Once Upon a Time…01.13.2017

Posted on October 10th, 2017 by

The Baltimore Jewish Times publishes unidentified photographs from the collection of Jewish Museum of Maryland each week. If you can identify anyone in these photos and more information about them, contact Joanna Church by email at jchurch@jewishmuseummd.org

JMM 1987.136.14

JMM 1987.136.14

Date run in Baltimore Jewish Times:  January 13, 2017

PastPerfect Accession #: 1987.136.14

Status: Unidentified! Do you recognize any of these Schimmel family members (or friends), c.1900?

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A Club of Their Own: Suburban and Woodholme Through the Years, Part 4

Posted on October 9th, 2017 by

generations 2004Article by Dr. Deborah R. Weiner. Originally published in Generations – 2004: Recreation, Sports & Leisure. This particular issue of Generations proved wildly popular and is no longer available for purchase.

Part IV: Sporting and Cavorting

Miss parts 1-3? Start at the beginning.

Continuity and change have marked social life at Woodholme and Suburban. In the beginning, Suburbanites took the trolley out to the club for Saturday night dances. “It is said that there were some wild moments on the last trolleys back to the city around midnight,” reveals the Suburban Club history. For more sedentary members, card-playing proved popular, with separate card rooms for men and women, a standard country club feature. In 1905 the club found it necessary to make rules “to regulate the play of bridge whist by ladies.” Whatever unruly behavior may have occurred did so in elegant fashion, however, since a strict dress code applied. Home-grown productions entertained members from the start, from a 1911 Minstrel Show by the Suburban Flyers to a poolside fashion show some years later, where “Suburban member-models wore the latest fashions from Hutzler’s, Hochschild’s, and Schleisner’s downtown department stores.” Presumably they had no problem obtaining the right outfits, since the stores were all owned by club members.[1]

In the thirties and forties, the Suburban Club “was THE place to be,” says Mary Louise (“Wheezie”) Gutman. “I can remember we went there every Saturday night, and if you didn’t have a date to go there you were considered a lemon.” The unheated clubhouse closed for the cold months, during which time the Phoenix Club took over as German Jewry’s social center (the two clubs had virtually identical membership rosters). “The Phoenix Club’s china used to go to the Suburban Club for the summer and go back to the Phoenix Club in the winter,” Arthur Gutman relates.[2]

At Woodholme, an initial focus on golf and the nation’s plunge into Depression made for a somewhat slow start for the social scene, but with the building of a new clubhouse in 1948, the club came into its own. In fact, both clubs entered their glory years in the late forties. With the Depression and World War II fading into memory, Americans in the postwar era were in the mood to play, and the two clubs had the means to do it in style. Both hosted a lively round of dances, shows, parties, and games of all sorts. Woodholme was “the hub of athletic and social activities for the membership,” says longtime member Paul Goldberg. “No matter what you did on a Saturday night, you always gravitated back to the club…There was always a band, there was always dancing. It was the place to go.”[3]

Woodholme’s social scene tended to be more casual than Suburban’s, and more open to outsiders. Goldberg, a native East Baltimorean who moved back to the old neighborhood after military service in World War II, splurged on a membership because he wanted to play golf. He knew few Woodholme members, so to fill out his membership application, “I managed to dredge up three or four names of people I knew casually,” he says. “But they took me anyway because I was single.” It was “very, very easy” to get to know people: his first day on the course, the golf pro fixed him up with a threesome just starting out. The atmosphere was of “a small family group,” but one that welcomed new members.

One especially festive winter night in 1958, Harry and Marilyn Meyerhoff hosted a luau, with decorations “flown in from the islands especially for the part,” according to the Baltimore Sun. Birds of paradise, eucalyptus palms, and a thatch-roofed bar set the proper atmosphere. Even the invitations were written in Hawaiian (with English translation); Goldberg recalls going to the Pratt library to look up the words to respond in kind. Female guests came in grass skirts, muumuus, and sarongs, while the men donned “aloha shirts” and straw hats. Mr. and Mrs. Archie Wolfsheimer came dressed as cans of pineapple. Marilyn Meyerhoff’s outfit, described in detail by the Sun, featured “a bra made entirely of orchids.” The party, remembered to this day by many of the guests, cost nearly $10,000, making it “one of Baltimore’s more expensive private parties of the past year or so,” estimated the Sun. The festivities broke up after 3 a.m. Until then, guests dined on, among other things, barbequed shrimp and spare ribs, bacon slices wrapped around Spanish melon, lobster in avocado sauce, crabmeat on buttered toast, and the featured entrée, roast suckling pig.[4]

Sburban Club menu, c. 1958. JMM 1988.218.33a

Sburban Club menu, c. 1958. JMM 1988.218.33a

Not exactly a kosher menu, but neither Woodholme nor Suburban ever worried about such matters. From the Seafood Supreme served at one early Suburban luncheon to the Deluxe Seafood Bar on offer at Woodholme’s 75th anniversary celebration in 2002, the clubs’ chefs have focused on pleasing their members’ taste buds, not reflecting their religious affiliation. In fact, there has been little overtly “Jewish” in the clubs’ policies or daily operations. As the Suburban history points out, “there is no intent stated in the charter, bylaws, or minutes to serve only the Jewish community.” In the mid-1930s, the rabbis of the three Reform congregations asked Suburban officials to close the facilities on Yom Kippur. “The Board decided there was no reason to change longstanding practice and the Club would remain open,” the board minutes relate. However, the board later reversed the policy – and began the practice of giving Reform rabbis complimentary memberships. In later years, the Club offered a Shabbat menu at Friday dinner, “but the few orders received for it brought about its demise,” notes the Suburban history. (Recently, this option has reappeared on the menu, members say.”[5]

There has been one major exception to the lack of “Jewishness” in official club policies. Both Woodholme and Suburban have fostered a sense of communal responsibility, requiring their members not only to contribute to charity, but also to support Jewish philanthropies with at least a portion of their charitable dollars. “If you’re lucky enough to belong to a country club, Suburban member Ann Neumann Libov points out, “you’re lucky enough to give to charity, and especially support the Jewish community.”  AS early as 1927, the suburban board voted to consider charitable contributions in selecting members, and in 1937 required that members contribute at least $50 per year to the Associated Jewish Charities. Today, Suburban members must give a percentage of their dues amount to charity, and at least half of that is expected to go to the Associated or Associated agencies. Woodholme members’ charitable contributions must match their dues amount, and they must also give a certain portion to the Associated.[6]

Suburban Club baseball team, Oct. 1, 1909. Pictured are R. Maisel, Anderson, Goldman, E. Maisel, E. Strouse (Straus?), Parlette, unidentified, Aldridge, M. Strouse (Straus?), Wolf, Fowler, Rodger Pippen, and Zink. JMM 1985.90.19

Suburban Club baseball team, Oct. 1, 1909. Pictured are R. Maisel, Anderson, Goldman, E. Maisel, E. Strouse (Straus?), Parlette, unidentified, Aldridge, M. Strouse (Straus?), Wolf, Fowler, Rodger Pippen, and Zink. JMM 1985.90.19

Nevertheless, country clubs are not charities, their raison d’être is recreation, and sports have featured prominently at both Suburban and Woodholme. In the early 1900s, baseball reigned supreme in America, and every club had its amateur team. The Suburban Club played against other clubs in the area, and the competition as serious – it was not unknown for a team to have one or two non-member “ringers.” While the sport was wildly popular with spectators, it had relatively few participants. In 1928, in a clear sign of the times, the baseball team was dissolved because its diamond was needed for an urgent cause: a parking lot. On the other hand, swimming and tennis drew many players at Suburban, attracted by championship-quality facilities. Suburban produced male and female champions in both sports over the years, including Wheezie Gutman, who in her early twenties won the women’s city tennis championship. She attributes the success of Suburban’s tennis program to “the finest clay courts in Baltimore” and the coaching of the club’s tennis professionals.[7]

The putting green at the Suburban Club, July 1927. JMM 1985.35.5

The putting green at the Suburban Club, July 1927. JMM 1985.35.5

But everywhere, “golf is the anchor of the country club,” as one interviewee put it. Until recently, public golf courses were not very good, so anyone who truly wanted to play had to join a club. At Woodholme, even with today’s high-end public courses, golf is still “the primary lure,” says Paul Goldberg. That’s because of Woodholme’s championship-level course, a challenging 18 holes that serious golfers continue to relish playing. Although a poll was first built in 1938 and tennis enjoyed its moment of glory from the fifties to the eighties, golf has always been the club’s pride and joy. In fact, according to former member Sewell Sugar, “Woodholme evolved from a simple, male-oriented golf club” into a “full blown country club” only over a period of decades.[8]

Male-oriented, that is, until the legendary Evelyn Glick came along. The wife of a Woodholme member, Glick took up golf at age 30 and proceeded to dominate the women’s amateur scene in Maryland from the 1940s to the 1960s. From her base at Woodholme, Glick was the “undisputed queen of the fairways,” reported the Baltimore Sun in 1956. Winner of numerous city, state, and regional championships, she was inducted in to the Maryland Athletic Hall of Fame in 1977. “Whatever she did, she did full blast,” Sugar recalls.[9]

Continue to Part V: Controversies and Changing Times

Notes:

[1] The Suburban Club, 60-62.

[2] Arthur and Wheezie Gutman interview; The Suburban Club, 63.

[3] “About Our Club” (JMM Vertical Files, courtesy of Woodholme Country Club); Pail Goldberg, phone interview with author, December 2004.

[4] Audrey Bishop, “If Winter Comes – An Indoor Luau,” Baltimore Sun, January 26, 1958.

[5] Suburban Club menu, JMM 1990.233.4; Woodholme anniversary program (JMM Vertical Files, courtesy of Woodholme Country Club); The Suburban Club, 22, 32, 34, 42, 70; various interviews.

[6] The Suburban Club, 44; Ann Neuman Libov, phone interview with author, December 2004; Mitchell Platt, interview with author, December 9, 2004.

[7] The Suburban Club, 73-77; Wheezie Gutman interview.

[8] Sewell Sugar, phone interview with author, December 2004.

[9] Fred Rasmussen, “Evelyn G. Glick, 87, Golfer,” Baltimore Sun, October 18, 1998 (obituary); “Woodholme Club ‘Becomes of Age,’” Baltimore Sun, April 1, 1956; Sugar interview.

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A Club of Their Own: Suburban and Woodholme Through the Years, Part 3

Posted on October 4th, 2017 by

generations 2004Article by Dr. Deborah R. Weiner. Originally published in Generations – 2004: Recreation, Sports & Leisure. This particular issue of Generations proved wildly popular and is no longer available for purchase.

Part III: A New Club Appears

Missed parts I and II? Start at the beginning.

A quarter-century after the Suburban Club opened to much fanfare, Jacob Epstein would assist the next generation of movers and shakers in forming a second Jewish country club. As featured speaker at the first anniversary celebration of the Woodholme Country Club in May 1928, Epstein “spoke of the value and need of another Jewish golf club in Baltimore, “ reported the city’s Jewish Times. “The theme of Mr. Epstein’s address was the advantage club membership meant to the promotion of good citizenship and health.”[1]

Citizenship and health benefits notwithstanding, the newspaper refrained from disclosing the underlying reason for the club. It didn’t need to, since everyone knew. Socially, a “complete schism” still existed between German and Eastern European Jews, in the words of a Suburban Club member. The founders of Woodholme, though economically successful and mostly Baltimore-raised, were children of Eastern European immigrants and would not be eligible for membership in the older club. Not only did cultural differences – real or perceived – continue to separate the two groups, but exclusivity has always been part of the rationale for country clubs. As the Suburban Club’s official history acknowledges, “One gets the impression that the Board cherished the idea that Suburban Club membership was a desirable social attainment and should be limited to the ‘right’ people. However,” the history points out, “during the Club’s long history, one would be hard put to find as many as a score of applications turned down.”[2]

There was no need to turn people down, since “Russians” knew better than to apply in the first place. “You sort of knew where you belonged…it was a strict line that you couldn’t cross over,” one person explained. A Woodholmite who came of age in the 1930s recalled, “I didn’t want to go over to the Suburban Club because I felt like I wasn’t wanted. Our generation as a group felt that way.”[3]

18th Green and Fairway at the Woodholme Country Club, April 24, 1930. Photograph by the Baltimore News.

18th Green and Fairway at the Woodholme Country Club, April 24, 1930. Photograph by the Baltimore News.

Rather than make a fuss, his father’s generation simply did what the Suburbanites had done when faced with a similar situation: they created a club of their own. In 1926, members of the Amity Club, the in-town social club of affluent Eastern European Jews (located, naturally, on Eutaw Place) began to discuss forming a country club. They too moved quickly. Bu the time they incorporated as the Woodholme Country Club in May 1927, they had already acquired the former Dr. Cook estate in Pikesville and were putting the finishing touches on their clubhouse (the old Cook mansion) and a temporary 9-hole golf course. Their gala opening on a Sunday in June 1927 featured a golf tournament in the morning and a dinner dance at night. Rabbi Adolph Coblenz of Chizuk Amuno, a Conservative congregation, gave the invocation at the afternoon dedication services, an unsurprising contrast to the Suburban Club’s close ties to a Reform congregation, Oheb Shalom.[4]

It’s fitting that the location chosen for the new club was on Woodholme Avenue off Reisterstown Road, the second great artery of Jewish Baltimore that runs parallel to the first, Park Heights Avenue, where the Suburban Club sits. The two clubs in fact represent steps along the same path followed by both Baltimore branches of European Jewry, if several decades apart. As Gil Sandler observes, “The so-called uptown Jews (read ‘German’) and the downtown Jews (‘Russian’) had many differences but shared one common aspiration: to become ‘American’ as quickly as possible.” For people who managed to fulfill the American dream of wealth and success, this meant indulging in the activities of American high society.[5]

Similar aspirations translated into different priorities, reflecting the societal changes that had taken place between the founding of the two clubs. In the fast-paced 1920s, Americans no longer paid much attention to spiritual uplift or sylvan escape. It was a sports-crazy era, with golf at the height of its popularity. In his dedication speech, instead of a rhapsodic ode to rural life, club president Ben Hornstein (an executive with Jacob Epstein’s American Wholesale Corporation) “presented the club with a large silver loving cup to be competed for annually by the membership on the golf links.” The club hired noted Scottish and American golf course architect Herbert Strong to build a championship 18-hole course, instructing him “to spare no expense in creating as fine a course as his ability and ingenuity would permit.” When it opened in spring 1930, it was – and remains – one of the best golf courses in Maryland.[6]

This is not to say Suburban didn’t develop a sports tradition of its own. Through the years, athletics for men and women played a major role at both Clubs. In fact, club life revolved around two pastimes: sports and socializing. Both these activities deserve a close look.

Continue to Part IV: Sporting and Cavorting

Notes:

[1] “Woodholme Country Club Tenders Membership Banquet,” Jewish Times, May 4, 1928, 17.

[2] The Suburban Club, 41.

[3] Various interviews.

[4] “The Amity Club – The Woodholme Country Club” (1992) (Jewish Museum of Maryland Vertical Files, courtesy of Woodholme Country Club); Articles of Incorporation, Woodholme Country Club, May 9, 1927; “Woodholme Country Club Officially Opened,” Jewish Times, July 1, 1927.

[5] Sandler, Jewish Baltimore, 45.

[6] “Woodholme Country Club Officialy Opened” (first quote); “Woodholme Country Club Tendesr Membership Banquet” (second quote).

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