“Is this heaven?” I asked friend Bob Patterson many years ago after we had played on a glorious Sunday afternoon at the Rideau Tennis and Squash Club.
“No Ken, but it’s close to here,” Patterson said.
We sat on the balcony at the club (a location architect Barry Padolsky called the most useful spot in Ottawa) in the late day summer sun as white-clad tennis buffs played below us on the front courts and the Rideau River flowed past nearby. An occasional Baltimore oriole would flit through the trees. The sky was an impossible colour of blue with a few fluffy white clouds breaking up the vista. We sat there with our beers among the huge balcony’s crowd of players and hangers-on relaxing after a game.
At the Rideau you could take a chair after a game with a mechanic or a workman or the deputy prime minister if the spirit moved you. The membership was always interesting and eclectic. The balcony at the Rideau was one of my prime sources of news.
On Aug. 21 all this comes to an end. The Rideau has been sold to a multi-sport group which will change the club markedly. It will no longer be the tennis club at the end of Donald Street that has been there since 1912. It saw the likes of pitty-pat players and greats Rod Laver and Ken Rosewall.
The Rideau Tennis Club in its great days.
There were times when my life consisted of newspapers and tennis and never was the sport more fun than in the two decades I played there. Four years ago injuries took me out of the game but my heart always had a spot in it for the Rideau. Somehow, you thought it would remain forever. Not so.
The Rideau for me has so many memories I wouldn’t know where to start to recall them. It was a major highlight of my life. I never laughed so deeply as I did on the Rideau balcony. Maybe never will again. It was really my home for a long part of my life. I owned a house but this was my home. I wish I had appreciated those times much better when I had them. But life is like that.
I made friendships that last a lifetime and lost good friends, too. I think of them now … Peter Davey, Winston Fanthom, Florent Tremblay, Chuck Johnson, Pierre Lefebvre who are no longer with us. Their ghosts walk around the Rideau.
Now the club as we know it is gone. One of Ottawa’s great institutions is leaving us. But then as its members got old and injured, it was gone a number of years ago in its own way. You can only lose money for so long. It will be part of history rather than a vibrant segment of the community.
The new owners will make loving memories for its young members playing a variety of sports. They will make use of one of the best locations in the city. They will come to love the place as I once did. And love the people there, too.
As you grow older, you lose things that you care about deeply. Friends, girlfriends and wives, institutions, relatives and places. You wish you could put the sunny days at the Rideau in a bottle and take them out to re-live those wonderful experiences now and then. But some things are gone.
There’s a hole in my heart where the Rideau Tennis Club once was.
Photos above: The balcony at the Rideau Tennis Club above and the empty front courts that once hosted the Canadian Open, Davis Cup ties and some of the greats of the sport.
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