East St. Louis Mayor Alvin Parks, most probably the best-dressed community leader in Southern Illinois, recently introduced a "40 Days of Non-violence" initiative in front of involved officials from East St. Louis, Centreville, Washington Park and Alorton. In conjunction with the United States Tennis Association, 300 already pre-registered youths are to be exposed to the game of tennis as part of the program. A traveling exhibit from the International Hall of Fame and Museum will be on display in the East St. Louis City Hall lobby during the 40-day period as well.
It brought to mind a life-altering event, recalled by East St. Louis native and pro tennis great Jimmy Connors in his memoir, that involved tennis in East St. Louis.
Then 8-year-old Connors and his older brother, accompanied by their coach-mother and grandmother, would frequently practice at Jones Park public tennis courts. On one occasion, with their grandfather, who was chief of the parks police, also in attendance, their practice was interrupted by two loud-music-playing thugs. The on-court situation turned ugly and the hooligans ended up beating both mother and grandfather mercilessly, and I don't mean at tennis. A trip to the emergency room was required for both to suture up their wounds.
Jimmy's psyche couldn't be treated as easily and he reported that he was scarred forever.
The Connors family later moved to Belleville and as they say, the rest is history.
Hopefully ESL tennis has come a long way since then. Best of luck.