Country Club Rises from Ashes

I wasn’t exactly a country club kind of guy. Tennis, for me, involved more ball chasing than volleying. Golf swings were too close to the scythe Dad had me swinging clearing brush alongside the highway.

Dad put me to work one summer doing construction work (the only time from the time I was 12 until I retired in 2008 that I didn’t work for a newspaper in some capacity). He sold it as an opportunity to make some money, but it was his way to demonstrate that college was better than hard labor under the hot sun.

Form oil is nasty

One assignment was to unload lumber off trucks coming in from the job sites. The worst job was humping 4×8-foot sheets of 3/4-inch plywood that had been used as concrete forms. Those unwieldy hunks of dead trees weighed almost as much as a scrawny 16-year-old.

I’d have to unload them from the truck, stack them, use a wire brush to scrape off any concrete that was sticking to them, plug any holes with corks, spray them with form oil and then stack them in bins that were frequently over my head. The form oil was nasty stuff that was designed to keep concrete from sticking to the plywood. It was designed NOT to come off.

As luck would have it, the one time a date invited me to a pool party at the country club was a day when I had spent all day unloading trucks. I could barely raise my arms, let alone swim. I was afraid that I’d leave an oil slick on the pool no matter how many showers I took. The pool and I survived, but I don’t recall being invited back.

I didn’t spend much time shooting these pictures. I was afraid someone might recognize me and hand me a scrub brush to clean off the oil stain I had left 40 years earlier.

This was probably not the building I was in for that swim date. The Missourian had a story that the original building, which opened in 1921, burned on a cold, sleety night Dec. 11, 1963. It’s likely that I had been in the old two-story building.

The Country Club has a spiffy website with some impressive pictures. The site says the formal opening of the new clubhouse was held exactly two years after the old one burned. It became the first 18-hole golf course in Cape.

15 Replies to “Country Club Rises from Ashes”

  1. You were still a skinny kid when you were 23 or so! When I knew you we all smelled like fixer and day old french fries.

    Funny story. Either you have a great memory or your imagination is insane. I think you’ve just had an interesting life.

    Me, I can remember the smell of warm cow’s milk from 55 years ago, but can’t remember a phone number from three seconds ago.

  2. Few recall the structured society that existed in Cape when it was a near stand-alone town dominated by family-owned businesses. The old CG Country Club was a firm pillar of that order, and membership in it was extremely difficult to come by. As a result, the club house was old and the 9 hole golf course had sand greens.

    The opening of the JC course with its grass greens emboldened a group of young Turks to agitate for improvements – that could only be funded by raising dues or expanding the membership. Their actions were not well received by the “ladies of the club.”

    Shortly thereafter, following the annual Lion’s Club Christmas party, a fire mysteriously broke out destroying the club building. Several of the agitators ran into the Men’s Lounge and saved the liquor, which they drank in the parking lot as the fire raged.

    Following the destruction of the clubhouse the membership rolls were thrown open, and the social structure of the town began to change, abetted by the influx of regional and national chains and the raids on the East Side casinos.

    There are few mothers left who sat under “the Hill’s” shade tree watching their children in the pool that remains unchanged, dreading the jumps from the “high dive” onto the slope. More recall sitting on the lower patio watching the magic of Fourth of July fireworks or licking a banana popsickle purchased from Delsi with a 5 cent ticket at the window. And still more remember the semi-monthly dances sponsored by members’ children for 7th, 8th and sometimes 9th graders where white coats (with long ties) and party dresses were a matter of course.

    It was, indeed, a different time.

  3. I vividly remember the old white clapboard building that was the original Country Club. My cousins and I used to swim there each summer and delight in the highest diving board for miles around…..and the best snack bar (that only used tickets – not money). The best part of the day was driving home to my grandmother’s house on North Street by going up “Mill Hill” – a street so steep that my Aunt Rita Vandivort would open the tailgate of her station wagon and let us drag our feet as she urged the old Ford up that hill. The cousins in the back giggled like mad and squealed at the top of our lungs wondering if the car would roll backwards down the hill. There were no seat belts in those days and the ultimate thrill was to hang your feet out the back of a station wagon while the wind in your hair and the road rushing by reminded you were safe and free in small-town America!

  4. Ken, I wish you had gone into the clubhouse on your recent visit. You would have been welcomed and given a tour. We joined the club almost 30 years ago. As Bob Hunt mentioned it has changed. The membership is the most gracious and friendly group you’ll find anywhere. You might want to consider an out-out-town membership. It’s a great deal.
    Many,many fun times have been had at CGCC and the fun continues. Membership drive going on with some “real deals”

    1. Martha,

      I’m sure it’s a wonderful place. I wrote the piece tongue in cheek.

      I don’t see a membership in my future, though. I’m an introverted, curmudgeon who shuns social events and avoids any form of sport except bicycling.

      I’m sort of like Groucho Marx, who said, “I don’t care to belong to a club that accepts people like me as members.”

      Thanks for the offer of a tour. The CC website makes the place look impressive.

  5. You have shown two pictures of POOLS I’ve had the pleasure of Skinny dipping in as a youngster. In the 70’s. Beachwood Club DT was an easy one because my 1st love’s parents owned the property next to the railroad tracks right next door. The Country Club was harder, because 4 of us had to sneak in way after closing time, about one or two in the morning. As I remember, someone was milling around in the main dining area and but left left us alone to our Foolishness & giggling. =)

  6. I seem to remember that the Country Club burned a few days after I had attended the annual Christmas party for the Farmers and Merchants Bank on probably Saturday night. I worked at the bank in the Proof Department. This was only my second time at the Country Club and mourned it’s passing. Since then, we’ve been there for Jerry’s 1960s Class Reunions and found it very nice.

  7. After clicking on the site where I then read the newspaper account of the 1963 fire at the Country Club, I realzed that I could read the whole paper. On page 8: “Central Cagers Take City Series Lead by Downing CH 42-39”. (That was an exciting game.) Page 1: “Frank Sinata Jr. Abducted”. Plus there was the St. Louis – Cape bus scedule, a Woolworth’s Christmas ad, Bucker’s advertising Jansen sweaters for men, the admission and dischages from SE Hospital, and lots of grocery ads from stores that no longer exist (Art Fisher & Son CGA Market).

  8. Ken, I think i found your pool and it does have that “film” around it. look at the front of the CC building and there is the pool! it is awfully small but you can defiinitely see the oil stains. 🙂
    Keep up the good work! these tidbits from you and the responses are really enjoyable

  9. There’s a name I thought I’d never hear of again! Chuck Bellamy was the club’s manager when I was a kid (son of Carl and Millie). Good to see that you’re still alive and well. When I grew up and had kids of my own, it was so much fun to take them to the CGCC, where they could sign my dad’s name and his #11, and they’d get anything that they wanted! How many years do you think that Delsie Poole worked there? What a wonderful lady!

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