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Senior table tennis champs share love of the game and each other

Senior table tennis champs share love of the game and each other

(Courtesy of The Coast News Group)
Senior table tennis champs share love of the game and each other
OCEANSIDE — Si Wasserman is 95. He does not look it or act it. He is limber and nimble with clear eyes and a steady hand. He holds numerous impressive table tennis titles and married for the first time a year ago. How does he do it? Wasserman credits his good health and longevity to the brisk games of table tennis he plays at the El Corazon Senior Center in Oceanside.

Of course, he has much more history with the game than the three times a week he plays at the senior center. It goes way back to Detroit in the 1940s when at age 12 he went down to the recreation center and played. It was just for fun. At age 15 a friend asked him to play and this time he started taking the game seriously.

A few years later, Wassernman joined the military. He found that every base had a day room and most had table tennis tables, so he played frequently. Still, it was just for fun.

After World War II in 1949 he got serious playing in tournaments. He played out of the YMCA in Los Angeles and the California Table Tennis Center in Hollywood. In 1952, he took possession of the center when the owner, who could rarely make a profit, told him he could have it, if he paid $350 a month rent.

“That was a lot then,” he said.

He worked 16 hours a day, first at his job as assistant to the manager of the Ranch Park Golf Course in Los Angeles and then at the center, but the center was never about money. It was about the game.

He took a great deal of pleasure coaching junior players and many of the top players of that era came from Wasserman’s center.

“Two of my girls went on to win national championships,” he said.

He continued that hectic schedule into the 1970s.
And then he lost his heart for the game and his business because of a rouge player who did everything to make his life miserable. The player, he said, had lied about his age to win a tournament and Wasserman forced him to returns his trophy. His life was never the same due to break-ins and other constant malicious mischief by the player, which police could never prove.

“I quit playing for 30 years,” he said. “I was still playing golf, which was my first love.”

In the early 1990s a friend asked him to play at the Country Club Senior Center in Oceanside and then when El Corazon opened he began playing there.

He plays about three times a week against people in their 50s, 60s and 70s.

“I can beat some of them,” Wasserman said.

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