They call it The Wall. Just that. The Wall.
Yet there are people around the country, even the world, who instantly translate the meaning of those two words into a wealth of memories of great success, bitter failure, and punishing practice. The Wall is a concrete structure about 20 feet high by 40 feet wide in Hamtramck’s Veterans Memorial Park. For decades youngsters and adults have hit tennis balls against it. Literally millions of the balls have bounced off its surface, sometimes right on target and sometimes at odd angles. But in every case the aim was to improve their tennis skills.
Many of those players were under the direction of legendary tennis coach Jean Hoxie. She established the first tennis camp in America, and some of her pupils went on to play at Wimbledon. Hoxie ruled over her students with a firm voice and strict manner often relegating slipping students to long sessions of practice facing The Wall. Each shot pounded the image of The Wall into their minds, so much so that decades later for some just the mention of the words “The Wall” prompt an instant recognition of its image.
In recent years, The Wall has fallen out of use as local tennis interest has waned, and it was not regularly maintained. Through the efforts of some of those “Hoxie kids”, and local members of the United States Tennis Association and their volunteers, 2023 stands as a turning point to reinvigorate the sport in Hamtramck, including use of The Wall. On November 15, the finishing touches were placed on painted sign at The Wall’s top, which followed the removal of lead paint, a new coat of dark green paint, and the installation of a historical plaque to commemorate its rich history.
The tennis aficionados are also working to re-establish a full tennis program in the city. A regular series of tennis lessons was offered at the courts this past summer. And, no doubt, many future students will be working out at the park’s newly restored icon:
(Contributions from Greg Kowalski and Chuck Brainard)