Down on the Ocean Drive, which runs between Narragansett Bay and the golf course, paralleling three fairways, the tops of parked cars glint in the sun. Small crowds will be waiting for him there. With the binoculars you can see the heads, the children perched up on shoulders, as the people stand waiting quietly in the bushes along the public highway. Some of them will have come a long way to watch this man on his vacation.
The news that the President was coming to Newport had little effect on the golfing community. The President had requested specifically before his arrival that nothing at the country club be changed on his account. His wishes were complied with: the membership used the links while the President played; the clubhouse remained in need of a coat of paint, both inside and out; the wicker furniture stood helter-skelter in its bleak need of repair; the small and out-of-date library continued to grace the ballroom table with Golf, Its Rules and Decisions, published in 1937, American College Athletics
(of the year 1929), and a 5-year-old Golf Association yearbook.
In fact, the only indication that the clubhouse was the President's golfing headquarters was a radio operated on the sun porch to keep in touch with the golfing party when it was on the course, and a card reading " President Eisenhower" tacked onto a locker in the upstairs dressing room. The latter was never used. The President was either dressed for golf when he arrived or he pulled on his golfing shoes in a lounge off the barroom. He rarely went into the clubhouse, except on one or two occasions when he would stop for refreshments at the bar. He would order up a Coca-Cola, a choice which must have gladdened the eye of Mr. William Robinson, occasionally one of the President's golfing companions at Newport, who is also the president of the Coca-Cola company.
Far from the halcyon days
Actually, there is nothing in the clubhouse to draw a visitor or to impress the curious. The building and its present-day activities are far from pretentious—a violent change from the halcyon days of Newport society when luncheon and tea were served to members and a man in livery stood at the front gate. The accommodations are smaller than one would expect in a building which from afar seems to loom over the landscape. There is a front lobby which acts as a golf shop, the small bar with a mirror behind it on which a group of ill-painted poodles are toasting each other in what appear to be Martinis, a lounge for members, the dressing rooms upstairs and a ballroom with an adjoining sun porch. The ballroom takes up most of the space in the clubhouse, but it is rarely used for the function for which it was designed. Still, with that vague possibility in mind, a sign has been tacked up requesting players not to walk with spiked shoes on the ballroom floor.
The sporting prints on the clubhouse walls are what one might expect: the horrific Bateman drawings of The Man Who Missed the Ball on the First Tee at St. Andrews, The Girl Who Ordered Milk at the Caf� Royale and the familiar Discovery of a Dandelion on the Center Court at Wimbledon
The golfing trophies (including one donated by His Royal Highness II Conte di Torino in 1896 and reputed to be the oldest trophy in competition in the U.S.) stand not behind glass but scattered about the clubhouse on tables. All of them are in need of polish.
The fact of the matter is that golf is what's important at the Newport Country Club. The exclusivity of the membership, and even the presence of a President, have not changed the utilitarian tenor of the place. The club facilities, after all, are sufficient, and the clubhouse itself is pleasant. French doors open onto terraces which command fine views over the course. Winds sweep in, rustling through the high-ceilinged rooms, and give one the pleasant illusion of being outdoors. Rabbits sometimes get in through the sun porch, also a pigeon or two, and two springs ago an owl somehow got down the ballroom chimney.
The President played on one of the oldest courses in the United States. In fact, a local legend, unsupported by most golf historians, persists that golf in this country was first played on a field just adjacent to the present 10th fairway.
It is unlikely that the course had ever in its long history suffered as searing a summer as this one. From the middle of May until late August no rain fell. The announcement of the presidential visit came at a time when the drought's effects were most serious. In many places the underlying ledge rock cropped up like reefs at low tide and the grass turned brown and bristly in the heat. The Greens Committee shook their heads in despair, gazed at the clear skies and wondered if the President on his arrival would liken the course to a vast burlap bag.