Once Upon a Time


In the summer of 1993, a group of five women and one man met regularly on the Weston family's finished screened deck. These participants were Martha Tang, Evelyne Murray, Betty DesJardins, Maureen Morin, George Viet, and Colette Weston.

With numbers increasing, the club moved to the Gloucester Senior Center for the 1994-1996 seasons. Even then, the club managed to pay the rent of $15.00 an evening with the attendance hovering between six and nine players, especially during the winter months. After Colette attended her first sanctioned tournament in May 1996 in Montreal, and realizing that Ottawa had only a tiny handful of expert SCRABBLE participants at the event (the local Woody's Tavern people of transcending fame), she decided to write an article to the Ottawa Citizen. Isn't it time that Ottawa had a SCRABBLE club? It appeared on July 29, 1996, on the Editorial page, and luckily set up a train of events that opened up the doors of the National Press Club on Wellington Street. The president of the Press Club, W. Bilal Syed, in an open letter to the Editor (Oct 7, 1996) titled "Where to play SCRABBLE", offered the new group "use of the premises to start a SCRABBLE society in Ottawa... Members of the SCRABBLE Circle will be issued a $15.00 card that will allow them access to the games every other Saturday for 6 months." A large group of Ottawa SCRABBLE players, 60 in all, showed up.

Colette attended the first meeting in late October, but when she and her husband John came back from Florida in the spring, the Press club had decided not to renew its lease. Nevertheless, the free publicity given to the group from the Ottawa Citizen and the National Press Club has been the club's greatest breakthrough and was instrumental in our decision to have our club sanctioned by the NSA (National SCRABBLE Association) a year later. Colette succeeded in getting a list of all the former 60 participants (Lou Cornelis, Sheila Masterson, Ann Balcom, and Andrew Cadzow were among them... and still are, occasionally!). After contacting most of the players, either by phone or mail, the Club took up its former location at the Gloucester Senior Center.

When Colette found out that the newly constructed Gloucester Library (July 1997) was offering better quarters for the same rental for non-profit groups ($15.00 per evening, since increased to $25.00), the club agreed to move there in the summer of 1997. After Colette passed the Director's test, she had the club registered with the NSA, and it became known as Club #495, the first sanctioned SCRABBLE club for the Capital Region. Able fellow Scrabblers Richard Karis and Lou Cornelis took up the slack during the three winters 1998-1999-2000. John Weston and Emilie Henkelman passed their directorship exams in 2001, becoming our accredited second and third co-directors, with Emilie agreeing to direct the club during the winter months. More recently, we've added some younger blood in the persons of Jeremy Hildebrand, Matthew Tunnicliffe, John Stardom, Heidi Robertson, and Jim Brennan. Our club boasts stronger and stronger players with each passing year, with Lou Cornelis attaining the expert level in 2000, Jeremy Hildebrand in 2005, John Stardom in 2006, Sue Tremblay in 2007, Ross Brown in 2008, Matthew Tunnicliffe and David Jones in 2009, Deen Hergott in 2010, Dean Porporo in 2013, Jim Brennan and Wayne Barclay in 2014, Ryan Chepita in 2016, Phil Waldron in 2019, and more on the way. (We can't take credit for Adam Logan, who's been an expert since the mid-1980's, but we count him among our number as well.) With this roster, our club made a huge splash at the 2013 Canadian National SCRABBLE Championship by placing 1-2-3-6-10. Adam repeated as CNSC champion in 2016, to no-one's surprise!

Colette would like to take this opportunity to add a heartfelt thank-you for the support of every one of the loyal club members who keep the lifeblood of weekly competitive SCRABBLE alive in this city, and especially for the unfailing help of her late husband, John Weston, who, throughout the years, sacrificed his Wednesday evenings just to keep us organized. Also her deepest gratitude to our personal record-keeper, collector of bingos, mistress of all trades, and organizer of our first two-day sanctioned tournament in the summer of 2005, Emilie Henkelman. Colette hopes our "legacy" will live on and that Ottawa SCRABBLE Club #495 will take up its pride of place among the long-lived SCRABBLE clubs of this hemisphere.

Article originally written by Colette Weston in the first person.

Paraphrased, switched to the third person, lightly edited, battered and deep-fried with a twist of lemon, by Jeremy Hildebrand. Later updates by Ross Brown.

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