You read that right - "Golf Ball Eating Salmon" is the headline for the Oregonian on November 22, 1921. Let's examine the article for the science, the history of this "fish tale" and trace the story to modern day.
C.P. Keyser vouches for the story. It all happened on the fourth hole.
The many golf bugs who are prone to roam the municipal links at Eastmoreland must draw a mental picture of the fourth hole, the green of which is surrounded by two sides by Johnson Creek
Nowadays - only the old timers can paint this mental picture, because even though I've roamed these hallowed links for over a decade - I never played when Johnson Creek carved across and in front of the fourth hole green. Many of the men's club members cite this as a key feature of the topography that has since changed, as Johnson Creek was rerouted at least 25-50 years ago. In future articles we will explore how this change came about and the impact. on the course and creek.
For now, let's enjoy the fish tale:
The fourth hole sets in a sort of basin and the recent heavy rains submerged it under a foot of water.
A foot of water!! Um .... that's the heavy stuff and will definitely slow play down. Thought Eastmoreland was soggy mess now? Well, this story dates well before the first major irrigation project in the early 193-'s which was required by the USGA in advance of the City hosting the 1933 National Publics Links Amatuer. Playing Eastmoreland then must have been a marshy rain flooding mess in the fall and spring in the very way nature intended. It also points to the reason Ladds would have offered this parcel for municipal golf - as developing houses along these banks would result in flooded basements.
He crossed the bridge which must be traversed to reach the fourth green and started wading to the center in a pair of hip boots
Two key items for us amatuer historians
First: the bridge... let me make a little prayer that in this historical project we can discover a photo this original bridge from 1920's - as well as any other bridge that might have been built later.
Second: Keyser shows his dedication and we salute you! He waded out to the fourth green in hip boots no doubt to surmise the potential damage and also review the water table during the annual November rains. Keyser is a true steward of the land.
He reached the hole itself and like Alexander stood on the mound to view his domains.
So this author just dropped an Alexander the Great reference (pow!) - and a truly fitting reference at that, since municipal golf owes its entire existence to this tenacious man - so does neighborhood Public Pools, the Zoo, Forest Park, the Rose Test Garden - and basically all that we value in Portland as the most livable city in America. But unlike Alexander, the water streaming down his cheeks were not tears wept because there were no more lands to conquer... just drops of rain on the face of a working man who saw that only through co-operation of the natural land and the people would the city grow to great potential.
Suddenly his eyes was attracted to a motion in the water surrounding him. He took a healthy look ,and behold! A 30-inch silver side salmon was giving him the once over and wagging his weary fins. The king of the deep swam around the august park boss several times...
.A Silver Side Salmon is now known as the Coho Salmon and it's cool to see this cited in the Oregonian because I have a link to a 2014 article in the Oregonian about Volunteers searching for Coho. Turns out that the clothing mill - potentially the forebear of the Oregon Worsted Company an employer of famed Eastmoreland golfer Frank - dammed Johnson Creek as early as the 1850's and severely impeded the Salmon spawning.
Which of course, we all know that spawning and the circle of life was the business of this salmon. In fact here's a video by a local biologist taking video of Coho Salmon spawning in Johnson Creek in October and you can clearly see the salmon wagging "his" weary fins. Though it's just as likely this was a female salmon protecting her eggs and counting the hours to her eventual death and decomposition to attract the bugs for her future fry to dine on. Enjoy a little science lesson on Coho Salmon spawning in Crystal Springs from Environmental Services fish biologist Melissa Brown.
What's curious to me is whether Keyser truly did not know "the business" of the fish's return to Johnson creek. Could it be true that Keyser may not have been aware of the spawning of Salmon in 1921? It seems unlikley to us in modern day.... though we must place oursleves there and understand that all Oregonians were just 60 years from coming from parts unfamiliar with the Pacific bounty of Salmon and the ecosystem that supports life. Its precisely this lack of knowledge that lead to decisions like dams, grates and other blockers that lead to great decline in salmon stocks.
The return of the Wild Coho, listed as a threatened species by the EPA in 1998, to Johnson Creek and the feeder tributary Crystal Springs is a result of restoration efforts funded by the federal, state and city government. As will cover in more detail Eastmoreland is now considered "Salmon-Safe" golf course through the efforts of these agencies in co-oporation with PP&R and Eastmoreland Superintendent Kathy Hauff who's helped achieve the designation of Eastrmoeland as "Salmon-Safe". See: Eastmoreland Golf Course plays role in fish habitat restoration plans
In Part 4, Keyser finds himself between a rock and a hardplace. Eastmoreland is proven to be a going concern earning greens fee revenues in excess of expectations, yet the Tax Board Chairman Mulkey has determined that the the the City will not be allowed to endure any debts to complete the purchase of the land. He declares golf must be totally "self-sustaining."
So while Mulkey may be the villain, like all great villains he sets the stage for the great triumph of Parks Superintendent Keyser, who in principle, also believes golf should be "self-sustaining" in that the golfers pay an exclusive privilege to play public lands (thus why we have no joggers or picnics on the 6th fairway). Further he had the revenue - it's just the rate of the revenue was sufficient to pay a portion of the land price each year - and thus required some type of bond or mortgage to complete the purchase (again completely normal for real estate purchases). To catch us up - he discovers the the "open sesame" magic key - to have golf construed as a public utility and thus open up the ability for the city to raise municipal utility certificates - that not considered part of the city's dept. (Why - you may ask? Well the thought is due to the fact that since a utility has regular revenue the debt to be serviced can be considered to have reliable revenue - and this provision no doubt was to help spur municipal utility projects - like water and sewer and electricity and also provide an out should a private utility go under for some reason to ensure the utility maintains in service for the community.
Even though the leaders of the City thought construing golf a utility was a little crazy - except the Commissioner of Finance who happened to be a golf nut himself, Keyser was faced with a remarkably challenging task ahead. That said he persevered as always and with the opinion of prominent corporate lawyer, he convinced Paul Murphy - the president of the development company that owned the land to accept the municipal certificates. Not only that Mr. Murphy further agreed to pay the legal expenses to prove in court that golf would be construed a utility under the laws of the State of Oregon. Now it certainly helps that the Commissioner of Finance was a avid golfer and the City Attorney wanted nothing greater than to ingratiate himself with a prominent corporate law firm, the plan went forward. The certificates of $95,000 for the back 9 plus an additional $16,000 to expand the front 9 across Johnson creek. (as will be discussed more in layout and design) were issued and Mr. Murphy proved the entire issue legal and adjudicated in the courts that golf could be construed a utility under the law and approved by the Supreme Court.
Thereafter - the certificates were sold out in a matter of days and the city was able to use revenues for the greens fees to cover the debt - that is until the great depression hit and caused a bit of challenge. That said the going concern for golf was great and the City's Chamber of Commerce campaigned to bring the USGA National Public Link's Amatuer to Portland in 1933, the first time this tournament was played west of the the Mississippi. Not only that, the 1933 tournament was the 1st time the USGA national event was help in the state of Oregon! Having a national tournament at the club proved it's place in history as a top municipal course.
Before carrying Johnson's opinion back to the city hall Keyser got in touch with Murphy and acquainted him with Johnson Murphy reported that he would accept the city's utility certificates at par, and, further, would undertake on his own account to test in the courts the validity of the postulate that golf was a utility within the meaning of the law. Murphy and Keyser called on the Mayor. The Mayor called in the City attorney and the commissioner of Finance. The upshot was that the City Attorney drafted an ordinance setting up an issue of utility certificates providing retirement in the amount of $95,000 to exchange for title to the land occupied by the 2nd or North 9 holes of the Eastmoreland Golf Course. The certificates for 6% interest and we're scheduled to be retired serially in ten years. The preceding was adjudicated and the decision was affirmed in the Supreme Court of Oregon. Murphy had no trouble in selling the entire issue at better than 102.
So here we are, 1922 with a beautiful golf course, arguably one of the finest in Oregon though less than a dozen exist) set among the latest new high end development with streetcar access to all. As Keyser, stated it was an "excellent going concern."
But the Tax Commission led by F.W, Mulkey set a trap to trigger immediate payment the property for the back nine and put the entire golf course at risk for for a distressed sale at auction. If the City could not come up with the money then "he would find a buyer for it."
Ruh-oh! What to do? The City Charter forbids the council to raise any indebtedness that amounts to deficit spending. And while it's clear the land fair market value of the land of $3,000 exceeds the price of $1,000 that Murphy, President of the Ladd Estate Company, is agreed to sell the land, the City apparently cannot raise a bond measure to complete the purchase.
"But there is a key to every lock. This one would also require a combination" - James Keyser - reflecting on the plan to save the municipal golf links.
This is where it gets interesting... and while "reflecting on Mulkey's dictum that golf should be self-sustaining"... Keyser begins to play the role of the Ali Baba and sets his mind to figure out how to the "open sesame" magic words to save municipal golf links. After all the public demand and revenues from the greens fees have exceeded expectations, surely there is a way to raise debt on this future earnings?
This is where Keyser proves he his genius in law, politics, psychology and business. By scouring the City Charter, he discovers section 155, which lay as a dead letter, meaning no city business had ever been transacted pursuant to this law. Section 155 provided for:
"the taking over of public utilities by the municipal government in the discretion of the City Council in exchange for public utility certificates of indebtedness that were not to be reckoned as general obligations in the City's debt structure."
So let's get this straight... the City won't raise bond measure to finance the purchase of the remaining land and infrastructure, because it does not want to create any deficit spending. However, the charter does allow the City to "take over" public utilities (usually services such as water, gas, electric and sewer) in exchange for public utility certificates, which for accounting purposes will not be considered part ofthe City debts structure. EUREKA!
This could all be tidied up in 90 days ... if golf might be construed to be a public utility.
Of course that leaves the little obstacle to get the City Council to invoke its authority under Section 155 (for the first time ever) for the purpose of declaring municipal golf a public utility. This is where Keyser's mettle and tenacity really shine through. Through this process he would, in my eyes, earn a PHD in political theory, masters in business administration, a minor in human psychology and win over the court public opinion.
Plus a kiss from lady luck, as it all started with a great golf shot. The player was none other than C.A. Bigelow the most crucial lynchpin of the plan as the Commissioner of Finance. His blessing was necessary as the certificates would be issued and sold by his office. Apparently he was guardian of the city rating (which assured municipal bonds would fetch highest possible rates) and may not have agreed, where it not for this amazing tee shot at Eastmoreland just a few weeks earlier "made the 10th hole in one shot from the tee." Unlike the documented Shot for the Ages, this miracle took place on the 10th hole, which at the time 1921, it was actually Hole #11. (Further posts will talk about the changing of the order of the back 9 - sometime in the 1950's, to make the old #18 to become the new #10 and then going around in the same order with old #10 as the new #11)
Given that the #10 hole of 1921 as well as the current #11 hole is a dogleg par 5 - it's technically possible to drive the green in one shot though it would be a ripping slice (the type a rank amatuer might hit - I might add). Still getting a hole in one on a par 5 would probably be in the newspaper, so we will look into this further. At the very least he hit a boomer and had a putt for double eagle, which itself is almost as unbelievable. What's interesting is the author mentions his love of goal was not purely "by accident" so it's a wonder if maybe he happened upon a nice set of clubs - some lessons from the early club members. After all it's nice having the Commissioner of Finance on your side (and may explain how they "happened" upon $40,000 over the prior 4 years).
With Bigelow on board and ready have his office do it's part to keep the hallowed fairways a going concern, the next challenge was to sell to to George Baker, Portland's Mayor. His reaction was unsurprising "Are you crazy?" and Keysers deadpanned response, "No, serious." So he send Keyser on down the road to speak with the City Attorney would would have to, at the very least, issue an opinion that golf can be construed as a public utility before the City Commissions could pass such a measure.
The City Attorney Frank Grant found the idea preposterous. From a rational standpoint he has a point - this Section 155 was certainly meant for municipal services, the type that are required for a modern city to function. The loophole is designed for City Council to intervene to make sure the city doesn't cease operations and die and golf certainly does not qualify. Yet, from a golfer's standpoint it's clear Frank never heard the birds chirping in spring, the smell of fresh cut grass or the music from Augusta announcing the start of the Masters on TV (which to Frank's credit not exist - nor Agusta for that matter) that compells you to book a tee time that very Sunday - or you'll just keel over and die.
"Are you crazy?" Portland's Mayor George Baker upon learning of Keyser's scheme to construe golf as a public utility.
Here we are: facing a sudden demand for $95,000 that we are unable to satisfy: in possession of as fine and well appointed a golf course as one might covet, on with $135,000 of a projected $230,000 had been expended; a most excellent going concern; a facility for the use and benefit of an appreciative public. Murphy, who claimed he could have done better everything considered, had he written off the land as a gift to the city in 1916, rather than paying carrying charges on it over a period of six years, declined to temporize further. In the meanwhile, incidentally, he had sold 18 improved Acres of adjoining land for $3,000 per acre, which goes to show that his demand for $1,000 per acre was not avaricious. When Mulkey clamped the lid, he demanded $95,000 in cash or equivalent for the land occupied by the second 9 holes of golf that we had built in anticipation of ultimate ownership, or else he would find a buyer for it. The prospect was grim. The City Charter forbade the City Council to engage in deficit spending, and there was a fixed limit on bonded indebtedness even if we could have stalled along until such time as bonds might have been issued for the purpose.
But there is a key to every lock. This one would also require the working of a combination. Reflecting on the Mulkey's dictum that golf should be self-sustaining the superintendent of parks figured if he had a revenue getting going concern there ought to be a way out, and that the City's credit should be somehow made available in this exigency. Searching through the City Charter he came across a brief section in only 2 paragraphs; this Section 155 had therefore never been marked, and lay is a dead letter, which provided for taking over of Public Utilities by municipal government in the discretion of the City Council in exchange for public utility certificates of indebtedness and they were not to be reckoned as General Obligations of the city's debt structure that is: they would be outside the municipal Corporation statutory bonded indebtedness limit. The deal could be all tidied up in 90 days by special ordinance V golf might be construed to constitute a utility and if Murphy would bide a wee and accept the utility certificates in lieu of cash. He first took this Eureka to C.A. Bigelow, Commissioner of Finance.
Bigelow was a rather cagey watchdog of the treasury and also jealous of the credit rating the City of Roses and he may not have been persuaded if it had not chanced, like fitted in magic, that he recently as a rank amateur in golf made the 10th hole in one shot from the tee.
It had not been altogether by chance that he had been put in a way of being bitten by the bug, however. He chimed, “That's an idea! Why not? Go sell it to George.” (Baker, the Mayor). Said George “Are you crazy?” Keyser, “No, serious.” Baker, “Well,l go take it to Frank.” Frank Grant the City attorney thought it preposterous and declined to consider it seriously. Again Keyser's hopes were dashed, but he went to work on the combination. He went over to the University Club and sat at lunch in next to his friend lawyer friend Bill Johnson, and Johnson listened. First he said maybe, then yes after pondering the question for 24 hours. Now Frank Grant on his record with as good and able a City Attorney as a City has any need of, but Keyser happen to know that he felt he was wasting his time and talents in the humdrum of City Hall. Throughout Frank’s never brilliant career he cherished an ambition to be a member of the top-flight firm Corporation lawyers as was Johnson.
Eastmoreland was the spawning grounds for the community where caddies could come to play and prove themselves champions. Twenty-five years later, three brave black pioneers lead by Mr. Vernon Gaskin, who worked on Union Pacific railroad company for decades created the first African-American golf club. The summary of the history from the Leisure Hour Golf Club website:
In the early 1940’s very few blacks could be found on public golf courses. Vernon Gaskin sought to remedy this situation by forming an organization to create power in numbers. Others who were instrumental in the formation of Leisure Hour Golf Club were, the late Stephen Wright, Walter & Gladys Ricks and Shelby Golden.
Current leaders of the Western States Golf Association of which Leisure Hour was a founding club: Bob Williams, vice president for the Pacific NW of Western States Golf Association; Dr. Granville Brown, president of Western States Golf Association; James White, the association’s incoming tournament chair; and Vicki Nakashima, chair of the City of Portland Golf Advisory Committee Credit The Skanner; Helin Silvis
I often say golf is the great equalizer - as the course and the ball will treat everyone the same. And while having an economic advantage, say your family is member of a private club where you can play for 'free' all day long with regular professional lessons. The essence of what makes a great player has always been a combination of talent, tenacity, form and grace and when players are out there on the course, everyone is equal. One of my favorite ways to explain this to non-golfers is to have them look at PGA tour - there are guys like Rory Mcilroy and Rickie Fowler who crush drives over 300 yards yet barely stand over 5'9" and can go to to tow with guys like Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson at 6'4". There are skinny short guys like Corey Paven and larger round guys like Angel Cabrerra. In the LPGA we see the very same type of body size diversity - Michelle Wie is 6'1'' and Mi Huyn Kim the one they call "peanut" is just 5'1".
The first Yet the race barrier was truly only broken when Tiger Woods burst onto the scene in 1997 and forever changed the game with dominance and intensity that rivals one of his golfing buddies Michael Jordan. Soon after the LPGA started to change complexity adding many foreign born nationals to it's ranks. To this day, there is still a lack of diversity for professional golfers than one would expect simply based on U.S. population.
Golf is the great equalizer - the course and the ball will always treat everyone the same.
But while the game itself may be the great equalizer - the people who run the golf courses, private clubs and the associations for many, many years were certainly not on the side of equality. The PGA tour did not permit black golfers until 1961. The USGA though represented as association for all golfers (which it is today) at it's start only represented the private clubs. In fact, the US Public Links Amatuer - which was played at Eastmoreland in 1933 was tournament specially created because the U.S. Amatuer would only allow members of private clubs to compete. (This fact that this rule remained until 1971 shocks almost all golfers I speak to and does go to show that the "silk stocking" reputation of golf referenced by Parks & Recreation Commissioner Paul Keyser was an accurate reflection)
But while the game itself may be the great equalizer - the people who run the golf courses, private clubs and the associations for many, many years were traditionally not for equality
It's a tribute to Portland and the Parks & Recreation leaders that Eastmoreland appears to be one of the very few golf courses where african americans could play in the 1930' and 1940's "In the 1920', 30's and 40's, many Blacks had learned the game of golf as caddies. It was virtually the only way they could play on private and public courses. Estimates show that of the more than 5,000 golf facilities in the United States in 1939, fewer than 20 were open to Black players." See African American Registry.
So in 1944 when Veron Gaskin sought to help connect african american golfers to one another and new players to the game, he created the Leisure Hour Golf League and held that first tournament in 1944. I recently watched "This History of the Leisure Hour" documentary film produced and directed by James Winters and narrated by Garfield Wedderburn which traces the history of this pioneering club that made history here in Portland. As described above this club sparked a movement that was also beginning in other western cities like San Diego, San Francisco and LA that would join forces to create the Western States Golf Association.
In future articles I plan to highlight Vernon Gaskin and the other founding members - as they helped record home movies that at this time, appear to be the only film record of the course dating to the 1940's and 1950's. I also plan to dig deeper into the history of municipal golf and civil rights in America, for while Eastmoreland shows some promise of equality - it's clear this was the exception rather than the rule of the times. With more research and digging into history can we discover what it would have been like to walk in their shoes on those first summer days in 1944.
This will be but the first post on the legendary Eastmoreland Wolves. As Bob MacReynolds, past president of the OGA, in a series of notes he called "Golfers I knew" he shared some insight into these Eastmoreland Wolves:
These Players owned more golf titles than a person could count and included Lou Jennings, Tab Boyer, Eddie Beck, Lou and Chuck Stafford, Bennie Hughes, Tom Marlowe, the Cooney Brothers, Ted Westling, Nick Farchi and many others.
The tradition still holds true... the players who lope around the course need to grow thick skin and sharp fangs to survive. It's simply not an option to let the driver fly anywhere, you'll be down 1 before you even hit your second shot. The course is still roamed by a pack of wolves that have continued their winning ways over the years, consistently placing at or near the top of the leaderboard. In a few weeks the Eastmoreland team will be heading down to Bandon Dunes for the OGA's team championship. This years team is lead by the grizzled veterans, 2016 club champion Byron Patton, 2015 champion Jack Schneider followed by three-time City Champion Jason Wood and anchored by the club's president Vinny DiGiano - who's due to win a championship since his last at Suburban CC in Jersey. Vinny, like his forebears the Wolves, will take any action anytime, as long as you have the cash.
One of the main goals of this website is to capture some of the stories of these great golfers from the Eastmoreland Men's club through the ages, and try as much as possible to get to know them. Thankfully we have all the guys here now and many of them remember the guys that came before them. We also have the Women's Club, who have been much more dutiful in maintaining their club records. Interestingly, the separation of the Men's and Women's clubs occurred in the early 1960's and prior to then the Eastmoreland Club was comprised of both men and women together - playing golf and building friendships.
We all speak reverently for the game, like a beautiful drive "right down broadway" as Vinny would say. Or as Jack fondly remembers, old Bennie Hughes (pictured above in suit and tie) - Jack's vote for the best golfer of Eastmoreland - who had the biggest strongest hands because he was a meat cutter by day" and also the most delicate touch around the greens. The current title of best touch around the green is now held by Ray Comella, the head pro at Eastmoreland, and it was Bennie who coached him since his teenage years on how to chip it close.
And don't think the other clubs and players don't know... I've seen them click their teeth at how Emo brings out the survival instinct and will to win. After all, you don't get around 18 without having a few wayward shots that require an artist's' touch to weave around huge pine or a delicate chip on bed of pinecones and roots up to quick greens that "don't have a single straight 10' putt anywhere" according to Justin Ball.
This summer I got the call from Vinny to help carry his bag for the second day of the OGA's Mid-Amatuer (open to top players over 25 years old) for which he was a few shots off the lead. It's a singles match - but every golfer is announced along with their home club. In the first four holes at Ghost Hollow he managed to hit two bunkers, drive so far to the right on #2 it was almost on the 9th tee box, a layup that flirted with the environmental area - and yet managed to stay even par. He finally hit a green in regulation on #5 and then #6 duck hooked into the woods, though by great fortune stuck the wood square that knocked the ball back to fairway (his first of the long day, as I congratulated him). He then proceeds to fly it left almost into the stream on the right. By miracle he has a shot, though as tough a flop as you can ask for, and just missed an up and down for his first bogey of the day. So then he comes to #7 with a powerful drive, again overcooks the second shot over the green left - and that's not the place to be on #7 especially with the pin cut into the high top left corner of the green. So he's short sided chipping over grass valley bunker and comes up a few feet short of the apron. Leaving the stick in goes right to the ball take a moment to visualize the shot and chips in in for par!
His playing opponent that day John Quisenberry a scratch player from Salem Golf Club just whistles and says "Those Eastmoreland boys" and I'm thinking - "nah... he's a Wolf"
Vinny would go on to birdie #8 and add two more birdies to the card in the next 10 holes and just missed winning the tournament by a single shot. What makes a great golfer, is not just hitting perfect shots, it's the tenacity to stay in the hole and in the match for every single shot - believing you can make it. That in my opinion how Eastmoreland Wolves got their name. Well, that and.... because they'd be eating lunch on your dime.