When I first came to Winchester, court maintenance was minimal. Back then, the closing of the courts consisted of Whit Gray getting in touch with 20 or 30 players who would show up on a Saturday in November and move a giant pile of boards from the woods next to court #12 to cover the lines. It would take an hour or two and that was it. In the spring the opposite occurred, and the boards were moved back to the woods. You had to have a good pair of gloves to avoid the splinters in the boards. The recently retired town employee Norm Doucette was in charge of maintaining the courts. There was no sprinkler system, so Norm had to drag around a bunch of hoses, sweep up the leaves into a barrel and throw them in the woods. He did his best with what he had back then.
Sometime in the 1980’s, the Har Tru surface was installed and the playing conditions improved immeasurably. Later on a fund raiser was held to obtain funds for an inground sprinkler system, fed by pond water. This made the maintenance much easer. Unfortunately, the courts again fell into a less than optimal state. Gordan Nicholson headed a group of players who went to the town manager to see if some improvements could be made. He was agreeable to our pleas, and hired Don Ellis to maintain the courts. Don was a God-send. He had a big red tractor which made maintenance much easer, and devoted many hours every week to keeping the courts in shape. Don was a respected local gardener and quite a good athlete. He was a terrific hockey player in his prime, and was supposed to go to tryouts for the 1952 Olympic hockey team, but they couldn’t get in touch with him. I think he forgot to charge his cell phone.
Donald R. Ellis was born in Winchester on August 22, 1927 to
parents Artemas Ellis, and Lila Webb. He stayed in Winchester
for much of his life, serving a brief stint in the military at age
18. In 1996, he married his wife, Sandra Erikson in Winchester.
Mr. Ellis was particularly known for his enthusiasm for tennis. He
loved the game, and served as president of the Winchester
Tennis Association in 1974. Ellis not only acted as president, but also was dedicated to keeping the courts in good repair, working on duty for much more time than he was paid for. Over a period of 20 years his background in landscaping provided valuable expertise to the running of the courts. Don Ellis believed that tennis provided an ideal opportunity for Winchester residents to meet and spend time with their friends.
Ellis died on October 11 of 2002, and the Packer Courts were renamed the Packer/Ellis Courts just a month after. The Packer/Ellis courts were built on land originally bought by the town for the creation of a playground in 1917.