Manitoba Squash

Recently I was brought into a wonderful part of North American squash history when I was sent a twenty-seven page history of squash in the Canadian province of Manitoba, written in 1988 by Andrew McCullough/

The first courts were built in 1909 at the Winnipeg Squash Racquet Club on Donald Street near Broadway. It cost 10¢ to rent a racquet and 35¢ to rent a ball, indicating the scarcity of balls not bats; an annual membership cost $12.50 and included two squash balls. Women were allowed to play from the start, but there were women-only hours because to reach the women’s locker room or the squash courts women had to walk through the men’s locker room.

In 1923 Winnipeg started an annual match with Minneapolis & St. Paul’s, a notorious event called the Roy Milner Shield that lasted into the 1970s. In 1938 the province’s first doubles court was built at the Winnipeg Winter Club on Smith Street. In the early 1970s Manitoban players began switching to softball and in 1976 the first softball courts were built in Winnipeg, with four courts at the Court Sports club on Taylor Street. It appears the first time the Canadian Nationals were held in Winnipeg was in 1980, a year after the U.S. went west with its first National Singles in Portland.

The best story of the history came in February 1987 at the Manitoba Open. In the semis Mark Talbott was thoroughly beating Bill Turk. After winning the first two games, Talbott went to get some water. Turk’s twin brother Gene appeared and exchanged shirts with Bill and went on court. Talbott didn’t notice and had a tight third game with Gene before winning the match. Afterwards he said how well Bill had recovered in the third game after struggling so much in the first two.