INTERVIEW WITH CHESTER DRENNING, JR.
Chester Drenning, JR.
Q. Billy. When you invited me to your home for this interview, I did not realize that your home is really a museum. Will you share this story with us?
A. Chester. Certainly. I am living in my childhood home here on Rosewood Drive in Old Metairie. I was born in New Orleans on July 4th-Independence Day-1932. The whole area around our home was a wooded area. My younger brother and I played in the woods with our B-B guns. After my divorce in Sonoma California, I moved back home here to assist my brother and a live-in maid with our elderly mother, who passed away at the age of 99. I have attempted to preserve it as much as possible as it was originally built and furnished.
Q. What is your educational background?
A. My father and mother both stressed the importance of getting a good education. Chester Drenning Sr. was a chemical engineer from Pennsylvania who worked for Goodyear Tire for 42 years. My mother, a Cajun lady born on the Prevost sugar plantation near Jennerette, Louisiana, taught school for 36 years a ½ block from 128, our home.
I graduated from Jesuit High School after four years and two summers (Latin was never my strong subject). Then I attended LSU in Baton Rouge, where I studied Economics and Business Administration. I was very active: played all the intramural sports, was house manager for my fraternity, Sigma Chi, and Air Force ROTC. My freshman year I met Ruthie Eberhart, who was from uptown New Orleans, and she introduced me to tennis. I “took a shine” to both her and tennis. UGG- I was terrible!
During the four summers of college I worked in the oilfields of Pointe a la Hache as a roustabout and mechanic’s helper, earning money to pay my next year’s tuition (my parents also believed in a strong work ethic).
Q. Military Service?
A. After LSU I was drafted into the U.S. Army and sent to Korea for two years. I served and as a clerk, line company infantryman, and as a Chaplin’s Assistant at the 7th Infantry Headquarters. I also worked extra as a football and basketball umpire, sending this money home to purchase a vacant lot in New Metairie. While stationed there I traveled on leaves to Tokyo, and Hong Kong. See My story, “The Misfit Soldier.”
Q. After receiving an honorable discharged, what profession did you enter?
A. Upon discharge, I competed a training program in Houston as a Drilling Fluids Engineer, and worked on and offshore for five years. I next signed a contract with International Drilling Company and worked two years in the Libyan Desert out of Tripoli as a fluid and hydraulic engineer. During this time I mailed my tax-free paycheck from Rome, Italy to a Merrell Lynch stockbroker, tennis player and ex-Sigma Chi member Beau Holton in New Orleans. I lived off the per diem pay when not in the Desert. Upon returning to New Orleans, I worked on offshore rigs as a drilling engineer, as a sales engineer, and my brother and I purchased a small local trucking company and ran it for 12 years.
During these years I began investing in Old Metairie rental homes and became active in stocks and the mutual funds market. I am still active in real estate rentals and investing.
Q. How long have you been a member of the CPTC?
A. For over 30 years. However, for 11 years I lived in Sonoma, California in the summer (playing doubles on the hard courts in the county leagues); and New Orleans in the winter(playing on the City Park rubico courts). While in California I married my second wife, who was employed in the wine industry. And there, I invested in the 2nd mortgage market, and renovated a few properties for resale—in a booming California market.
Q. You are the author of CHESTER’S CORNER on the CPTC website. Why did you volunteer to provide this service to our club?
A. Al Reagle started that after I built a permanent roof (after two Blue Tarps blew off) across the runway on our ten clay courts with funds raised through Club Members and Sundance’s group.
Q. When I first contacted you to become a CPTC member, you were extremely helpful and enthusiastic as the club membership chairperson. How long have you volunteered in this position?
A. After Hurricane Katrinia, about four years.
Q. I understand you have been experiencing some health problems recently. Please share with our readers how you are doing?
A. Already with 14 heart stints and two titanium hips, I overcame prostate cancer after 43 treatments of high intensity radiation at E.J. Hospital, by my skin and bowels are still recovering.
Q. What does belonging to the CPTC mean to you?
A. Playing worldwide tennis—including CPTC—has led to the most JOYFULL friendships, especially after I announced I was from New Orleans. I have played on the most upscale tennis clubs in wine-rich Napa Valley; at a sandy court near San Miguel Alende, Mexico, owned by a poor Gringo and his Latina wife and four kids all swinging rackets; at a great public park with Dr. Reilly in Paris; at a hotel/tennis club in San Jose, Costa Rica (while visiting with Gina); At the Golden Gate Park (S.F.) where you hang your racquet to meet players from all over the world; at many drop-in small parks along my annual cross country trips in our R.V. with wife from Sonoma to Old Metry; at Maui Island with Dr. Reilly at a private home court covered with beautiful bougainvillaea and two days of family doubles with the owners; traveling through the small villages in southern France with Dr. Reilly(who was fluent in French) finding tennis courts and some friendly competition before joining in at a local restaurant with flavorful wine; so with CPTC pals who twice have taken me to ER for chest(pains on court), most married and still working and in their established clicks; I’ve always enjoyed their lasting friendships and our Beer Tournaments with outside guests—–BUT FEW CAN RELATE TO MY JOYFUL WORLDWIDE TENNIS PLEASURES. C. D. JR.
P.S. In a world filled with many tennis acquaintances; I respectfully mention my MOST ENDURING NAMES: Dr. Bill Reilly and Toto Albano and their each private hard courts in the Sonoma Hills.
CPTC rubico players: August La Nasa, Bob Duckworth, Chris Barbe, Jim Wilson, Monte Towe, Travis Rich