Return to Roots

For the past two months, squash has returned to its roots. Scanning through social media, it is as if one hundred and fifty years has collapsed and we are back in 1870.

People are playing squash wherever they can: in parking lots, hallways, alleys, bedrooms, basements, rooftop gardens—wherever they can find a wall or two. Social media feeds abound with people on makeshift courts. John Musto has run many such examples in his daily squash show (where I’ve also appeared a dozen times to talk about U.S. Squash Hall of Famers) :

The most elaborately thought-out has perhaps come from Philadelphia, where the Joyce brothers (a keen squash family) took six sheets of plywood, nailed them together, painted them and created a court about the third of the size of a real court.

It strongly reminded me of my January 2018 blog (if it is too hard to scrollL In there I discuss a Harrow School alum, Somerville Gibney, who in 1894 talked about squash in the 1860s and 1870s. Just like the Joyce brothers, he and his brother created a squash court, not in a basement but in a loft over a stable. There they played for years. This was typical of the game back then. There were no standards to follow, no regulation court. Squash players then did exactly what we are doing now, figuring it out with what we have.

Gibney wrote: “Give a Harrow boy a wall—if a blank one so much the better—and two others or even one other, at right angles to it, with a clear space between, and the probability is it won’t be long before he is busy at squash.”