24 October 2017

Of Grass Stains and Prison Breaks

While researching any topic in old chess magazines, one thing invariably leads to another, and other topics offer frequent distractions. A case in point is yesterday's post on Early U.S. Ratings : A Summary and an Exercise, where I noted dozens of other, non-rating topics during the months that I was working on it. Here are a couple of short takes that I noted over the last week.

The first short take, from CL 1953-09-20, is a photo that illustrated the Chess Life report on the 1953 U.S. Open at Milwaukee. Who said mass interest in scholastic chess was a recent phenomenon?

The caption says,

View of the open-air Milwaukee Children's Tournament at Hawthorne Glen where 400 finalists competed for the Milwaukee Junior titles -- an event written up in Collier's and sponsored by the Milwaukee Journal and the Milwaukee Department of Recreation. • Photo: Courtesy Milwaukee Sentinel

From Wikipedia's page on Collier's:-

Collier's was an American magazine, founded in 1888 by Peter Fenelon Collier. It was initially launched as Collier's Once a Week, then changed in 1895 to Collier's Weekly: An Illustrated Journal, and finally shortened in 1905 to simply Collier's. The magazine ceased publication with the issue dated January 4, 1957, though a brief, failed attempt was made to revive the Collier's name with a new magazine in 2012.

The second short take, from CL 1954-08-05, is an atypical filler that appeared on the same page as CL's first photo of William Lombardy. It left me scratching my head.

Chess problemist William J. Couture injured his back in an abortive attempt to escape from Norfolk Prison Colony, Mass. He is now hospitalized and limited to one letter per month. This will explain his inability to continue with his numerous correspondence chess games.

I imagine that escaping from prison would also have resulted in an 'inability to continue with his numerous correspondence chess games', unless he didn't think the whole thing through. The 'MESON Chess Problem Database' has a List of problems by Couture, William J, of which five of the six problems are from other Chess Life issues of the 1950s. Another short item on Couture was in The California Chess Reporter, Vol.1 No.9 (chessdryad.com; PDF):-

William J. Couture is a well-known American problemist and correspondence player. He recently finished serving a long sentence at Rhode Island State Penitentiary, and upon being paroled was reincarcerated in Suffolk County Jail, Boston, on an old charge.

It was during Couture's imprisonment in Rhode Island that his chess talents as player and composer became manifest. He is in need of funds for attorney fees, and has asked THE REPORTER to help him. He is trying to raise $250, and promises to pay back any money lent him. Letters should be addressed to Mr. Couture at 163 West Canton Street, Boston, Massachusetts. (CCR p.189)

A striking feature of the early issues of the USCF's flagship publication, Chess Life, was the lack of balance between the two coasts of the United States. Particularly in the 1950s, the East Coast was heavily favored. Did the CCR provide sufficient counterbalance?

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