Does Anyone Play Checkers Anymore?

From the Stereoscope July 2011

By Susan Perry

The Nebraska Prairie Museum has a very unique picture board in its possession. When the Nebraska Checkers Association disbanded because of waning interest in this hobby, they presented the museum with the Nebraska Checkers Association Hall of Fame display. It features the 10 gentlemen who won several titles over the years. Three of those pictured were from this immediate area. L.T. Brooking from Funk competed in 26 tournaments, and held 4 titles. Adolph Carlson, also of Funk, competed in the same number of tournaments and won 3 times. Ernest Clay of Holdrege was in competition 17 times and won 3 times too. An interesting sidelight is that one of these men, Leslie Green of Omaha (an African American) entered four tournaments and won four times. Other area men listed who participated over the years were George Johnson, Allen Anderson, Fred Horn, Paul Burgeson, Walter Carlson, John and Ed Anderson of Funk. In 1935 these last five challenged the “Kearney experts” to an evening of checkers and came home the winners. Fred Horn, that same year, brought home a state championship in Class B checkers. Class A–Class B–two tiers of checkers were played in every championship tourney. When Holdrege hosted the players for the fourth time in 1955 an article was run in the paper explaining the play of the two days. The “Battle of the Boards” procedure is as follows: “Contestants are divided into two groups with each group receiving players as equal in ability as possible. Then each player will start a round-robin in each group. The five highest in each group will then be classified as Class A and will play a round-robin. The remaining players will be in Class B. The four highest Class A players will be semi-finalists and pairings will then be drawn for the finals.” Allen Anderson reached the semifinals several times, and finished second at least twice. Many men played in the tournaments 30-40 years. L.T.Brooking from Funk was one of the earliest contestants, and challenged in the tournaments when he was in his late 70’s. A.M. Voss from Lincoln played in his first tourney at the age of 25 in 1902. After being out of competition well into the 20’s, he began playing again and was in almost 40 tournaments, never quite achieving the top spot. In 1955, at the age of 79, he finally took home the trophy. Ironically, he had donated a new one to replace the worn one, so he was the first recipient of his own gift! He listed “concentration and the ability to outguess the challenger across the table as the essentials of a good checker player.” He won over Ernest Clay, drawing in three games out of four. The next year Clay won the title for the third time. Over the years Holdrege was often the site of the tournament. (The pictures accompanying this article were taken in Holdrege.) Throughout the 60s and early 70s Lloyd Mills of Lincoln became the perennial winner and the man to beat. By the time the tournaments were no longer held, he had amassed 46 state tournaments and 38 titles. At the height of the game’s popularity many players were registered to compete. In 1955, 25 came to play. In the late 60s the numbers were falling till in 1973 only seven were registered. Mr. Mills then said that “we may have reached the end of the line.” No one may be playing checkers anymore, but the quote on the Hall of Fame Honor Roll says what was and can be gained from trying this sport. “One who rises to the challenge along the road to victory and glory. He keeps his goals in sight and respects his competitor and the rules of the game.”*Editor’s Note: The Phelps County Sports Room has a special display just for Checkers. The Sports Room is currently under construction, but will soon be available for visitors.

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