Having had the honor of playing over twenty Lapham-Grant matches and having been the U.S. team captain, I was particularly pleased to be asked to write this article. More than anything else, there is no doubt the Lapham-Grant is steeped in tradition “pressed down and running over’. But before discussing tradition, I must first set forth some facts and history.
In 1922 Henry G. Lapham of Brookline, Mass., donated the “International Squash Racquets Lapham Trophy” for singles competition. In 1944 Alastair Grant of Montreal, Quebec donated the International Doubles Squash Racquets Grant Trophy”. The two deeds of gift are very similar calling for annual competition to be held alternately in Canada and the United States. The number of matches were established as from five to fifteen in singles and from five to eleven In doubles. Both deeds of gift state, The competition shall be open to teams representing the United States and Canada”. This restriction is worthy of note because in 1924 and 1927 official teams from the British S.R.A. competed. The 1924 team was led by Gerald Robarts of the Bath Club, London_ Sad to report this venerable dub was recently torn down. Robarts is unique in the history of squash for, during his visit to North America, he won both the U.S. and Canadian singles championships. In 1972 a team from the S.R.A. of Australia competed on an unofficial basis as they had insufficient players.
In size and beauty the trophies themselves rival the Davis Cup, the Stanley Cup and the Sumo Cup. They are valued at well over $50,000. It is of interest to note the Grant Trophy was lost for about ten years and was ultimately discovered in the basement of the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association. The first addition to the trophies was a tray given by Henry Lapham’s son. Since then various additions have been donated by past C.S.R.A. and U.S.S.R.A. Presidents such as, in alphabetical order, S. Brauns, H. Hallward, W. Ketcham, D. Leggat, G. rviorntt, I. Stewart, and T. Wrightson.
In the Lapham matches the winners have been United States 36, Canada 23 and England 1. In the Grant matches the winners have been United States 15 and Canada 14. Twenty four cities have acted as hosts. In the early years these competitions were held In separate cities but for most of their history they were held concurrently. Since World War II the United States has avoided holding these events in such major centers as Boston, New York and Philadelphia as these cities are reserved for the hosting of the National Singles. Perhaps the most unusual venue was the doubles court at the Aetna Life Insurance Company in Hartford, Conn. It was too long, too narrow, too high, had vents in the side wall’s playing area and the floor was lined for every sport except bowling on the green.
At least two individuals, David Fleming-Wood and Ian IVIcAvity, have played for both countries. What has been of particular interest Is the continuing involvement of both governing assodation’s officers. A unique example of this was the 1945 U.S. doubles team. It contained three father-son combinations; Kingsley, Knox and Sonnabend. Ultimately all six became officers of the U.S.S.R.A.
Surely the most import tradition is the high level of sportsmanship evident in all concerned. Having a much larger population, the United States could have run up a much higher score of victories. However, historically, the two nations have consciously tried to balance their two teams. As someone once observed, a Lapham team should consist of five good players, five inferior players and five bon vivants. When two great champions, Sam Howe and Colin Adair, were playing each other, the referee called a let point against Adair. Howe was furious and told the referee in no uncertain terms that let points were never called in Lapham play. One of the former great stalwarts of the U.S. team came from New England. He always played number 15 and always lost. However, one year the Canadians, with great compassion for his continuing loyalty, produced a player worse than our hero and he finally won.
Another important tradition is the Saturday evening black tie dinner. The room is decorated with the two flags and toasts are proposed to the Queen and the U.S. President. Champagne is poured into the Lapharn Trophy for one and all to drink. In 1958 Braman Adams was not only President of the U.S.S.R.A. but also Treasurer of the Field Cup of Greenwich, site of the Lapham-Grant. He spent the club’s entire annual entertainment budget on that weekend by having served such teams as rock comish game hens stuffed with wild rice. At one dinner in Canada each course was brought from the kitchen preceded by the Black Watch pipers. Normally there is no guest speaker but one time the Canadians invited the famous Camillien Houde to address the dinner. He had had a highly checkered career. He spent World War II in jail as an objector and then, phoenix-like, he ran for and was elected mayor of Montreal using the campaign slogan his constituents should be called Canadians of French descent and not French-Canadians.
The final tradition has been the impact of demon rum on the contestants, which in many cases has been historic. In the past, players have (a) fallen down stairs breaking their collarbone (b) been jailed for drunkenness (c) sent to bed down an elevator in a laundry basket (d) received a midnight phone call from their wife saying “You’re married and you’re drunk” (e) found asleep in the snow (f) arrived at the dub Saturday morning still in black tie (g) fallen into the court.
It has been truly said the 3,000 mile border between Canada and the United States is the longest unguarded international border in the world. This is easily understood when one considers the grand spirit behind the glorious history of the Lapham-Grant. And, so, in parting, as Sir Henry Newbolt urged in Vitai Lampada ‘Play upl play up! and play the game!”