A remembrance from John Leavitt, a Rowayton resident 1945 through 1966.
It was on a beautiful late spring morning in 1953 when a handful of men in Rowayton began building the first two tennis courts at Bayley Beach. One of them was my father, Peter Leavitt, who was involved in civic affairs as the elected Councilman for the 6th district in the 1950s. I was there at the age at nine years old with my plastic pail and shovel to help out spreading the piles of clay.
In addition to my father among the men, I recall avid tennis players Ward Chamberlin, Jack Stewart, George Shiras, John Sharnik, Bob Dowling, Andy Rowan, Shelly Trubowitz, and the doubles team of Bill Prophet and Algy Middleton (a founder of the RTA). Ward Chamberlin who had played tennis at Princeton was a notch above us all and the perennial winner of the annual men’s tennis tournament in the 1950s and into the 1960s. George Shiras’ son, Leif Shiras, became a ranked grass court player and played at Wimbledon in the 1980s. Among the women who played were Anne Bowling (my eventual doubles partner) and Lydia Chamberlin, Ward’s wife. The clay dirt that we began spreading that weekend was brown, not the fancy red clay that the country club set played on at Wee Burn Beach next door.
I believe that Art Ladrigan provided oversight for court construction because nothing was ever done at Bayley Beach without Art’s supervision. When the first two courts were completed, I began playing tennis with my father. Initially there were only two other kids that I remember who played tennis at Bayley Beach routinely in the early days, Mike Newman and Paul Tebo. As kids we were the earliest beneficiaries of the Bayley Beach tennis courts because all three of us went on to play on the tennis team at Norwalk High School. In addition, I played in USTA sponsored tournaments in New England and Long Island and went on to play college tennis.
-John Leavitt, Spring, 2017
Click photos to enlarge.
The first tennis court in Rowayton was on Bell Island.
Aerial view of Bayley Beach area with the tennis courts in the lower left of the photo, 1960.
The first tennis court at Bayley Beach during construction, 1953.
Photographs courtesy of the Rowayton Historical Society.