I'm glad you asked about the Rock Lake Country Club, because it's been more than sixty-five years since I last heard it mentioned. As you may know, Talequah was a hotel long before it was acquired for the reservation. Before it was taken over by the scouts, it had been vacant for a year. In that year, the lawn running from the lodge to the tennis courts down by the lake had become infested with moles. The moles had made a complete mess of the lawn, with holes and mounds everywhere.
When Brooklyn Camps opened, operating capital was short, and Joe Levine, the Quartermaster, was given the responsibility of raising money any which way he could. Well, Joe looked at the pock-marked lawn one morning in July and had a brilliant idea. At that time, the country was being swept by the miniature golf course mania, and Joe immediately saw the possibilities of the mole holes. He ran into Monticello that afternoon and bought five short-shaft putters and two dozen golf balls. The next morning, he got his crew together and in the following three days, they laid out a miniature 9-hole course on the lawn, complete with hole flags and an admission gate. When they had finished the project, Joe posted a sign at the gate that read:
Public Golf Course
The scouts went wild about this addition to headquarters, and over the next couple of weeks, the popularity of the course rivaled that of the Trading Post. The course and the Post had the same evening and weekend hours, so the scouts now had a choice in how to spend their nickel. Frequently, there were longer lines at the mini golf course gate than there were at the Trading Post.
The lines of scouts finally caught the attention of Lindsley F. Kimball, the "Chief". Now the Chief dwelled in somewhat higher social circles than did Joe Levine, and while he liked the idea of the course and the extra income, he objected to the name Joe had bequeathed to it, as well as the crass commercialism of the sign. He suggested to Joe that the sign be changed to:
"Rock Lake Country Club,
and that the scouts be allowed to go around the course twice, giving them a full 18-hole club opportunity for their nickel. Because the Chief was indeed the Chief, this was promptly done, and business boomed. A lot of the scouts at Brooklyn Camps became Rock Lake Country Club members that year. However, there were a few problems.
For one thing, the moles were still active, and the location of the "greens" kept changing every day. So Joe's crew had to get out there every morning to re-do the grounds, and it wasn't long before they had run out of grass. The barren sections of hole-y lawn were not very aesthetic, but the holes were easy to avoid during and after the weekly assembly of all the camps for the Saturday Night Council Fire. This was true in early July, when the evenings were fairly light, and you could still see where you were going. But by August, it was dark when the assembly broke up for the walk from Talequah to the Council Ring. The use of flashlights on the walk up was frowned on; you were supposed to follow the line of Arrow torch-bearers up the hill. Unfortunately, the light of the flares did not substitute very well for daylight, and there were many cases of sprained ankles and knees as the campers crossed the lawn in the dark.
On Monday morning, Joe O'Farrell reviewed the injury reports from the infirmary and called in Joe Levine and the Chief. It was then reluctantly decided that the country club plus the moles and their holes had to go. O'Farrell got Al Hruschka to put poison pellets down the holes, and a shovel brigade followed a day later.
The Rock Lake Country Club may now be only a dim memory or a vague rumor to most of us, but for those who were members, it was worth the dues. So much for the history of the Rock Lake Country Club. Remind me some time to tell you about Camp Utopia for Men.