The Story of the Institution of Public Golf Links in Portland, Oregon as told by Charles Paul Keyser in 1958 - Part 1 of 5
There is something unique about municipal golf in Portland that many people may not know - it is, by mandate, required to be 100% self funded. This is a rather extraordinary requirement and unique among all other Bureau of Park properties and services. In spite of, or perhaps because of, this self-sufficient requirement, Portland's municipal golf links are some of the finest in the U.S and offer great public golf in close proximity to downtown.
How did this come to be? Who started it? How did it succeed without continuous public funding?
One particular document may prove to be the Rosetta Stone for uncorking the time capsule and understanding the real story behind the origins of Portland's municipal golf system. This clue was waiting to be rediscovered, almost like a map to the great treasure of history.
This author was Charles Paul Keyser, Portland Parks Superintendent from 1917 to 1950. Located in the City Archives is his description of the events as he looked back in 1958 - eight years after his retirement and eight years before he passed in 1966. Thankfully he took a moment to record and retell the 'scheme' and 'cast of characters' surrounding the birth of Eastmoreland for us to discover some 60 years later.
Keyser's vision for Portland parks system carries through to the present day and his dedication to the preservation of the land for the enjoyment of the people embodies the spirit of our fair city. Keyser began many projects including the rose test gardens, forest park, the community swimming pools - all which encourage productive recreation and ensured green space would remain a part of metropolitan Portland. Keyser had the foresight to see that municipal golf links would enhance outdoor leisure-time activities for all the people of Portland, not just a select few of the privileged class.
The document is a total of 5 pages. To build suspense, in the spirit of cool 1920's noir film that may have inspired Keyser himself during his original authorship, I will be posting each page separately. A faithful copy of the text follows the image.
Portland, the Metropolis of the State of Oregon, had been doing right well in developing a public recreation system, but until 1916 had not moved definitively toward achieving public links golf as a leisure-time activity it seemed that such a move was about due, although still commonly regarded as a sport for the “Silk Stocking” class.
Facilities for the game as yet confined to 3 country clubs: Waverly, Portland and Tualatin. There was also the Multnomah Amateur Athletic Club giving expression to a wide variety of amateur indoor and outdoor games and sports and now became ambitious to provide golf toward a wider spread in membership. Directors of the three above mentioned country clubs were sold on the idea that public Links Golf would also help build and sustain their memberships. And so a delegation from the Multnomah Club aided and abetted by the “Silk Stocking” clubs approached the city council with an overture looking toward working Public Links Golf into the parks system, offering, as a core patronage, to recruit and maintain a group membership of 100 active fee paying players.
The two members representing the Athletic Club called together representatives of the three Golf Clubs and Chandler Egan, and promotion of what was projected. Out of this huddle came a committee of 4 who solicited a fund of some $3,000. The Superintendent of Parks (James O. Corville) worked hand-in-glove with the committee. Egan who was a competent golf architect as well as a past National amateur Champion, designed and laid out an 18-hole link on a 148 acres of land conveniently situated within five miles of the city hall, and admirably suited naturally. The land selected was part of the holding of the Ladd estate company that was being developed into residential subdivision, and Paul C. Murphy for the company cotton to the idea of golf as a selling feature for the real estate development. He tendered the committee a five-year rent-free lease an option to purchase at $1,000 per acre. Murphy only asked that the course be known as the Eastmoreland Golf Course, with no actual attachment to the subdivision of the same name. This scheme was to expect the promoters to develop with solicited funds in the beginning and pay out with anticipated green fees.
The Mayor, who gave initial sanction with no commitment at first to support with appropriation, expected the project would prove out within the tenure of the five-year lease and, when a demonstrated going concern, to be taken over by the Bureau of parks.
That outlines the plot. Now let us present the dramatic characters:
M.D. for T. Morris Dunne of the M.A.A.C, father of the scheme
D.C. for James O. (dad) Convill also of M.A.A.C., Superintendent of Parks and confederate of Dunne
V.J. is for Victor A. Johnson President of the Waverly Country Club and chief raiser of the promotion money
P.M. is for Paul C. Murphy, civic minded real estate operator
G.B. is for George L. Baker Portland’s progressive Mayor
B.B is for C.A. (Bert) Bigelow, COmmissioner of Finance
F.G. is for Grant Grant, City Attorney
F.M is for Fred Mulky, Controller of Tax levies
B.J. is for Wm. (Bill) Johnson, Corporation lawyer
K is for the Ali Baba who succeeded Convill in 1917 and found an “open sesame” and made it work ("Keyser" himself)