January 16, 1996
See where the Country Club folks are planning to replace their club house with a new metal building before long. Presumably the present multi-level frame club house will be demolished to make way for the new structure. I know the old building has been a problem to maintain and it is not exactly well suited for the needs of today's Country Club members, but a lot of memories are stored there.
The club house once had a shady screened-in porch on the east front where parents could relax and visit while their youngsters enjoyed swimming in the lake below. When T. B. Wilson was president of the club in the 1950s, the porch was enclosed as you see it today to make it usable in winter as well as summer months. The lake water was the brownish color of cafe au lait and swimmers shared it with crappie, turtles and an occasional water moccasin. A narrow wooden pier, perhaps 30 feet long, extended out over the water from the west edge of the lake. The pier was lined on either side by long, narrow planks, probably lengths of 2 x 10's, where swimmers' could lounge when not diving off the board at the end of the pier.
Some 40-50 yards to the northeast of the pier was a very small sanded beach with a wading area for the younger ones. A short distance off the little beach, just beyond a cable marking the edge of the wading area, was a wooden raft floating on 50-gallon drums. Directly east across the lake was a hazardous looking area where gnarled limbs and blackened stumps from ancient trees poked above the water surface, providing habitat for various denizens of the deep. Braver hearts showed their daring by swimming across the lake to that wet wilderness, but they also had to swim back to the raft or the diving pier because there was no decent place to exit the water on the east side.
A wooden walkway also extended from the pier to the children's beach. Slats in the walk were 2 x 4's spaced about a half-inch apart. One time Mrs. Bert Byerley lost a diamond ring between the slats and many people, adults and children alike, spent countless hours that summer peering into the vegetation beneath the boards in search of the lost article. Far as I know, it was never found, even when the old wooden walk was taken out years ago.
Each spring the entire walkway was painted white, as was, the diving pier, by the County Club caretaker. Arthur Clark filled that role for many years in the 1930s. He also was groundskeeper for the club's nine-hole course, which at that time had sand greens -- now replaced by well-tended grass greens. Mr. Clark was not a golf pro, and I don't think he even played the game, but he did a fine job of keeping all of the club's facilities in first class shape.
There was no pro shop for the golfers but you could buy a candy bar and a Coke from Mrs. Clark at the northwest corner of the club building, where the kitchen was located. The kitchen was little more than a gas burner and a small icebox. Family dinners were frequently held on weekends but they were mostly pot-luck affairs provided by the members, featuring mountains of home fried chicken, potato salad and various savory desserts.
Mr. and Mrs. Clark and their daughter, Margaret, lived south of the club house in a small frame home at what is now the corner of Ninth street and Wakefield drive, where Gene and Joan Breshears have an attractive brick residence. Mr. Clark also stored his groundskeeping equipment in the backyard. Ninth street at that time did not even exist between Wakefield and Locust street; the land was pasture. Wakefield did not exist west of the Ninth street corner or east of the Seventh street corner. It also was farm land. And Wakefield itself was an unnamed narrow dirt street with ruts of varying depths from Seventh street all the way out to the Country Club.
Windows on all sides of the club house were kept open most summer days to catch any stray breezes. A juke box with popular tunes of the day sat along the north wall of the main upper room, next to the brick fireplace, and young people enjoyed dancing there before or after a swim in the lake. Occasionally a band would be engaged by adults for a Saturday night dance. Rainbow Girls and DeMolay Boys also had wellchaperoned formal dances from time to time.
Lockers, showers and dressing areas were at the basement level, reached by a few steps at the east front beneath the screened-in porch. Many club members stored their clubs, bags and other paraphernalia in the lockers. Golf carts hadn't been invented and caddies could pick up a quarter or half-dollar by toting the gear around for the club's linksmen. When not engaged in caddying, enterprising young men could earn Coke money by diving for golf balls in some of the water hazards on the course.
The club house has undergone numerous cosmetic changes through the years. Additions have been made to accommodate the needs of each generation of membership. Facilities have been upgraded with a swimming pool to replace the muddy lake, tennis courts, a pro shop and other niceties. We'll miss the old club house because of the pleasant memories associated with it. The old building wasn't plush, but hey, it was the best place in Perry for many social and athletic endeavors. Soon, apparently, we'll be bidding farewell to it. I hope someone takes a good photo portrait of the old club house before it's torn down.