Interview with Jack Fox
Billy. How long have you been a member of the City Park Tennis Club?
Q. How old were you when you started playing tennis?
A. I started playing in the sixth grade at Holy Cross College (School) just south of the Industrial Canal off St. Claude Avenue. I was a boarder, which meant I lived in a dorm during the school year on the third floor of the main building (which is still there.) My father had purchased for me a $6.00 Red Junior Spaulding racquet from the Dunlop Sport’s Store in the 100 block of Carondelet Street. The strings of the racquet were made of Japanese silk. The owner of the store was a man named Mr. Harry Dunlap, who was a member of the CPTC in 1934.
I would spend the summers in Abita Springs where my grandmother leased out rooms in her large home. While there, Father James Erikson, a Benedictine priest, would teach the local kids the game of tennis. After we all cleared off the ground, getting down to the clay, we began play. Father would also invite Charlie Deal, the tennis coach at LSU, and his friend Colonel Dabney to assist with the instruction.
Q. Who was the best player you saw in person?
A. Bill Tilden in 1951
Q. Who is your all-time favorite professional player?
A. Roger Federer, a player and gentleman.
Q. I understand you played the great Bryan “Bitsy” Grant. Is that true?
A. Yes, in the early “1970’s. Mr. Grant was playing at Bocage in the 65’s, but also played down in the 55’s, which was the division I was competing in. I won the first set, 6-2, by giving Bitsy “right out of the box” a steady stream of drop shots. He would almost hang himself rushing in for the return shots. But, from the baseline he could “put it in a teacup.” As we began the second set, the entire gallery, many I thought were my friends and supporters, were booing me furiously. So I rallied from the baseline with him till the score was 4-4—then I hit nothing but drop shots the last two games to win 6-4. We shook hands—Bitsy was a consummate gentleman, all class– I walked off the court to a chorus of boos. Only afterwards did I learned he had recently had cataract surgery, and did not have depth perception.
Q. What is your impression of the new City Park/Pepsi Tennis Center?
A. MAGNIFICENT. “ I never thought I would live to see a faculty as fine as this.”
Q. What does belonging to the CPTC mean to you?
A. “A way of life!”
Q. What is your profession?
A. Attorney. In fact a few months ago I received recognition from the Louisiana Bar Association for 60 years as a practicing attorney.
Q. Military service?
A. In early 1942, immediately after the attack on Pearl Harbor, I dropped out of Loyola pre-law and enlisted in the Army. As the First Officer of an Army Transportation Vessel, I participated in the Invasion of Normandy dropping anchor at 6:00 am on June 8, 1944(D-Day +2) 500 yards off Omaha Beach (Easy Red). We fueled our P-T boats and the British M-T boats.
Q. Do you have a humorous story to share with the readers?
A. Yes. In 1988 my wife, Rae, and I were riding the tube out to Littlefield Station to attend the day’s Wimbledon matches. The museum was to open at 10:00; we arrived at 9:00 am. I saw an official with a clipboard standing by the gate. I boldly told him I was playing Boris Becker, and needed to get inside the gate. With his typical British humor, he looked at the notes on the clipboard and stated, “ Late! You’ve been default,” and walked away smiling.
Q. Have you participated in any USTA tournaments?
A. Yes, and I want to share a story with you. In 1972 I was in Las Vegas for the National hard court tournament. My friend Gus Lanasa accompanied me on the trip. The morning I was to play, we arrived early at tennis center to warm up. I planned to use the wall, but Gus said I should ask a small, young boy who was hitting with his father on an adjacent court to hit with me. I said no, you go hit with him. Gus did. Who do you think the young boy was? Yes, it was Andre Agassi. Jack missed out and Gus has a story to tell his grandchildren and friends.
Q. What do you think the future of the CPTC will be at the new facility?
A. I am extremely hopeful the CPTC, as I have known it for over 65 years, will be able to survive in this facility. But, we need more new young members.