The location of the New Albany club has a remarkable history. For the last 79 years it has housed New Albany table tennis players including legendary bat-maker Bernie Hock and his longtime friend Eugene Bricker, a legend for his playing accomplishments and his decades of tireless dedication to the advance of the SITTA. Their accomplishments included a senior's doubles title at the US National Championships.
One of the most intriguing parts of the Ekin Avenue building is the hidden tunnel behind one of the walls. The tunnel, which was used to hide runaway slaves, leads under the building ending at the parking lot. Reportedly, during the Civil War, this Ekin Ave. building was a hospital, afterwards a factory, and then it became an all-purpose recreation area. In 1935, the table tennis club started at the Ekin Ave Recreation Center.
Talented Table Tennis players coached "ping-pong" for people 12 years and older in the late 1940s. Bernie Hock, Eugene Bricker, and Jack and Toby Pangburn, Benny Price, Joe Peers, Benny Helm, and Grayson Hanks all coached at the Ekin Avenue Rec. Center.
By 1951, Sunday afternoon visitors to the Club had included such Hall of Fame greats as Jimmy McClure, Sol Schiff, Richard Hicks and Dick Miles, as well as the renowned South Bend, Indiana Coach John Varga, and San Antonio's 1952 U.S. Open Esquire Champion Louie Scharlach. It was Bernard Hock's precision-made rackets that drew many visitors. In the basement of his New Albany home, with wood obtained from the Hoosier Panel Co., using sharpeners, shavers, routers, and rounders, a special secret in the glue mixture, and a precision scale to adjust the weight of each racket, he painstakingly fashioned maybe 2,000 rackets a year. Hock, who in his old age estimated that he'd seen 2,000 players come and go at this Southern Indiana Club, including Don Brazzell rated one of the top hardbat players in the US and 2004 national over 40 hardbat champion.
This October will be the 29th Annual Harvest Homecoming Bernard Hock Open tournament. It is a sanctioned event bringing great competition from several states. For more information on the club or the tournament feel free to contact club President Jeff Smith at 502-648-5426 or Vice President Gordon Alstott at 812-697-6680. The SITTA club website is http://www.sitta.org/.