So it is only natural that I should think back and reflect on my own remembrances of that era, a highlight revolving, believe it or not, around my experiences at the caddy shack.Starting when I was 10 years old I caddied at Glen View Club, located appropriately enough in Golf, Illinois. At the turn of the 20th Century, when Glen View was first established, the main form of transportation to the club was via the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad line. There was no established station nearby, so members who wanted to stop for a round on the links would yell out to the conductor “Golf” when they approached the country club. Thus and such, the stop, and eventually the village, came to be named.
Anyway, when I started caddying the established rate was $3.50 for carrying a bag 18 holes, or $1.75 for nine holes. with no tipping allowed. That seemed to me a princely sum, though the set fee had been in effect for some time and continued to apply for years thereafter. To facilitate the tipping ban, no cash passed hands between golfer and caddie. Members signed a ticket at the end of the round, which we would turn in to the caddiemaster, who paid us out of his cash box.
|Glen View Club, 18th Hole and Clubhouse|
We caddies compared notes with our brethren at neighboring clubs. Near neighbors North Shore Country Club (which once hosted the US Open and twice hosted the US amateur) and Indian Hill Club (where Bill Murray and his brothers caddied, giving rise to the very real world experiences portrayed in the movie “Caddy Shack”) were among several dozen Chicago area golf courses that had caddie programs. There was much to compare. As the years ticked by caddies at the others clubs came to be paid more than us at Glen View Club, largely due to the no tipping policy. We were not happy.
Being a rowdy reckless rabble of teenagers and adolescents, an inexperienced and unworldly mob, clad in crusty t-shirts, cutoffs and holey sneakers, we caddies did something extraordinarily mature. We caucused, set an agenda, established objectives and selected a committee to negotiate for a raise with club management. The club manager’s name was Brahms, “Baldy Brahms” to us. Our committee visited him armed with quotes from key members attesting that we were the best group of caddies around, data concerning consumer price inflation and evidence that our colleagues at other area clubs were better paid. We wanted tips or we wanted a raise. We had an ironclad case. Baldy said he would get back to us. Our committee met with Brahms again. Baldy said he needed to do some research. A third meeting was scheduled -- and cancelled. It went on and on like this. We were livid. We decided to take matters into our own hands.
Sunday is the busiest day of the week on the golf course. Men’s golf was in the early morning followed by couple’s golf starting at 11:00 am, with tee times scheduled every eight minutes through 3:00 pm or later. Any caddie who wanted could easily get in 36 holes and a big payday ($14.00 if you carried two bags 36 holes). We set the next Sunday as the day for action. Most of us pledged to show up at the caddy shack for work as normal early Sunday morning. But when the first of us was called to go out on a loop, the day would veer in a distinctly abnormal direction. When the caddiemaster walked out on the caddy shack porch that morning with the assignment tickets and called out the caddie numbers for the first foursome, he was met with a unified chorus. “Strike” he heard from the basketball court. “Strike” he heard from the picnic tables. “Strike” he heard from the benches along the porch. He heard dozens of caddies yelling they were on strike. Members walking to the driving range to warm up just about dropped their buckets of balls.
|Ed Oldfield Sr., |
Head Pro Glen View Club
It took the caddiemaster but a few minutes to figure out this issue was larger than himself, so he headed up to the clubhouse. The limited supply of drive carts was ferried out to the first tee. Calls were placed to nearby country clubs to borrow additional drive carts, which magically showed up on the flatbeds of semi-trailer trucks. Pull carts used for late day and off-season play were taken out of storage. Automobiles driven by other than the usual Sunday morning crowd began to trickle into the parking lot. The head pro, his Sunday duties suddenly expanded from schmoozing the husbands and flirting with the wives, emerged from his Cadillac Seville rubbing sand from his eyes. The "never before noon on Sunday" Club Manager appeared. The Club President drove up the entrance road. The Chairman of the Caddie Committee, who thought he had volunteered to emcee and hand out awards at the end-of-the-year caddie banquet, was retrieved from a church pew. He wasn't pleased. None of them were happy, not in the least.
So it would be clear we were united, we caddies massed and organized. We marched out to the center of the driving range. We sat down on the target practice greens, making it perfectly clear that nobody should use the range, not without risking serious injury to the young men sitting in. And being good 1960’s protestors, we chanted slogans and then sang at the top of our lungs “We Shall Overcome.” Our refrains echoed across the greens, over the sandtraps, and throughout the forests.
We were invited to send representatives to the clubhouse. Our reps were told the caddies were all fired; we must immediately vacate the grounds. The incumbents would be replaced by carts until an entirely new crew of caddies could be trained and hired. Two among us who had been awarded full-ride college scholarships to start in the fall were informed their scholarships would be rescinded. The Club President and the Manager were adamant. Our behavior was reprehensible. The Caddie Committee Chairman then said wait just a second, I’d like to hear what is going on from the perspective of the caddies. Our representatives spoke up. They explained what we wanted and why, and how we had been trying to negotiate a settlement. They recounted unfullfilled promises and cancelled meetings. The Caddie Chairman looked at the Club Manager. Baldy said “I haven't had the time.” By the end of the hour Baldy was begging to keep his job.
We caddied later that morning for the husband and wife crowd, some irate and others sympathetic. The flatbed trailers were reloaded and exited the grounds. Based on a quick survey we were granted a comparability raise to $4.10 a bag, which was adjusted shortly thereafter to $4.50 per bag as a quality premium. In the weeks that followed we negotiated a new compensation structure that went into effect the next spring, where the most experienced and highly rated caddies would net $5.25 a bag, and not long thereafter $5.75 a bag. The club committed to reviewing and increasing caddie fees as necessary. The last time I looped I earned $7.25 a bag. Our bargaining committee disbanded. To this day, Glen View Club uses the pay structure we negotiated, now with a top rate now of $60 a bag. The caddies of today probably don’t realize it, but they have, in a small way, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his fellow protestors to thank for their bounty. Dr. King, thank you for showing us the way that day. We did overcome.
March on Washington
"We Shall Overcome at 19:00 Min