P.E.I. tennis player still swings through his eighties

Jim Day jday@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on June 23, 2014

The zingers are volleyed almost as often as the tennis balls.

Robert Acorn is the exception. He is more likely to respond to the playful banter in a game of doubles with a toothy grin than by leveling his own verbal shot.

But when he does fire back, he hits the mark.

“He’s laid back but he can come up with a good witticism every now and then. And very good — very good at the repartee,’’ says playing partner Doug Piercey.

At 81, Piercey of Charlottetown is the second oldest among the four tennis players at the courts in Victoria Park on this overcast Friday morning.

Acorn, who turns 87 Aug. 1, is the old man in the group, facing off with Piercey against 80-year-old Ben Barr and Freeman MacKenzie, a comparative babe in the woods in his late 60s.

Acorn, smartly attired in green pants, bright white sneakers, and white sweater, does not look his age moving around the tennis court with the agility and balance of a player a decade or two younger.

“He moves quite well,’’ observes Piercey. “The only thing that annoys me with him occasionally is that he doesn’t get himself in position.’’

Acorn, with little conviction and plenty of laughter, requests that his partner’s technical assessment of his play not find a way into print.

He is far from overly competitive minded when he steps onto the court. His expression doesn’t change much whether his side wins or loses a point, game, set or match.

Still, when asked why he plays tennis, he notes a well-placed whack or two is what keeps bringing him back.

“I love a good shot for one thing,’’ he says. “It’s fun.’’

And Acorn, brother of the renowned late poet Milton Acorn, gets in plenty of whacks. He plays “every day that is fine’’ and each of those days he is on the court for 60 to 90 minutes.

He is not winded after a game. Later in the day, no aches or pains creep in either.

Acorn is simply an active man who keeps on the go.

He is up at six in the morning and not back to bed until midnight.

Six straight hours of sleep, with an afternoon nap thrown in, are all that is needed to charge the batteries for this energetic elderly man to tackle one busy day after another.

He pedals his bike twice a week highlighted by a 14-kilometre ride on Sundays for a trip into Charlottetown and back to Brackley where he lives with his wife, Alta. He recently biked 20 kilometres in the pouring rain on a jaunt from Emerald Junction to Borden-Carleton.

He walks his springer spaniel Kate two or three times a day. He does Tai Chi.

And Acorn even cuts his own wood with a chainsaw.

“It’s really getting to be work,’’ he concedes of the later activity.

Well, if he eases up on his chain sawing, that might free up time for his plan to dust off the old aluminum canoe for its first excursion in a few years.

“It seems like I have the affinity for a lot of things,’’ says the saxophone player for the Second Chances Band.

The food loving, wine-drinking Acorn doesn’t pretend to be a health nut. He is just an octogenarian constantly on the go.

“It’s what I do,’’ he says.

Robert Acorn