mad in pursuit family history

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The Club (aka All Inn), continued from here

Bob Barrett on bag swingOur club was the highest one on East Hill Drive -- and it could have been one of the highest in the resort area. It was coal tar black with white trim, like all the clubs in Castlewood. It was dug into rocky red soil, the wedge of a basement providing the foundation.

The club faced in a southerly direction. Between the club and the cliffs overlooking the Meramec River (to the south) was an oak woods. There were oak trees all around. First lesson: how mighty oaks came from the acorns that scattered the land every year.

I think of the grounds as Ewald's crusade to tame nature and to give Kitty Mom the beautiful country estate she envisioned.

First and foremost taming nature meant concrete. One of our most distinct memories is Ewald's putt-putt cement mixer with its permanent sand and gravel piles (which provided many hours of play).

By the time of my first memories the sloping hill had been divided into 3 levels by concrete retaining walls. The upper level (between club and woods) was the driveway. Behind where the cars would park was the cement works, a badminton net, and at the very end an outhouse (for early spring and late fall when the water was off).

Project: building a wide concrete staircase from the driveway to the front "patio" of the club. These were poured and re-poured as they deteriorated over the decades. Ewald was a worker bee, not an aesthete. The steps were all sizes and shapes -- I guess whatever fit the contour of the hill and the mood of the work crew. I do recall when the last flat platform was laid at the driveway level and a sundial installed. That was going to be my performance stage. Memories of trying to put together a play with anyone are very faint.

Mid-level. The area to the front and side of the club was paved with concrete. Springy metal lawn chairs (wow! they got hot in the sun!). Beer and soda coolers. A succession of barbeque pits -- the last made from an oil drum split in half. Out back, the horseshoe pit and another never-ending project -- building and maintaining septic tanks so we could have indoor plumbing.

In front of the club, Kitty Mom had more of a say about landscaping. Lawn was nurtured. Hedges went in and were kept trimmed. Flowers. Mimosa trees. Birdbaths. A swing set at the far end during the fifties, but earlier a tire swing, and in my mom's day a bag swing.

The lower level sloped down to the road that wound around up to our driveway. This area didn't get too much attention -- except for the famous concrete staircase that was built in the fifties. I guess there were "always" a few steps from the front of the club but one summer the goal was to get all the way down to the road.

It was slow work that required building wooden forms and consuming lots of beer. As the summer progressed some of the steps were more like slanted slabs but I guess Ewald, my dad and other helpers were simply following the wisdom of the hill. Initials and footprints decorated the steps. They were finished on the hottest day in memory and that was duly noted on the last step. [I forget what this was -- I have to pull out some notes.]




Bob Barrett on swing in front of club, 1930s