History

“A CATS Tale”

As recalled by Sam Bruce, Richard Eastline, Emeline Hunting, Mary Moy, Robin Odem, Lee Redfield, Joni Tuke, Wally Warzecka, John Wagner, and gathered together by Dean Carson. Updated 2016.

CATS is entering its 47th year as an organization. Where else could you enjoy playing with so many others at your skill level? We have three seasons, four levels of play (3 in summer), and as many as 18 teams with an average of 6 players on a team (co-ed, mixed doubles) — on the courts of Lakeshore Sport and Fitness.

In addition, Lakeshore offers reasonably priced court fees and a special Wednesday night only LSF membership to use the other health facilities (pool, weight room, tread mills, 1/4 mile track, restaurant, etc.). All this, plus our many social outings that include such events as big league baseball, basketball, hockey, the theater, cocktail parties and tennis outings with dinner and refreshments afterwards at different venues around town.

Our logo (that cool-looking, furry-coated “cat” with a left paw atop a tennis racquet) originally held a refreshing cocktail in the right paw. After some sober reflection, it was decided the libation should go, replaced by a couple of tennis balls. Sigh! This was a while back in our history, which started in 1969.

The Chicago Advertising Tennis Society (CATS) was created by a group of folks who worked in the ever-exciting advertising world. The above mentioned logo was done by Bill Hesterberg, an ad agency art director. In the beginning we were a small, loosely composed group. Ray Lithow was our first president and we played weekly on Tuesdays at Lakeshore Tennis Club.

Almost from the start we also had monthly Saturday night tennis parties, some serious tennis competition followed by happy socializing afterwards. A format we still follow today.

The ‘70s proved to be a great decade of growth for tennis and CATS. In 1972, following John Lindsay, John Wagner became our president, and we created a board of seven directors to run our growing club. John refers to them as the “magnificent seven”: Lee Redfield, Gaeton Lauri, Bill Koch, Dick Odem, Karen Sams, Barb Standish, and Joni Tuke. Today, CATS is the largest co-ed tennis club in Chicago and one of the largest in the country. We now have 12 on the board of directors and average 175 members a year.

Also in 1972, mostly because of an increase in membership and expansion of teams, we moved our group to the relatively new Midtown Tennis Club (now called Midtown Athletic Club). Over time, we added courts, allowing us to create a new division – Open – to join the existing A, B, and C levels.

We had our struggles: the paying of court fees had gotten chaotic. But, eventually, we got it all straightened out. Two board members each ponied up $500 as an interest-free loan to CATS, allowing the secretary to write a monthly check to cover court costs, and the now mandatory membership fees created enough funds to subsidize social events and purchase prizes for winning teams each season.

Subsequently, in 2015, we came home to Lakeshore Sport and Fitness, which had become a full-service health and tennis club. Midtown had begun a two to three year renovation, which impacted the 9-11 pm time frame we had enjoyed for so many years.

Robin and Dick Odem were the first “non”-advertising people to join CATS. Today we have lawyers (gasp!), teachers, hardly any candlestick makers, nor as far as we know, any convicted politicians…but we do have a very healthy mix of background and talent. Lifelong friendships have been formed and romance has blossomed. Emeline Bushma met and married Dwight Hunting. So, too, Olga and Phil Connor. While Lee Redfield and his wife Susan met before CATS started, they did bring their infant son in his baby seat to watch as they played CATS tennis at Lakeshore.

If you’re new to CATS, we hope “A CATS Tale” will help fill you in on what we have been, and what we are. If you are a CATS veteran and you know of something important or interesting that we left out, please let us know by contacting Bill Himmelmann. We’ll make every effort to include your thoughts in the next version of “A CATS Tale.”

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CATS Presidents in order: Ray Lithow, John Lindsay, John Wagner, Lee Redfield, Wally Warzecka, Richard Eastline, Don Wanfalt, Carter Klein, Al Funck, Sam Bruce, Dean Carson, Carolyn Popp, again Dean Carson, and Christine Frank.

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