By Dan Aznoff, Special to The Jewish Sound
Mercer Island resident Alan Woog had some unfinished business.
Five years ago, Woog shared the Northwest Senior United States Tennis Association indoor doubles championship in the 85-and-over division. Word of his athletic prowess apparently spread across the tennis circuit because there were no entries in his category the next year when he went back to defend his title.
“So there was only one thing I could do,” Woog said with a sly grin. “I began my preparations to compete in the 90-year-old national competition.”
Earlier this month, Woog and his partner, Yutaka Kobayashi from Wellesley, Mass., beat the defending USTA 90-and-over champions in the national finals held in Vancouver, Wash.
His newest trophy inspired Woog to discuss the dramatic tennis match as well as open up about a special relationship he has kept private since graduate school more than 60 years ago.
The defending champions in the 90-and-over division won the first set of the final match 7-5, but Woog and Kobayashi bounced back with a 6-4 victory in the second set to set up the dramatic conclusion. The challengers jumped out to a 6-1 lead in the 10-point tiebreaker, but the champs came back to tie the score it at 6-all.
With the score knotted at 7-7, Woog and Kobayashi scored the three consecutive points to walk away with the title.
“I could be on my deathbed and I would still be able to remember those last three points,” said Woog. “The winning point came on a return of service that I hit down the line to my opponent’s backhand. His return went out of bounds and I literally jumped into the air with joy.”
Victory on the court inspired Woog to discuss one very private story he has kept to himself since leaving the campus of Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio in 1950. It was during his two years in graduate school that Woog struck up an intense relationship with a young black woman he met from Selma, Alabama.
According to Woog, he could walk hand-in-hand with his friend Corrie Scott across campus, but the couple quickly learned the need to be discreet whenever they went into town. He remembered numerous occasions when they were refused service at restaurants and other not-so-subtle forms of discrimination.
“There were times that I wanted to say something to the owner. But Corrie would squeeze my hand to remind me that the owner of the restaurant might be the brother of the sheriff in town. And there might be a group of people waiting for us outside in the parking lot,” Woog remembered.
“She said it was always better to hold my tongue so we could live to fight another day.”
When it came time to graduate from Antioch College and go into the real world, Corrie sat her boyfriend down to discuss the subject of marriage. She was confident that America in 1950 was ready to accept intermarriage.
This time it was Woog who was realistic.
“There was no doubt in our minds that we were in love,” he said. “We each wanted to change the world in our own way.”
Woog accepted a position with the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia and to lead senators and politicians on fact-finding missions through the rugged backcountry of the Evergreen State. Corrie moved east to continue her music education in Boston.
Ironically, it was Woog who got married first. He found a nice Jewish bride in Washington and was married in 1951. He and his wife raised two children in the Seattle area.
Corrie Scott continued her battle against discrimination. In 1953, she married a man who shared her convictions. That man was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Dan Aznoff lives in Bellevue and is a freelance writer who specializes in capturing family memories for future generations. He was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the toxic-waste crisis in California. Dan’s website is www.DAjournalist.com. He can be contacted directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.