Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The EHHS Social Order – 8.4 – Meadowbrook Country Club

For those of us who lived somewhere near or around the Meadowbrook Golf Course, the club house and extensive fairways provided a number of casual social and recreational opportunities.  The clubhouse was/is located on Jenson Road, north of Meadowbrook Drive and had been on that site since its opening in 1922.

The history of the golf course and club has long been somewhat murky.  The c. 1924 picture above was found in the Fort Worth Star Telegram photo files in the UTA digital library with a notation of  "H.L. Wheeler" who may have been the original developer.    

When the course was opened in 1922, the surrounding area was essentially open country.  There were a few scattered farms and the old Dallas Pike (East Lancaster) was just to the south.  The 1929 map above is the earliest I’ve found showing the Meadowbrook Country Club.  Note that the City Limits had not yet been extended to include the golf course area but, had been extended east from about Oakland Blvd. a few years earlier.  MBCC failed about 1927 and was given over to the City of Ft. Worth at that time.

Quite a number of our former classmates lived on Jenson Road leading to the MBCC clubhouse.  Homes south along Jenson were built about 1950-52; however, the larger Burton home just across from the clubhouse was built about 20-years earlier, in 1930.  Gay Burton and one of her pals, Julie Hudson, both famous Meadowbrook Junior High cheerleaders for the 1959 Meadowbrook Buffalo City Champions, were sometimes known to jump the swimming pool fence for an after-hours swim...only one of them have denied skinny dipping.  Homes north of the course along Jenson were built in the late 1950s and were larger than those to the south.  Our former EH Principal, Roy Johnson lived in one of those newer homes on Jenson.  (Some Jenson Road Highlanders:  Susan Begley, Penny Berry, Becky Blackmon, Beth Borst, Gay Burton, Gypsy Christy, Tommy Huff, Donna Johnson (Roy’s daughter), Nancy Lathrop, Mary Lattimore, Bonnie & Connie Lewis, Bill Sanborn, Sherry Shephard, Dennis Withers.)

As a late arrival to the area, one of my first introductions to the MBCC was winter of 1959, when some of the (8th grade) guys called for a gathering at “Three Humps” for a day of sledding.  School was suspended for the inclement weather so, that simply allowed time for some serious fun and bonding.  Although I don’t recall who the lads were, given who I ran with and who lived near the golf course, they were most likely Paul Tate, Larry Guthrie, Tom Koebernick, Steve Means, Bob Larmer…don’t know if McCook and McCoy were able to make it over that far in the slippery weather but, if so, they would have been there.  There were a lot of kids out there so, I suspect several classes were represented on the humps. 

“Three Humps” was/is a section of the 18th fairway that sloped fairly steeply away from the clubhouse to the creek several hundred yards below.  Wide and clear, the ground descended in 3 distinct steps into a huge area where a safe deceleration could be accomplished without risk of falling into the creek that runs through the course.  Descent might have been on the order of 100-200’ and the humps provided some speed variation that added to the exhilaration of the ride.  Funny that something that occurs maybe only once each 2-3 years could remain so memorable but, it does….for a lot of us.  ’65 Phil Hoskins (’63 Susan Harris) tells of it being a 3-generation tradition in his family and there are no doubt others like him.  The picture is his.

About the same years as Jenson continued building north from the course, on the east side of the course the new Eastern Hills neighborhood was being carved out of the woods.  For new arrivals to that neighborhood, the course offered slightly different opportunities.  Where summer sojourns to the Meadowbrook CC swimming pool had become standard for kids on the west side of the course, kids on the east side could venture onto the course out of sight from the clubhouse.  Late in the afternoon most days there were no golfers out there so, for an hour or two you could take some clubs, enter the course from a nice little turnout off Weiler and play 2-3 holes (5, 6,  & 7) or just practice putting and approach shots.  It was magic and usually enjoyed in solitude among the heavily wooded course at that end.  As a bonus, there were several spots where paying golfers would consistently lose their Titleists or Dunlops, thus providing a ready source for free, nearly new golf balls by the bagful.

A Coca-Cola stop I set up adjacent to the 6th tee, just off Weiler, was a pretty good money maker.  However, the problem was that the heat made me as thirsty as my customers so, I tended to drink the profits.  All in all, it was probably a break-even enterprise which, in 104º heat wasn’t really worth the effort so, I may have done that only once or twice.  On the other hand, it was a sell out and I didn’t have to lug heavy inventory home.

For those of us on the east side of the course, the MBCC swimming pool was on the other side of the links which was a pretty strenuous hike and often somewhat hazardous due to golf balls zinging in from random directions.  So, after only a few visits to the pool in hopes of seeing some really beautiful girls in their swimsuits, I quit that exercise … besides, it was always hotter than hell on the walk—both ways—and mostly uphill both ways!  Some of those girls on the Jenson list above would have been worth the effort but, I never saw any of them there when I came over so, to heck with it.

Memories others have shared recently told of Susan Begley being a pretty frequent visitor to that pool.  Gay Burton lived just across the street.  She and Julie Hudson were known to have jumped the fence after hours on occasion.  A chance of getting some one-on-one time with any of those lovely gals would have been worth the hot trek across the golf course.  But, in hindsight, chance meetings at that MBCC pool without an advance arrangement would have been pretty unlikely.  Too many hours in the day; too many days in the week, ships crossing in the night, etc.

Anyway, as the historical aerials show, the pool was already installed when the 1952 aerial was taken and remained there until sometime into the 1970s.  In some of the summers, the Meadowbrook Junior High coaches, Twain Morrow and Bill Blocker, would work at the pool as lifeguards.  As the historic aerials also show, the low 1950s plain clubhouse we knew was built sometime after 1956.  A much larger building, perhaps the original, was standing as late as the 1956 aerial.  By the time I got my first look at the clubhouse in 1959, the later version was already standing in pretty much the same form as it is today. 

During the few years I was in the area the clubhouse was used for dances and parties on a rental basis.  The interior was quite plain.

A present day golfer's course assessment:  Meadowbrook is an old style course that promises to challenge your game... You must plan your shots or trouble will abound. While it shows to be short on the scorecard, very few holes play short. There did not seem to be a level spot on the entire 18 holes add to that very small target greens... Although the greens played  slow and rough. Also, I would not play here on the weekend, as its reputation states, the most played course in Tarrant County.

Summer 1962 Golf Course rehabilitated 
by members of the Class of 1963.
Danny McCoy’s First Job – Meadowbrook Golf Course

In the summer of 1961, several of us secured our first-pay-check-type-of-job at Meadowbrook Golf course.  Our friend, Tom Koebernick, had put in a good word for us with a guy at his church who had some role in procuring and supervising labor for the project.  Little did I know that a few years later, I would be working on the west side of town at Colonial Country Club, but it was not on the golf course.  I did not have that skill set.  But I had developed an appreciation for the effort that it takes to maintain a competitive quality course.  

The fairways at Meadowbrook were undergoing a major renovation which would require reseeding and installing a new irrigation system.  On the first work day, the Foreman had us meet behind a beat up dump truck.  The truck was being driven by a weather worn black guy, with the name Amos embroidered on the pocket of his soiled blue shirt.  Later, we discovered that his name was actually Aaron.

At this Monday morning 7:00 a.m. start, the Foreman gathered us by the tailgate. I did a quick head count. There were 19 of us who were to become summer laborers. We were only 16 years old or barely older.  The Foreman then said in a booming voice:  You boys look around.  At the end of the day there will only be 10 of you left. For the rest of you, this will be your last day.

We all needed this job. All day long, we were going to have to walk behind the truck, up and down the fairways picking up large rocks that had recently been plowed up. So as the diesel truck blew black exhaust into our somewhat fresh and blemish faces, we started out picking or throwing rocks into the back of the truck. It was easier and a shorter to be near the back of the truck. If you were one of the wing men, you had a further distance to travel to deposit the scattered stones.  We were all working frantically. We wanted to make the cut and be part of the summer crew.

 The pace was hectic. The early morning sun was beginning to be more of a dominant factor. So after about 40 minutes, the old truck finally rolled over a small crest in the fairway. We were finally out of view of the Foreman.  Aaron brought the old truck to a stop and pulled up the emergency brake. As he slowly got out, you could hear Ray Charles on his radio. He told us to get a drink and pointed to the dented, yellow water cooler and stated that we need to stay hydrated. As he admonished us for not bringing our own gloves, he retrieved some from the back of the cab. They did not match, but we didn’t care. Our hands were getting roughed up. Then he said: You boys better slow down or you will not finish the day.  The MAN is just messing with you. This was the first time I fully understood the phrase, The MAN.  Later in my early career, it would morph into, the SUITS.  At the end of the day there were only 12 of us left. The rest did not come back after our lunch break. We were on the rock crew for about two weeks.


Throughout the rest of the summer, we would all graduate to various jobs. Some would hand pull weeds on the greens; others would work in new Bermuda springs in the sandy loam fairways and I secured a coveted job in irrigation. I was now my own boss.  I would follow the sequence rhythm of the sprinkler heads down the fairway to make sure there were no leaks and to adjust the rotary spray heads.The cool mist from the overspray or directional wind was indeed a luxury to my now golden tan, skinny body.

Near the Maintenance Building was a small lake which served as the irrigation reservoir.  One day when our chain gang was headed back, the Foreman met us at the lake and asked: Who knows how to swim? I raised my hand along with a boy from Poly.  He then said to us: You two boys swim over the overflow pipe and remove all the debris. I’ll give you an extra 15 minutes for lunch.  We did not require this extra bonus. Just the thought of taking a cool swim was the only enticement that we needed to quickly volunteer.

As Clark and I swam out to the center of lake, there was no synchronized swimming. When we reached our destination after a lot of unnecessary splashing, we started removing all the debris away from the opening that was covered with chicken wire. We bagged it and leisurely floated back to the shore where Aaron was waiting with his dump truck.  Aaron then said in his commanding voice: Are you whiteboys just plain stupid?  Why are you messing with that Water Moccasin Nest?   Damn! Damn! Damn! From then on, I have always had respect for those who work with their hands and their opinions about The Man.




Carl Johnson said...

I remember the original clubhouse as being 2-story with wood siding, painted white. It didn't look anything like the Rivercrest club shown in the article, but memory can be a funny thing. They replaced it with the flat 1950s look when the original burned down.

Paul Proffitt said...

I lived at the corner of Oak Hill and Monterrey I would carry some clubs and walk down Monterrey to the 3rd hole and play 4,5,6,7 and walk to the 2nd tee to play 2 & 3....then walk home....It was never too hot to do that.....what fun!!!

Gus said...

You're right, Paul. It had a kind of magic late in the afternoons after the golfers had mostly finished for the day and left us with a couple of hours of waning daylight and an empty course. I learned the touch for chipping and putting on that northernmost hole way down the bottom of Weiler near today's Landry.

Anonymous said...

I lived on Wilson Road from the late 50s to 1971. My brother and Iused to swim in the pool where Mary Margaret Ball's brother was the lifeguard. We sold lemonade in our back yard on the 9th tee.

We made a fortune as many kids came to our house to warm up in winters to get warm after sledding on the hills.

My dog stole many balls from the golfers..haha.. I'll bet they were mad. I loved living just off the 9th fairway.

Kirby Bryant Kanarek

Karen Brockett said...

WOW..a blast from the past.

I lived on 2212 Grandview Dr.

My backyard ran into the 13th fairway.

We got many golf balls that were hooked approaching the 12th hole and
were sliced off the 13th tee.

Great article!