Skis in the Bathtub

Last week was the fifteenth anniversary of the publication of my first book: Squash: A History of the Game. It is still selling well and still the source of much discussion within the game.

Last month, two people that I was close to passed on to the squash court in the sky. One was Charlie ¬†Ufford. I had two long paragraphs in Squash about Charlie. The paragraphs came divided, conveniently or inconveniently for him, by the first eight-page photo insert. So many people, flipping open the book, came to read about Charlie and his remarkable and still unbroken record of reaching at least the quarterfinals of the National Singles fourteen times. He was one of the charter members of the Quaker Squashers, a secret society of Friends who were friendly with a squash racquet (Willing Patterson was another). As the first person to receive the President’s Cup, US Squash’s highest annual award, Ufford was known for his quick wrist, his tremendous sportsmanship and his off-court leadership.

The other Charlie who died was my beloved uncle. He played squash at Andover and at Dartmouth. I remember playing him on Thanksgiving mornings, year after year, on a frigid old hardball court in Boston, desperately trying to finally beat him.

Before he died he showed me a clipping from the winter of 1968, when The Dartmouth, the student newspaper, wrote an article about the freshman squash team. Charlie played No.3 on the team and was unbeaten. The lede, by Ken Field, is brilliant: “Charlie Collier doesn’t look like a squash player. In fact, he complains that he is so skinny he has to wear skis in the bathtub to keep from being washed down the drain.”