45th Anniversary Recollections

When CATS observed its 45th anniversary in 2014, members were invited to share their favorite memories of their years in CATS. Their letters are below.

Sam Bruce, Former President

When I was asked to provide some comments relative to our 45th year anniversary I hardly knew where to begin. There are so many aspects about our organization that makes it outstanding. Having joined CATS in 1974 and been involved in virtually all functions through the years, I have seen people give unselfishfully year after year to make CATS the great community of people not only interested in tennis but community activities as well as other sports. To me this is a time of special celebration for all of you who have supported CATS with your time and energies as no organization is greater than its rank and file. It makes no difference at what level you play but rather at what level is your heart and love for an organization that has provided opportunities to so many in friendship, fellowship and yes, a competitive spirit both on and off the court. I am sorry that I am unable to be with you at this special occasion but I will be there in
spirit, so I say to all, continue to participate in any way that you can and your support will keep CATS strong.

Richard L. Eastline, Former President

Whatever happened to the Chicago Advertising Tennis Society? That was, and is, the official name of the sports organization—but nearly everyone knows it as CATS. Initially, membership was limited to amateur players engaged in the advertising, marketing, and sales promotion professions. Dropping that requirement provided an easy means to expand, which did occur. But the name did not change even though the acronym remains. Over the years, to remain CATS but to show its expanded range of members, suggestions were made to replace the original name with a word change, such as the Chicago Amateur Tennis Society or Chicago Area Tennis Society. Maybe some day it will happen.

CATS almost had a premature death in the early 1980s. The group had moved from its original home at the Lake View Athletic Club nearby on Fullerton Avenue to Midtown Tennis Club, using eight courts at a late weeknight hour and paying court fees on a weekly basis in cash. Picture the scene at the front desk at 11:00 at night as money from 16 teams was presented to the night staff — coins, currency, and checks in no particular order. Combine that inconvenience with the flaunting of Midtown policy by having “ringers” brought in as player substitutes by some captains-—players who had not tried-out for CATS and were not members either of CATS or Midtown. Management did not have what could be called a pleasant relationship with our organization. And within CATS was a concern about staying solvent with so many of its players not responding to dues payments.

A new group of officers was elected with the admonition to clean things up. It took a full year but the results were effective. Two of the officers provided a cash-advance, no-interest loan in order to establish a checking account, their investment being paid back through the firm collection of dues in the months that followed (Notice to members: “No pay—No play”). Midtown showed its new-found appreciation by assisting CATS’ new growth spurt via arrangements to use two more courts. Word of mouth promotion about the “new” CATS with required try-outs, equalized player schedules, and an expanded program of social activities boosted membership to the point where there was a wait-list.

CATS had developed into a smoother-running, viable organization. Since then, a succession of hard-working officers and committees solidified its premiere regional tennis position. So, now it is celebrating 45 years, a worthy record for a volunteer-run organization based on sports-plus-fun.

Barbara Bellatini Fields

During my active years with CATS I remember fighting off our opposing teams with gusto followed by good laughs and friendly conversations. During those Wednesday evenings and all of the lively parties, I made lifelong friends. The only downside was getting up early on Thursday and performing well at work.

Al Funck, Former President

The first thing that comes to mind as past president of CATS is the long lasting friendships that I made thru the club. In fact, I’m sitting with a few of them this evening. Some have left us but will never be forgotten.

My tenure as president was made much easier due to the fact that some of the people who proceeded me in the in the position had done a quality job of keeping the club financially stable and maintained a reasonably full slate of members. There were still the battles of trying to negotiate a fair price with Midtown dealing with a young Mike Mahoney, who was trying to prove his cloth. And of course chasing those members who seemed to forget that CATS was not a charitable organization that needed to have dues paid in order to operate. But all in all a very good experience.

I do want to mention that the annual “Awards Banquet and Dinner Dance” was the brain child of Dave Hathaway, a former member during my administration. Despite the on going efforts to get enough participants, it remains one of the more enjoyable events of the year.

On that note I will close. Thank you for inviting me and enjoy the evening and camaraderie.

Dave Herd

I came to CATS through my girlfriend, who was a member at the time, having met each other through Lake Shore Ski Club. The relationship only lasted a short time, but I have not missed playing in the Wednesday night CATS league since I was drafted by Gus Thermos in 1984, 30 years. Back then, there were still several members in the advertising profession who were playing in the league.
The was an influx of other ski club people around the time I joined but, over the years, the original advertising and ski club people have diminished as a source of new members in favor of recruitment of tennis players or friends who enjoy the social aspects of the club.

I was asked to be a league captain, then a league coordinator and finally became membership director, whose duties include emailing all members of all social events and other CATS news of interest. Several of us got together to finally produce a club web site and I learned enough to become a web master, until more capable hands rescued me. Electronic media has allowed mailing costs to be reduced and the savings has been passed along in the form of reduced membership dues.

As the make-up of the club has changed, the board has had to adapt by changing the playing rules and trying new tennis and social events. I have attended many board meetings at various locations throughout the city. The most challenging was the last meeting where business discussion had to compete with a loud German ooompa band. It was the shortest meeting ever.

Robin Winter Odem

1. Joined CATS in 1972 when John Wagner was the president. Dick and I were first ‘non-advertising’ people to join.

2. Playing at Lakeshore Club on Fullerton 10 – 12PM on Tuesday nights and going out afterwards to drink after the Club was closed!

3. Guess who had the idea of Annual Dinner Dance? Dave Hathaway!

4. Guess when the first Annual Dinner Dance was? 1993 – at Mareva’s and 110 people came.

5. Guess who the presidents were there at Mareva’s? John Lindsay, John Wagner, Lee Redfield, Wally Warzecka, Richard Eastline, Don Wanfalt, and Al Funck!

6. Why is the date 7/26/97 important? CATS and Waveland Tennis Club had a Tennis Event at MTTC to raise money for Cancer Research. We had a tennis match, silent/live auction, food, band, dancing, pictures, etc. We raised over $30,000 and gave it to the Lurie Cancer Center at Northwestern Hospital. They bought 15 computers to aid them in research.

Carolyn Popp

Favorite memory: I was recruited to play on a CATS team by a man in my life in the early ’80s.
That happened to be his last year with CATS. Ten years later, in a “catch-up” phone call,
I said to him, “Guess what? I was just elected the first female President of CATS.”
Being on the Board of CATS has been an honor for me, because I love this club!

John Wagner

John’s remarks were prepared for the 45th Anniversary Dinner Dance and read by Joyce Weber

Forty five years…can you believe it? The year was 1969 when your club first came to be. It has been an amazing run. It all started with a small group of advertising types — right out of MAD MEN.

By the way, how many of you here tonight are associated with the advertising industry? …. not many? Well, if I asked the same question in the early ’70s, all hands would have gone up. At that time, you had to be in the ad business, and that’s how we got our name. You might have been a rep for artists or photographers like our beloved Joni Tuke, who we lost a few weeks ago; or you might have been with the media (radio and TV), or you could have been on the “client side,” an ad agency — God forbid! In fact, most members were with agencies like Leo Burnett where CATS’ past president John Wagner spent time recruiting.

There were 50 CATS members in the beginning. Then CATS almost tripled in size in the ’70s. You were a diverse group. On one side of the net, you could have a 6 foot 6, 240-pound ex-lineman for the Kansas Jayhawks…..(anyone remember that?). And, on the other side, a petite 90-pound cheerleader from New Trier High. Diversity was and still is the beauty of CATS — ITS MEMBERS — all sharing a love for our wonderful sport and knowing how to have a good time.

So…our young group went to the Lake Shore Tennis club on Fullerton and negotiated a good deal for playing time. Your club soon outgrew Lake Shore, and, after months of some hard-nosed negotiations, you moved your act to the new Midtown Tennis Club, now your home known as the Midtown Athletic Club. Yes….we are actually older than Midtown, one of the finest tennis facilities in the country.

As you grew, you created balance. Teams were formed based on your level of play. Competition and prize winning became a goal. Committees were formed like our always active Social Committee headed by the extremely social, Robin Winter Odem. Events like this one were created.

There are many valuable contributors in our organization. A few have been inducted into our extremely exclusive Hall of Fame, like the honorary board member, past president, and arguably the most affable member of CATS, our very own Dean Carson. But, who is arguing? Then, there is:

-the likeable, Lee Redfield, also a past president, who is now hanging his tutu in Long Beach, California.

-And that pioneering female, Carolyn Popp, who broke the barrier and became our first female president. Twice! Imagine that…a female president.

Seriously, I hope you’ve enjoyed this short little trip down my memory lane. As you can see, as previously mentioned, we are very, very proud of what we have achieved…very proud to have members like the always smiling Joyce Weber, our event leader for this evening.

Thank you, CATS and CATS guests …it’s good to have you here.

Wally Warzecka

There is neither time nor space to write memories like Robin and Dick Odem, Drea Bascon and Les Messinger, Jennifer and Don Wanfelt, Kendall and Tim Lake, Diane and David Hathaway, Lisa and Dennis Hayashi, Steve DeTola, Rocket Rick Sagerman, Bob Cooley, Jim Moshier, Arleen Gill, Ken Faulkner, Tom Pasco, Keith Crossland, Brad Burfield, Emeline and Dwight Hunting, Dick Eastline, Susan and LeGrand Redfield, Sandy and Sam Bruce, Isabelle Shillested, John Sinclair, Joann Grace, John Wagner, and God rest her soul, Joni Tuke.

Where would I possibly start? The stories are endless. A few of them unbelievable and a few possibly illegal. All were fun. If you wish details you’ll have to come to Phoenix, buy me a number of Tito’s Vodkas and I’ll put you in a trance with tale after tale. These CATS people were and probably still are legends.

Chicago Advertising Tennis Society has been a major part of my life. The life-long friends Susan and I have made will always remain close in our hearts. So, I wish you all, a Most Happy Anniversary! We are very upset that we can’t be back in Chicago to celebrate with you.

[Wishing you] Peace, harmony, love and laughter…

Comments are closed.