Holyoke’s Old Checker Club

by Laurel | April 6th, 2010

Alvah Oldershaw

Alvah Oldershaw

Some Well Known Men Belonged

Alvah Oldershaw, A Holyoke Champion Checker Player.

One day this week the printed booklet of the rules and by laws of the Holyoke Chess and checker club, no many years defunct, was shown to a prominent Holyoker, who was much surprised to find his name as one of the members, so completely had the memory of the existence of such an organization passed from his mind. According to Alvah Oldershaw, Holyoke’s veteran champion of the game, more are playing checkers in Holyoke now than there were then. There are now so many organizations, orders and societies that all probability of the revival of such a club is choked off. The old club was organized January 31, 1876, — centennial year — and met for some time in Perkins block on Main street. Then it moved its quarters to rooms now occupied by Judge E. W. Chapin and his son, Mayor Chapin; then it had another spell of moving and went up on High street where it apparently died an easy death. The club had a membership fee of $2; rooms were open from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., and weekly meetings were held on Mondays. An annual tournament was held in December of each year, and the annual meeting was held the first meeting in November. The 1876 manual, which has recently been discovered by Mr. Oldershaw, is the one for the first year of its existence. W. R. Ladd, since deceased, was president. D. H. Smith the High street dentist, was the vice-president, and Joseph E. Chase, who now lives on Fairfield avenue, was the secretary and treasurer. The full list of members at that time was as follows: G. W. Widdowson, G. E. Russell, L. N. Williston, Alvah Oldershaw, A. B. Tower, l. M. Williams, J. L. R. Trask (now Rev. Dr. J. L. R. Trask of your city), J. F. Cook, W. Randerbrock, C. J. Brown, L. A. Thompson, John Tilley, Stephen Sewell, George Ruddy, Seymour E. Gates, C. P. Chase, E. W. Chapin, J. E. Kellogg, George Nightingale, H. A. Chase, G. L. Bosworth, R. Goodall, C. H. Moody, William Heywood, R. R. Fuller, H. W. Bond, Jr., C. J. Dawley, J. B. Munn, D. H. Porterfield, H. G. Sears, W. S. Loomis, G. Grambush, A. J. Merrick, Samuel Moody, H. E. Nash, C. W. Brown, A. Post, A. W. Browning, James M. Field, E. M. Bolton and John C. Avery.

It is not known whether the records of the tournaments held by the club are yet extant. Mr. Oldershaw remembers that Seymour Gates won the first tournament, and that afterward he challenged Mr. Gates to a series of 30 games, and won 21 from home. J. E. Kellogg beat Oldershaw in this tournament, which was a very enthusiastic one. Since then, Mr. Oldershaw has probably forgotten more about checkers than he knew. The club once challenged the Northampton club to a “consultation” game. There were both checkers and chess games played. They left Holyoke at 8 in a bus about 14 strong, and at 11 the checker men had finished and won from Northampton. The chess men played until 1, and left the game unfinished. It was taken up at 8:20 the following Thursday night and played by telegraph a move, and after the time for consideration Northampton would wire back its move. The game continued with great fury until 2 a.m. and was then left unfinished, and so far as Mr. Oldershaw can recollect was never finished.

Probably no other man in New England has accumulated the mass of literature on the game of checkers as has Mr. Oldershaw. He has, for instance, about 1500 clippings from the New York Clipper, which has for years published a checker column. He has dozens of manuals and books of the game, and several of the magazines for checker players, mostly of foreign print. Scotchmen seem to be the nation most interested in the game, and a number of the pays are given Scotch names. One or two American publications have been started ad died, and of these he has several. And, despite the simplicity of the game, there is always something new to learn; he says he is learning yet, and it is 31 years since he took of the game. It was in this way: Charles Streeter, now of Belchertown, came to Holyoke and was fortune to win from about every Holyoke player. He boarded at the same place as Mr. Oldershaw, and after repeated urgings he prevailed up him to play the game. After a time he became fascinated with it, and has remained a devotee since, so that any amateur player in this section of the state cannot feel that he has had his mettle tested until he has taken a trip to Holyoke and tried his chance with the doughty checker champion of 30 years standing.

Mr. Oldershaw is a pure amateur, never playing for so much as a cigar. Of late he had performed the feat successfully of playing against a number of antagonists at once. In this way he played 13 boards at Westfield and did not lose a game. He is a quiet unassuming man, not given to boasting in any way, and in all his contests, do far as can be learned, has never had a harsh word for those who have defeated him. It is his amusement, his hobby — and he finds in it the relaxation that others find in golf, canoeing, card-playing and the like. He has twice attended the annual contests held at Boston by the new Boston club against “all New England.” These are held on Washington’s birthday of each year, and between 200 and 300 checker players from all over New England attend. One of the most prominent checker players in New England today is a Boston man named Barker. Mr. Olderhaw’s Holyoke friends believe that he could give him a drubbing, but they have as yet never met, although a match game between the two men would attract much interest and settle, perhaps, who is the champion of New England.

Springfield Republican, April 6, 1902, page 14.

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