In the Mount Vernon area, there are many longstanding organizations and clubs. But, I only know of one purely based on friendship and exercise.
For forty years, the "Early Birds" have been playing tennis with each other at 6 a.m. at Mount Vernon Athletic Club. This unique group of 14 people started out as typical parents and DC workers... rushing to do their exercise before going off to work or to the demands of children and family. 5 days a week (M-F) they would meet at MTVAC for an hour of singles, and then a cup of coffee afterwards to talk over the world's problems, or maybe just those in the community. The round table discussions, it was called.
Two of the original players, Bill and Carmen Pascoe, remember the group just naturally forming. Early bird players that knew they'd have a match if they showed up at that early hour. Regularity became routine, routine became friendship, friendship became lifelong friendship.
"We show up because we have this obligation to each other. If we don't come, the others worry." By the way, Bill is 81 years old this year, and Carmen is 83 (and still working as a language specialist for the Foreign Service Institute). "Exercise is a pleasurable thing that keeps us going!" I think he means this in more than one way!
The members of this group have mostly stayed constant, but a few have retired and moved away, or sadly, passed away. For instance, Joann Seeley and her husband, Jim, raised 11 children in the neighborhood of Stratford Landing. They all went to area schools and learned their parent's love of tennis. This community is her family's anchor - and the Early Birds have been Joann's personal constant. Now in retirement, she reflects back on the dear friends she has made on the tennis court - the weddings they've attended, the birthdays they've celebrated, and the annual summer gathering the Seeley's host for them all. And she says,"We've seen it all together, and grown old together. We are committed to still coming now that we're retired and can enjoy it after 7 a.m.! Exercise keeps us moving and healthy."
Marty LaVor, the group's unofficial leader and winter tournament director, has lived in Mount Vernon since 1969. When playing tennis outdoors became unreliable, his hitting parner suggested joining "this new indoor tennis place." And he's been coming ever since. Marty was the Senior Staffer on the U.S. House Education and Labor committee. His love of photography evolved into a second career, and he's now published 14 photographic books. "Everyone's background is so different in the Early Birds - it's so unique to have this tight knit group of people who have no common thread of background." But, tennis and friendship have kept them together.
They gather 4 mornings a week, including Saturdays now - and have added donuts to their coffee routine (that's a whole other story!) - and the table is rectangular now. But, you can still find them discussing just about anything from the difference in bird songs in South and North America, to rebuilding 1962 Lancia Flaminia Zagatos, to activities at the Hollin Hall Senior Center (where Mr. Pascoe is the President tot he Advisory Council). At least from 7-8 a.m., after tennis! Oh, and they play doubles now.
Congratulations to Rivers Hanson, 2012 Early Bird Tournament Winner!