The Manifesto of the Tennis Courts
It was the summer of 1946. It had been a most productive summer and we counselors wanted a week of "vacation". A group would take the young folk back to New York and then return and we would rejoin those who remained behind for a week of fun and games and live in the bunks. Who dreamt up this cockamamie idea I cannot recall but it probably started in a discussion between two, who went to a fourth who then brought in six counselors, sub-counselors, life guards, waiters etc.
Davidovitch was cool to the plan when presented by the few committed trouble makers and they returned to an ever increasing group of people who loved the thought of "strike" against the "bosses" and yes, it would be a nice vacation which no one had ever thought of before. So over the next few days passions were gradually raised by those guys who actually fell in love with the idea of really annoying Davidovitch and Gedalia Sandler.
So when the flames of passion had gained some height we went to Davidovitch and requested a meeting of the "Bosses" and the "Workers." The meeting was held in the Dining Room as I recall. George Rubman or Irving Lipner would remember. The room was packed. The strategy had been worked out before. We would politely ask yet again for them to consider the week before Labor Day and immediately after. The details are very hazy because of what happened. We would , if not given that vacation, strike, so that only a few counselors would take the children to the activities, or withhold activities, or whatever.
Davidovitch of course rejected the whole idea of a week vacation and looking back on it now of course he was right; the margins were slim at best but we were young and itching to put into action the Labor issues we had been taught. My mother had been a strike leader of the ILGWU and I hated the word "boss" and had Pavlovian responses to the word. So---I rose to speak.
I cannot recall what I said but I recall vividly Davidovitch's response." If (we) pursued our threat to strike we would be behaving no better than Nazis and (I was one). The word enraged me. I was about the second or third row back; I shouted something, grabbed my lanyard and shouted to Sidney Rubinstein, "Hold my lanyard" jumped up on the table to get at Davicovitch, the room erupted in shouting people holding me down separating Dovy from me and the meeting ended. It was probably about 2200.
The group marched en masse down to the tennis courts and the whole group except for the dizhournas wrote up a "Manifesto of the Tennis Courts" stating our case; all very French Revolution. Who played the role of Robespierre I cannot recall nor who was Marat. I wasn't at the courts but Red Lipner and Marx Wartofsky and Herbie Gutmann wrote a wonderful manifesto. I, however, had broken my mother's basic tenet--never lose your temper in negotiations. Besides, Dovy had just fired me. And I felt humiliated that I had ruined the discussions therefore I disappeared into my bunk.
The next day was filled with rumors; the strike was called for I recall two days hence. Cooler heads prevailed. Dovy got someone to get me to the office and I got my job back (I was a First Group counselor) and the bargainers received for us a a long weekend I think Thursday to Sunday of "vacation."
Someone wrote that it’s easy to idealize the past because it cannot defend itself but I remember that night, now, with warmth and joy and it relieves the present for which I thank you.
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