Charlestown Dads Bring Pickleball to Union Street Playground

By Allen Reitz

On Wednesday nights on the converted Union Street tennis court, the sounds of “Thonk! Thonk!” ripple through the surrounding neighborhood.  These are the sounds of the world’s fastest growing sport, Pickleball, which has reached this small enclave of Boston and is continuing to grow in prominence on a weekly basis.

Pictured top eft to right: Dan Heffernan, Nick Godfrey, Harry Hoyt, Karl Hoyt, Slater Godfrey, John Strachan, Chris Hayden, and John Conforti; Bottom left to right: David Fortunato, son of Swing, Swing Roberts, Scott Nilson, Paul Gamble, and Nate Blanchet.

Lathered up in Ultra Strength Icy Hot and with the occasional squeaks of several knee braces in action, a growing number of Charlestown dads, affectionately called the “Picalars,” have taken over the tennis/basketball/preschool kids racetrack court to play a game that is part tennis and ping pong. 

Normal calls like “out” and “net” are mixed with Pickleball phrases  such as “you stepped in the kitchen” or the score is 2-3-1, which means the score is 2 serving 3 and it’s the 1st of 2 serves.  If it sounds confusing, it is, and only the true Pickle diehards can remember the correct combination of numbers to call out before the serve. 

John Strachan, the informal leader of this band of Pickle misfits, was quintessential in bringing this game to Charlestown.

“We have two courts, with room for a 3rd, allowing for 12 people to compete in Pickleball comfortably. Membership to the Picalars has been based on word of mouth and the ability to swing a paddle, not necessarily how quickly you can move on the court,” stated the multiple-knee replacement Strachan.

While Wednesday nights are where you can find the Picalars in action, many others have started playing over the weekends adding to the popularity of Pickle.  

“Pickleball is here to stay in Charlestown,” added Hoyt. “The camaraderie, the tough competition and the pure hook of the sport is what makes this game and Wednesday nights so special.”

After the games on Wednesday, the Picalars head to their local clubhouse, Sullivan’s Public House, to converse about the multiple aces, line points and overhead slams that may or may not have happened.   

Allen Reitz is a Fellow Picalar and longtime Charlestown resident.

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