The Way It Was – Shade


Editor’s note: In this week’s column, Bill Boyd writes about his memories of Forrest “Shade” Watkins. Shade worked for the Union County Journal and Marysville Journal-Tribune for 42 years. He was a 1946 graduate of Marysville High School. He served as Marysville Mayor for several years. Bill continues to work with the Union County Historical Society to obtain information for his stories. With Marysville and Union County celebrating Bicentennial anniversaries in 2019 and 2020, respectively, these articles help depict what life was like in those early years.

Pictured above is Forrest “Shade” Watkins, right, working at the Journal-Tribune as retired publisher Dan Behrens, holding current publisher Kevin Behrens, looks on.

During the 1940s when I was growing up in Marysville, I spent quite a bit of time at Elwood Sawyer’s tennis court, at the corner of Fourth and Cedar Streets. In fact, I learned how to play tennis on that court. I was the youngest of all the boys who hung out there. I wasn’t a bad player, but I certainly wasn’t a good player either. I guess you could say I was pretty average. But I really enjoyed the game.
Some of the older boys, especially those who played sports on high school teams, were pretty good. A lot of them were fast, and they could get to the ball no matter where it was hit. Others had a dynamite serve that came at you so fast you could barely see it. Then there were a couple of boys who could put so much spin on the ball, that when you tried to return it, you had no idea where it would go.
But there was one of those older boys that I really liked to watch. His name was Forrest Watkins, but everyone called him by his nickname, “Shade.” He was four or five years older than I was, and he was a bit of a puzzle to me. He didn’t play sports in high school, and he wasn’t very fast. He didn’t have a dynamite serve, yet he was a consistent winner. In fact, he won several tennis tournaments that were held on that court. How in the world did he do that?
I think it was because Shade knew his strong points and his weak points. And he always played within his limits. I don’t recall him ever doing anything really spectacular, but then I also don’t remember him making any big mistakes either.
Most players had to wait and see where their opponents hit the ball. Then they would dash there and try to make the return. Shade never seemed to do that. It was as if he had a “sixth sense,” so he knew where his opponent would hit the ball. And when the return came, he was there to hit it back.
If I had to choose two words to best describe Shade as a tennis player, I think I would say he was “patient” and “consistent.” And that was the secret of his success.
At some point, they had a doubles tournament on the court. I think it was the only doubles tournament they ever had. They teamed up the older players with younger players, and my partner was Shade Watkins. And I am pleased to say that we won that tournament. It was the only tennis tournament I ever won. And to be honest, I should say that it was really Shade who won the tournament for us.
Nevertheless, I did a lot of bragging around our dinner table for several days. While we were eating, my parents had to sit there and listen as I described some of my outstanding play – my dynamite serves, my spectacular volleys and the like. I’m sure my parents knew it was all hogwash, but they sat there and listened. I guess that’s just part of being a parent.
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