Popularity grew gradually. Then, fortune struck. Or so it's said. Even the Hasbro site describes this next part as "legend."
According to the story, the president of Macy's discovered the game on vacation, and ordered some for his store. Within a year, the game was wildly popular and Scrabble had to be rationed in stores.
In 1952, demand was so great, the originators of Scrabble could no longer keep up. They had to license the distribution and marketing to Selchow and Righter Company, a well-known game manufacturer, which was similar but not exactly like Sun Records selling Elvis's contract to RCA.
At that point, Scrabble was basically the game people love today. Now it's a classic.
Kanawha Valley Scrabble Club co-director Lisa Green got an early start in her Scrabble career. Her father started encouraging her to play when she was 6.
"He was really into it, and he started me with a handicap. It started at 200 points and then it got smaller as I got older, until I was beating him regularly. Then it went away," Lisa said. "We still play. He still beats me sometimes."
A friend agreed to play while she was in college but soon decided he never wanted to play against her again when she beat him by nearly 150 points. After searching for someone willing to play Scrabble with her, Lisa joined the Kanawha Valley Club in 2007. It encourages her to advance and get better at the game.
The Scrabble tournament at the Ramada Inn from Sept. 28-30 was the seventh NASPA-sanctioned tournament hosted by the Kanawha Valley club. Twenty-eight players from states including Kentucky, North Carolina, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Michigan, New Jersey and Ohio came in for the event.
Players from other clubs know to look for tournaments on the NASPA website as well as another site dedicated to organized Scrabble play called cross-tables.com. Kanawha Valley did not need to advertise. They held the tournament, and people came.
While some tournaments can get heated at times, the Kanawha Valley club maintains a fun and positive atmosphere, even if the competition is stiff.
"I remember a few years ago Brad wore a Superman cape," said tournament winner Ryan Fischer of the Charlotte, N.C. Scrabble club. "This year, he gave out leis. The after-hours activities are always fun, too."
Ryan received a $350 payout for his first-place ranking. His highest score was 503 points, and words like "menthols" and "soupier" helped him secure his top spot.
Winning tournaments is important for serious Scrabble players because of the cash prizes for first through fourth places.
NASPA competitors are nationally ranked so they also seek victories to advance their rankings.
"If you play someone who is rated higher than you and you beat them, you gain rating points," Brad said. "Also if you have a higher rating than someone and they beat you, then you lose rating points. The rating system has a complicated mathematical equation to figure out rankings, but it favors the underdog."
Lisa believes the large cash prizes draw players to the Charleston tournament.
"We use entry fees to give out prize money, and our 90 percent payout is higher than some of the other tournaments' prizes."
Lisa placed fourth in her division and claimed a modest winning.
"I won 80 bucks! Which makes me happy because I'm not used to winning money," she said.
While the club holds organized study sessions for members to build their vocabulary and practice techniques, Lisa says the best way to get better is to play.
Playing against real people rather than a computer is key, and that makes meetings that much more important. Meetings allow members to practice and build their skill while having fun with friends.
"The cool thing about Scrabble is you're playing the same game over and over, but really it's a different game every time," she said. "The same letters are coming out of the bag, but you'll never have the same game more than once."
If you are interested in joining the Kanawha Valley Scrabble Club, contact Brad Mills at wvscrab...@gmail.com or call 304-345-0484 during evening hours.