be straightened. After a while, perfect.
There was a tennis shack at Doubleday. We took reservations, set up tournament pairings, sold tennis balls and soft drinks, and strung racquets. Eventually I took over most of these chores while Doc was on the courts teaching. I kept my job for 8 summers, earning $80 a week — a king’s ransom to me.
As I got older I was also allowed to teach, from 12 to 1 each day and 6 to 8 in the evenings. For that I charged $6 per half hour.
After I’d been working at the courts for several years, Doc hired my best friend Jerry Keneally to help with the work of the courts and shack. It was so great for us to work together and play tennis into the dark after everyone went home. I had the greatest job and the most fun imaginable.
When there was little to do I would pick up trash, or hit balls against a practice wall. Quite often someone would need someone to play with or fill in a fourth for doubles, and there I was.
There was an artist named David Levine, best known for his caricatures. You could see his works regularly in the New York Review of Books. David spent summers in Westport. One day he asked me to hit with him, then on to a set of tennis. I played right-handed, David Levine left-handed. We played, I won.
David challenged me to switch hands, so in our second set I played left-handed and won again. My reward was a trip to his studio in Brooklyn to pick out one of his artworks called “Spies.” Almost 55 years later, I still have it.