Meridian Hills Memories of Howard R. (Bob) Meeker, Jr.
Both my wife Mary Jane and my families have long been associated with Meridian Hills Country Club. Mary Jane's grandfather, Lewis Coleman, was to our knowledge, the legal attorney that helped in forming the club in 1923. He was a well known attorney at the time and a member during the late twenties and possibly early thirties until ill health forced him to resign. My wife has memories of going to the pool as a small girl and going horseback riding when the stable was located near the present practice green.
My family joined the club in 1934 and I finally learned to swim with the help of the lifeguard - Kenny Walker. I recall being so proud of being able to jump or dive into the deep end with no fear and really enjoying myself particularly after learning to dive off the spring board. At that time, the clubhouse was located on Spring Mill road, directly in front of the old fifth green or where the tennis courts are now located. It had been an old farm house remodeled with various additions and a very nice enclosed porch for dining. The locker room was attached on the east side and as kids, we were not encouraged to enter. There was no liquor available, but all knew that many of the men kept their bottles in their lockers for a drink after a golf game.
I was privileged to caddy for my father who usually only played on Sat. afternoons as most men worked on Saturday mornings in those days. We would race out from our home on 56th and Washington Blvd. up Spring Mill - all cornfields then - to meet the gang at the first tee. One of his usual gang included Fred Grumme, Sr. and other Gyros of whom he was an active member. The course was beautiful and treeless compared to the present. I did not become interested in golf, as tennis and swimming were more to my liking. I did begin to play golf in 1939 after attending a summer camp in Wisconsin that had a course as well as many tennis courts. Late that summer I actually won the Meridian Hills Jr. tennis competition and still have the very nice trophy on my shelf. During this high school time for many of us, we also enjoyed the club dances for the members. I was on the committee for a few of the dances and think I still have the programs for those dances. My sister, now deceased, Libby Martin, also enjoyed the club activities at this time; she had started to Vassar and I know I had more fun that she did.
World War II changed a lot of lives and did curtail the usual fun at the Club, but I still enjoyed the golf, tennis, social meetings of members, until I started duty with the Army in 1943. Upon returning in 1946, I was too late for the spring semester at Purdue, so where else to spend time but good old Meridian Hills. That spring my golf game improved by playing with good friend - still is - Marshall Samms, Fran Truitt, George VanDyke, George O'Neil, and others. I think I have some pictures of the pool area of that summer, but all good things came to an end when I finally graduated from Purdue in 1948. It was time to make a living and move on with marriage in summer of 1949.
Finally in 1975, we were able to afford to join the club but almost all of our four children were too old to really enjoy the many pluses that I had grown up with. We are still active at the club, although our golfing days may be over, but we love the place and will remain as active as possible.
I still have many memories of Fourth of July celebrations including one probably in 1935 when I had mumps and Dad made me sit in the car while the fireworks went off. At that time, we parked right were the current clubhouse is located. That reminds me of the personnel which included a group of Philippinos. They were headed by a couple, Fidel and his very beautiful wife, Theresa. Also there was "Pete" who ran the little candy or sweet shop that was located in a part of the then Pro Shop. Wayne Timberman was the Golf Professional and he did a great job especially with us young kids. What marvelous memories.
We may still have a map of the farms that were used for the purchase of the land in the early twenties. Mary Jane did give a copy of that map to someone about ten years ago when there was an effort to write of the history. Have no idea in whose hands it ended up with. Oh yes, I forgot about ice skating on the two water holes and the little house with a fireplace. This was the place to skate in those days, but believe it became too popular after the war and unwanted people entered the premises and helped to, I think, eventually burn down the building. It was especially fun to skate at night as I believe there were a string of lights on the pond and near the little shed. Others of my era would be Bob Stackhouse and his brother Dick who now live in Florida and Marshall Samms whose wife Marge and her parents - P.D. Powers were early members in the thirties. I am sure Boris Meditch can add some info also. I will try and find those pictures when we return from Florida in April and will keep you posted.
The History of Meridian Hills Country Club by Richard Bennett Jr.
written for Park School in April 1957
The Meridian Hills Country Club originated as an idea of Edward J. Morris to form an exclusive north-side country club. Mr. Morris, who was president of the Washington Bank and Trust, with many dealings in the real estate business, purchased the Wellington Estate in anticipation of the club. Mr. Morris then formed the Meridian Hill Country Club Realty Company, requiring anyone desiring membership in the club to buy one share of stock, priced at four hundred and ninety dollars.
On December 27, 1923, the Meridian Hills Country Club Realty Company leased 150.61 acres from the Washington Company for the period January 1, 1924 to December 31, 1940. The Meridian Hills Realty Company held an unrestricted option during the life of the lease to purchase the real estate. This option could be exercised at a price less than one-third of the sale price realized on neighboring property at that time.
Prior to the initial forming of the club, Mr. Morris was instrumental in having U. S. Route 31 cut through to the north, which previously ended at White River and ran through Broad Ripple. This new "31" became the eastern boundary of the golf course. Later, after the club was formed and the golf course under construction, Mr. Morris was successful in having 71st Street rerouted. Before rerouting, 71st Street cut off the northern quarter of the club’s property.
As a side-light, Mr. Morris who also developed the Williams Creek area and numerous other sub-divisions, committed suicide during the strain of the 1929 depression.
In the spring of 1923, clearing of the Club's property commenced. Over half of the 150.61 acres was covered by woods and underbrush, presenting a great task, since the only machinery used were tractors and they were used solely for the purpose of plowing the cleared ground. Mr. Carl Bretzlaff, who has been the Superintendent of the golf course since 1924, came to Meridian Hills as one of the teams hired to clear the land. Carl has made the Club's course one of the nations best and in doing so, has ranked himself as one of twenty-seven members in the National Association of Course Superintendents.
An old farmhouse on the Club's property was transformed into the new clubhouse at an approximate cost of twenty-six thousand dollars. The clubhouse was designed by Lee Burns, Architect, of Osler and Burns, in a colonial farmhouse style, and provided a large screened veranda for serving during the summer. Later, this was converted to year around use as the club expanded.
Fifty yards to the northeast of the club house, a thirty-two thousand dollar swimming pool was built and another fifty yards east of the pool, the pro-shop was constructed. Also included in the building program were several saddle horse barns and a storage barn for housing the golf course equipment.
The golf course, laid out by William H Diddel, an ex-state amateur golf champion and well known among players in the middle west, was completed in the spring of 1925, at an expense of one hundred and twenty-eight thousand dollars. One of the special features of the course was the watering system which provides for a complete soaking of greens and fairways combined. To supply water for the sprinkling system, two fairly large ponds were built.
A letter written to Carl Bretzlaff states in part "A committee of five members --all players---met several times to discuss the type of course best suited to the club and the topography. A majority of the committee favored a full length championship course but there was careful consideration of the fact that most of our players would be unsuited to playing it at its full length. In consequence there are twenty-three extra tees on the course. This allows a variation in length over the total course of about five hundred yards." This shows the caution and consideration used in laying out the golf course.
During the Club's construction, Oscar Schmidt was appointed president but after its completion, Willis C. Adams took over the job.
Everything was completed for the formal opening on July 18, 1925, with the exception of the swimming pool and tennis courts, which were completed later that summer. The golf course and club were officially opened at two o'clock when club president, Willis Adams, with an audience of over three hundred members and guests, drove a ball down the first fairway. A handicap golf tournament, to be played in foursomes by men and women, a dinner and dance in the evening were included in the opening day program. Another feature of the day was horseback riding, presided over by George Briggs, riding master. The Meridian Hills Country Club was the only club in the city boasting stable horses.
The opening proved to be a tremendous success. Golfers coming in off the new course commented that it was a "real layout" and one of the city's best. The clubhouse came in for its share of approbation in handling the stream of golfers as they came from the course. With the club successfully launched, the directors announced their intention to make it a family club, as much for the enjoyment of children and young people as for adults. A home-like atmosphere prevailed and slot machines and a bar were conspicuous by their absence. Activities were planned for all age groups and adjacent to the swimming pool a playground was provided. In addition to parties planned for the usual holidays, nutting parties and treasure hunts were on the agenda for the young people.
The first Thanksgiving at the newly formed club was celebrated with a fox hunt, climaxed by a feast of turkey and all the trimmings. Every accessory of the time-honored sport of English squires was in evidence except the warming stirrup cup and the fox - the fox was understudied by an American raccoon. It was the first time in the annals of club-life in Indianapolis for just such a chase to be held. The seventy five members participating pronounced it a great success, the only being in the race that seemed bored was the "fox". Fox hunts were held annually for several years, but interest waned and they were finally discontinued.
In the thirty-two years of Meridian Hills existence, they have had only three golf professionals. Wally Sparks came to the club in 1925 to serve the little over two hundred members. Dick Nelson followed Sparks and remained until 1941, when Wayne Timberman succeeded to the post of golf-pro. Wayne Timberman believed in developing golf enthusiasm among the youngsters and immediately inaugurated his now famous - in golf circles - Swing Class. Boys and girls, fourteen and under are eligible for this instruction and practice. At the end of each season, they are paired off and a tournament is held, climaxed with a dinner for the entire class and their parents.
As the years passed, the club membership outgrew the facilities for handling it. The remodeled farm house of 1925, even with a refurbishing in 1946, and an addition to the mens' locker room, became inadequate. Therefore in the fall of 1948, a general meeting was held to decide whether to construct a new clubhouse or make further additions to the present one. A terrific battle ensued but, after much discussion amid heated tempers, the plan for building a new clubhouse won out with a bare fifty-one percent of the voting members favoring it.
Hugh Bremerman, Architect and Builder, was given the contract for the new building. Construction started immediately on a site several hundred yards to the east of the old clubhouse and in August of 1950, Mr. Bremerman had completed the two-hundred and thirty thousand dollar Georgian styled, rambling brick clubhouse.
The formal opening of the new club house was held on Sunday, August 19, 1950 and as club members entered the wide entrance hall, they saw the treasured Meridian Hills firescreen hanging above a pine settle. The wrought iron screen depicting a golfer under the large tree on the first tee had been used in the old clubhouse and was a favorite of members.
The friendly home-like atmosphere of the new club allayed the fears of many who had opposed it and felt "it will never be the same", and although a cocktail lounge was included in the new building, the accent seemed to still be on keeping it a family club. A large part of the gabled second story of the clubhouse belongs to the teen age group and through their own efforts have furnished it in teen-ager style. On the main floor children have their own dining room apart from the main dining section.
The old clubhouse fell rapidly into decay and became the home of bats and owls. It was not considered a good storage place with its falling plaster and became an eyesore. As a consequence the building was razed and a fenced playground made on the site.
In 1954, the building expansion program of Meridian Hills was completed when a forty-thousand dollar pro shop, housing the bath houses, was finished. The building was constructed of brick matching those of the club house and presents a unified appearance.
With the expansion of the club's facilities, naturally the membership grew and at the time, the new clubhouse was built, it was necessary to create further division or classes of membership. Until that time, a member of the club was automatically a golfing member, but in 1949, membership was divided into A-Resident (golfing) B-Resident (social) with the usual 0-Non Resident (golfing), D-Associate (golfing), E-Special (golfing, and F-Junior (golfing). Each class of membership carried a different membership fee and monthly dues. Classes A and B are required to purchase one certificate of interest and become the voting members of the club.
Meridian Hills Country Club is governed by a board of directors who serve four years. Election of officers is held annually, in the fall of the year, and in the thirty-two years, Meridian Hills has had nineteen presidents, with thirteen serving two successive years. As mentioned earlier, Mr. Willis Adams was the first president and Mr. William G. Davis held the office in 1949 when the new clubhouse was being constructed. George A. Van Dyke, Jr. is the current president.
Of the original two-hundred odd members, four remain on the roster today. They are: Walter L. Brant; Paul Buchanan; George A. Olive and P. C. Reilly. The membership today numbers four-hundred and eighty, with three-hundred and fifty being golf memberships.
Dorothy Ellis (now Mrs. James Balch) and John David of Meridian Hills have been City golf champions and Mr. Timberman brought honor to the club several times by bringing home the title of State Golf Pro champion. In 1956, Meridian Hills played host to the Women's National U. S. Amateur Tournament. Meridian Hills Country Club is a member of the following: U. S. Golf Association; Indianapolis District Golf Association; Indiana Golf Association; Indiana Women's Golf Association; Indianapolis Women's Golf Association; Women's Western Golf Association; Central Indiana Tennis Association; Midwest Regional Turf -Foundation; Westerm Golf Association and Professional Golfers' Association of America.
Through the years, Meridian Hills has had a succession of clubhouse managers. Records are incomplete but Hilda Buddenbaum is recorded as being the first. Five times throughout its history, Meridian Hills has been without a manager and, during these times, Carl Bretzlaff, Golf Course Superintendent, has stepped in to keep things running smoothly until a manager could be secured. Mr. McKinney, the present manager, has just recently come to the club from the Indianapolis Athletic Club.
In the fall of 1956, the last land mark disappeared from the Meridian Hills scene when the old stable barn was destroyed by fire of undetermined origin. Lost with the building were innumerable records, golf course equipment, and a great number of bags of fertilizer and grass seed.
Thus, Meridian Hills Country Club, started thirty-two years ago, stands today as an almost entirely new club.
The material in this paper was obtained almost entirely from interviews with Mr. Carl Bretzlaff, Golf Course Superintendent of Meridian Hills Country Club. Other sources were a series of scrapbooks and conversation with club members.
Memories of Boris Meditch
I grew up in Indianapolis and Meridian Hills was the place to go ice skating. The skating pond was near hole #7 and the log cabin was nearby. The cabin was placed near the pond each year to serve as a place where skaters could get warmed up near its fireplace. In the spring, it would be moved so it wouldn't affect golf play. The log cabin was there until the 1950's.
The horse barn was in place when I joined. I can remember members riding their horses up Meridian Street.
Some of the staff I can remember are Theresa & Fidel who were Phillipino managers. They lived in the old farmhouse which also served as the clubhouse. I also remember Carl Bretzlaff, who was the Superintendent. He was known for converting the bluegrass to bentgrass in one season to prepare for the women's amatuer championship in 1950.
Memories contributed by: Annie Knapp
I grew up at the club as a child and I remember Earle who was the maitre d. I remember when the main dining room had "finger bowls" that were filled with water and members would squeeze lemon in them and rinse their hands between courses.
Memories of Tom Moore, MD
I caddied at MHCC as a youngster. Working with the members and staff had a profound influence on me. I remember meeting and "shagging" balls for Babe Zaharius at the Weathervane Tournament held at MHCC in 1951. Zaharius won with a two day total of 145. I carried for Betsy Rawls who placed third.