SI Vault
John P. Marquand
June 03, 1957
An ugly situation has come to light at the club. They're shooting craps and selling spurious tranquilizers in the caddie room
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June 03, 1957

Caddie Crisis At Happy Knoll

An ugly situation has come to light at the club. They're shooting craps and selling spurious tranquilizers in the caddie room

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A letter to Mr. Albert Magill, president emeritus of the Happy Knoll Country Club, from Mr. Roger Horlick, member of the Board of Governors.

Dear Albert:
I know what you are going to say when you receive this letter. You are going to say that you cannot constantly be called upon to bail out the Happy Knoll Country Club. You are going to add that during the past year there have been too many fiscal crises and contingencies. You are going to ask, as you do always, why it is that certain members of our group who can afford it better than you invariably run out of ready cash whenever the hat is passed. You are also going to say that only last week you contributed generously toward a new set of dentures for Old Tim because his last ones were broken while on duty in the men's locker room when he was seized with a fit of laughter at a practical joke played by one of our many pranksters. Although you remarked at the time that it was hard for you to see how this could be called an employee's injury in line of duty, you also added that you would contribute to anything, however indirect, which might improve Old Tim's personal appearance. When holes were burned in the new Oriental rug in the Pendleton Room during the recent celebration of Benny Muldoon's victory in the Invitation Tournament, you contributed toward the repair bills, making only the obvious remark that it might be safer in the future not to have Oriental rugs in the Pendleton Room, particularly if someone has allowed the insurance to lapse. When the rear porch of the clubhouse unexpectedly collapsed as the new deep freeze unit, to which you also subscribed, was being moved across it to the kitchen, you only sent a rhetorical question with your check, which was: If the club building is falling to pieces, why not let it?

You must not think that the Board of Governors, not to mention the whole Happy Knoll membership, is not deeply appreciative of both your generosity and your suggestions. In fact, we are acutely embarrassed that so many new contingencies have recently arisen. I know you will say, having gone this far with this communication, that I would not have extolled your generosity if something new and serious had not transpired, and in this case, as almost always, you are right.

I need not remind you of your benign and almost paternal interest in the caddie situation at Happy Knoll, which is only exceeded by that of the young advertising executive, Mr. Bob Lawton who, I must have told you, should never have been made a member of the Board of Governors. Unfortunately, if I may say so, you both react toward our caddie problem as though you were demagogic politicians in a welfare state. Yet, though I have sometimes disagreed, I have never violently objected to your eleemosynary steps in this direction because I, too, have found many of the boys who have spent their adolescence on the links at Happy Knoll individually beguiling. I hope that you will be as shocked as we on the Board of Governors were when we learned from Benny Muldoon and from Pete, the caddie master, that the caddie house situation, in spite of all the palliatives you have attempted, is deteriorating as rapidly as world situations. We stand at Happy Knoll like our own great country, thinking of the money that has been spent, reviewing our good-will missions and the panel discussions and then wondering what under the sun has happened.

What, you may ask, has happened? Nothing that may not be inevitable in this changing world, but the news is, according to Pete and Benny Muldoon, who are both themselves in a state of deep unrest, that the caddies are leaving Happy Knoll for other places and that if this regressive movement is not very shortly checked, members, I regret to say, will begin pulling golf carts at Happy Knoll.

A haunting specter

I know very well how strongly you feel about this contingency and how often you have said that a boy carrying the bag and replacing divots, even though he is afflicted by hiccups, is an essential part of a golf match. When he has disappeared, you have often said, a human element and a human hazard has also left the game. We know how the specter of pulling a golf cart has always haunted you, and we know also that your aversion does not arise because of class distinction but because of your innate fondness for the game. We know the extraordinary steps you have taken in order to avoid this danger. It was you who had plumbing, something which none of us quite frankly had ever thought of associating with caddies, added to the caddie house. It was you, too, when this change was made, who defrayed from your own pocket the cost of a caddie room equipped with easy chairs, magazines and checkerboards. It is not your fault that the chairs are hardly ever used or the checkerboards, either, because the young men, when inside, are invariably on their knees shooting craps. It may disturb you, but also-interest you, that a recent delegation from the Board of Governors to the caddie room discovered there a 5� gambling machine contributed by Old Ned, who oversees its operation. In fact, we believe that this explains why Old Ned has been very anxious lately to convert nickels into dollar bills and why all the tills at Happy Knoll are filled with only nickels. I do not like to use the word "racket" in connection with Old Ned, but then perhaps the Happy Knoll Country Club is merely the great world in microcosm. It further appeared when our committee looked into the affairs at the caddie house, that certain of the young men have been selling packets of recently invented non-anxiety pills for nervous and unsteady players. This seemed preposterous until pills were discovered behind a pile of National Geographic magazines in your caddie rest room. When analyzed, they proved to be salt tablets, but young Tommy Bailey said that Old Ned was selling the tablets and arranging for their distribution. Upon being informed of this story, both Benny Muldoon and Pete said that the Bailey boy had been reading too many comic books, and when he attempted to question the Bailey boy again he had entirely disappeared.

Unfortunately, not even your rest room, nor the gambling facilities nor pill peddling combined are any longer sufficient to keep caddies at Happy Knoll. It is true you envisaged the problem, and we all have faced the question of what could be done now that teen-agers can pick up $8 or $10 for mowing a lawn. Our answer was to make life more glamorous for caddies and, I may say, Benny and Pete have been doing their best to make Happy Knoll the cradle of the Hogans of tomorrow by giving useful golf advice, and Tuesday is caddies' day. It was Bob Lawton, I believe, who inaugurated the Caddies' Tournament and the green caddie hat with H.K. embroidered on it, and Benny Muldoon himself has made personal calls on caddies' mothers to explain to them the high moral atmosphere of Happy Knoll and its golfers.

Why is it, you may ask, that these intelligent and expensive efforts have borne so little fruit? Some of the Golf Committee have begun blaming the increasing lack of caddie interest on television, and it may be that the American boy is becoming effeminate or beginning to tire of the game of golf—but, frankly, I believe the caddie shortage can be explained in a single word, namely, competition. Frankly, Albert, there are too many golf courses in this area and too few boys at a time when the caddie potential is being cut by wage inflation and other forms of entertainment. Unfortunately, too, other country clubs have also thought of the devices for caddie happiness that have occurred to us here at Happy Knoll. The Hard Hollow Country Club is a painful illustration. Hard Hollow caddie caps, we have discovered, not only have a handsome H.H. but an embroidered figure of an American eagle that Hard Hollow club has spuriously adopted as an emblem. In some unexplained manner, Mr. Benton Follen, the only really big stockbroker in Hard Hollow, has discovered a lawyer who has convinced the Bureau of Internal Revenue that a caddie's recreation room is a boys' school and consequently tax-exempt. This has enabled Mr. Follen to pour a huge portion of his paper profits into a building whose tiled showers and foam rubber chairs make your effort at Happy Knoll meager; and I am sorry to say there is a Hard Hollow pinball concession which is somehow also classed as charity. But what is still more disturbing is the growing aggressiveness of individual Hard Hollow members. It has been revealed by our investigation that an intensive canvassing of potential caddies' parents has been made, not by their professional, Jerry Scalponi, but actually by a members' committee. These individuals have not only verbally extolled the advantages of Hard Hollow but have also made unfair and defamatory attacks on Happy Knoll. The rumor, believe it or not, is being spread that the Hard Hollow environment is more salubrious for boys than Happy Knoll and, to prove it, a transcript has been made of the golf language of certain Happy Knoll members, including, we have learned, your own. Old Ned and his pills have not come off unscathed, either, and several mothers were told by a Hard Hollow member, in front of the meat counter of an A & P store, that Benny Muldoon and Pete run crap games. It was also said in the A & P store that Jerry Scalponi is more interested in teaching caddies golf, is a better instructor of young players and, what is more, was once an Eagle Scout.

I know that such subversions will infuriate you as much as they have the rest of us and we all dislike to have you disturbed while you are still waiting for the final report on your last medical checkup, but something must be done immediately. The immediacy, I regret, is all the greater because of an agreement which our fellow governor, Bob Lawton, who had no business to speak in behalf of the whole club membership, made with Mr. Conrad Richtover who, as you know, is now the president of Hard Hollow. Unfortunately, the ideas of Mr. Lawton are frequently as unsound as they are dangerous, and his enthusiasm constantly outruns his intelligence. It appears that he and Mr. Richtover met one afternoon at a cocktail party somewhere on Foxhill Road, where Mr. Richtover stated, facetiously I hope, that the only reason any caddie ever worked at Happy Knoll was due to the preposterous tips given them by certain wealthy members. Naturally, Mr. Richtover said, I hope facetiously, caddies were drawn to Happy Knoll by the Jaguars, Cadillacs and Bentleys in the parking lot. It seems, according to the somewhat garbled account of Mr. Lawton, that he expressed indignation. Tipping, he said, was impossible for the upstanding American boys who came to Happy Knoll. In fact, he was sure that it did not exist and he was sure that all our Board of Governors would be glad to make a gentlemen's agreement with Hard Hollow that the members of neither club should tip, however great should be the temptation. You will say, and I will agree with you, that anything said at a Foxhill cocktail party means nothing, but unfortunately Mr. Lawton brought up the question at the recent annual meeting, where it was voted on favorably with the help of our tennis, swimming, backgammon and bridge membership, and there it stands. It means that our last leverage to hold caddies at Happy Knoll club has been pulled out from under us by, frankly, the lack of alcoholic capacity of one of our newer governors. Personally, I had no idea how important the incentive motive was until the no-tipping regulation was suddenly put into practice. Tipping may be a degrading institution, but it is an effective one. Without it, Albert, I am very much afraid that the golf cart is here unless immediate measures are taken.

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