Edie Blake in her late thirties, circa 1960, after winning an Edgartown Yacht Club tennis tournament. “Having a racquet cover with the company’s name meant you were on their sponsor list,” Edie said, “and I’m wearing a Teddy Tinling tennis dress, with a petticoat. They cost a fortune. A relative brought it back from England for me.” Photo courtesy Edie Blake.
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Eighty-five years of tennis and still at it.
As the de facto tennis doyenne of the Edgartown Yacht Club tennis scene Edith Blake, has won more club championships than she can remember and has an attic full of trophies. While getting the ball back is certainly one of Edie’s specialties modesty is not. “I have been club champion at every club I ever joined,” she proudly states.
Edie, who turns 90 this year, grew up in New York City, summered on the Vineyard, lived upstate in Tuxedo, NY as an adult before moving to Florida for seven years and eventually settling down on Martha’s Vineyard in the nineteen fifties.
Not unfamiliar with hyperbole Edie responded to a question about her working life, “I never worked. I played tennis.” She does admit to being a photographer and a writer, for a time with the Vineyard Gazette and she married the Gazette’s former publisher and editor, Henry Beetle Hough.
She was a member of two tennis clubs in Miami, the Tuxedo Club in upstate New York and now is a member of the Edgartown Yacht Club, the East Chop Tennis Club and the Vineyard Tennis Center.
“I play year round three times a week and four when I can find a game,” she said. “I played in Edgartown a lot when I was young and played one summer down in Bermuda. I played in a tournament down there for about twenty years with a group from East Chop until it was canceled.”
Edie who was ranked number five in singles in Florida in the late fifties prior to moving to the Vineyard has a daughter, Sandy Meinfelder, who is also a tennis player and a teaching pro in Pennsylvania.
As Edie recalls she started playing tennis around the age of 5 or 6 and is still at it eighty-five years later. “I had a problem when I first started because I’m ambidextrous,” she said. She decided to play left handed.
Edie now plays at Farm Neck, the Edgartown Yacht Club, and the Edgartown town courts and at the Vineyard Tennis Center through the winter.
She is recognized by many of her opponents as a fierce competitor and a stickler for the rules. When her shot hits the net cord she usually quips matter of factly in her best yacht club brogue “The net’s too high.” When she calls an opponent for repeated or gross foot faults and the offender replies that he never calls foot faults she will begin her next service game serving from the service box line well inside the baseline. “ If they aren’t calling foot faults why not serve from the service line,” she says matter of factly.
Edie does not like to lose but dislikes not playing even more. Before there were indoor courts at The Vineyard Tennis Center she played all winter outside and knitted hand-warmers, she calls “muff cuffs” for her playing friends. Muff cuffs cover the racquet hand and the handle and keep the fingers warm. “Now that people can play inside when its cold there isn’t much need for them now.”
“You know it seems as if I have played tennis my whole life. People come up to me all the time and say ‘I used to play tennis with you.’ People I don’t even recognize now. I love the game, you keep learning and learning,” she said. “I hope to get my serve back. I like it when the my serve isn’t returned.”