Recently a customer asked how we could be sure that an inscription and signature on a book really were by the great Lew Hoad.
I was a bit surprised by the certainty with which my mother said it was. She said it was like other signatures by him we had, which didn’t seem like a strong test to me since they might all have been faked.
That’s when the confession came out.
In 1952 the Davis Cup final was in Adelaide at Memorial Drive between Australia and the US, the two giants of the event. My mother was a school girl working in town during the Christmas Holidays. One day in her lunch hour she picked up from a newspaper vendor a copy of the program for the final. The team included the youngsters Ken Rosewall and Lew Hoad, who were not to play in this final, but were integral to Australia’s success in others a little later. Lew Hoad was a bit of a bad boy on the scene by the sound of it. Brilliant but erratic. And my mother, like thousands of other Australian girls, no doubt, was in love with him. So imagine how excited she was when, her program clutched in hand, she discovered a bit past the newspaper vendor a crowd by the Town Hall, there, it transpired, because the Australian Davis Cup team was coming out. She grabbed the opportunity to get Lew Hoad’s signature – well, those of the rest of the team too, I’m sure my mother was polite about the whole thing.
Move along a few years and my father threw out the program! At first I was shocked by this, but I see it all now so much more clearly as I rethink it. Jealousy. Lew Hoad never knew my mother’s true feelings, but my father must have. The way she held the program to her bosom in bed was probably the giveaway. So, no doubt about it, that signature must have been burned into her brain and we can take her word for it. If she says ‘That’s Lew’s alright’, it darn well will be.
And if those feelings aren’t as ardent still as they were 65 years ago – she started explaining why it was that Lew had a bad year in ’54. And she told me the story of the early 1970s computer which established – on what data we know not – that Hoad was the greatest player of all time. Still is, she said last night.
Postscript: My mother recalls that she was the worst singer in the world, but that at the time she was in love with Lew Hoad, one of the big songs being given airplay was Embraceable You. And yes. You’ve picked it. My own mother went around driving everybody crazy singing Embraceable Lew.