Pekin Country Club – 1946 – 1962 Home
My dad (John Raymond Hall II) was born in Toledo, Ohio in 1917 where his father Hap Hall became a golf pro at Heather Downs Country Club, so pop grew up around a golf club and became proficient at the game. He went to work for Toledo Scale as a driver and in 1941 his job required him to move to Peoria, Illinois with mom (Mary June Tuck Hall) and their just born son Jack. I was born in 44 and lived in Sunnyland until I was two years old when dad got a job at Pekin Country Club after winning the 46 Peoria Open. We moved to Pekin with my new younger brother Jerry and took up residence on a two bedroom house located on the nine hole course.
The house had running water but we had to get our drinking water from a well about 50 yards north of the house near a caddy shack. Some 50 yards farther north was a creek in a wooded area and beyond that were railroad tracks that separated the PCC from Parkview the local public 18 hole course. The house had a coal stove in the basement that had to be manually fed from the coal storage bin. The property had coal veins running all through it. To the east of the house was a grapevine area which had been used during the 20s and 30s by the mob as a source of bootleg wine which they would store in the basement. Beyond the grapevines was a creek and a wooded area. Only some 20 feet to the south was Bozno's farm field where he would alternately grow corn and wheat. The front of the house faced west toward the first hole's fairway and beyond that the putting green,clubhouse and pro shop.
The first dog we got soon after our arrival at the new house was a mutt named “Bingo.” I'm sure mom must have named it as that was a favorite game of hers. He was a white and brown spotted dog and he must have been in heaven with three young boys and all that territory to roam. Later we had two bitch terriers (Trixie and Pixie – sounds like mom named them also) who were only good at popping puppies by the dozen. Later mom brought home a puppy named “Peachy.” Peachy would always chase our car as we left our home. One day mom was leaving and Peachy ran through the bushes between our front yard and the lane after mom's car and ran right under the wheel. The next week mom brought another puppy home that looked just like the old Peachy. It took awhile for Bingo to accept the new Peachy but he eventually did. One day in the mid 50s Bingo came home not feeling well and lay down and wouldn't get up. Later he began to shake and stiffen up. He had been poisoned. When Dad left to go to an event at the club he said he would bring a doctor back. When he didn't come back after a couple hours we called the club and he brought back a member of the club who was a doctor. He said there was nothing he could do and he left and Bingo died. We knew it was farmer Boznos who had poisoned Bingo because he had warned my dad about Bingo eating his dog's food. A few years later I found Peachy lying out near the creek east of the grape vineyard half dead showing the signs of strychnine poisoning. She died that night and mom eventually got a third Peachy.
My first memory in the house was one day when mom was kneading oleo in a plastic bag at the kitchen sink and I was standing up on a box so I could see what she was doing when the bag split open and some of the mixture squirted onto my face and into my mouth and I swallowed some. It was the most awful taste. I got sick and threw up. After that I wouldn't eat oleo again.
One day we all were leaving the house when a commercial airline came flying overhead and mom stopped and told us to look at the airplane. We all stopped and watched as it moved over our house and Mom explained what it was and that they were fairly new and I remember being impressed with how amazing it was. I can still see that plane in the sky flying over our house.
In our bedroom there was a bunkbed for Jerry and me and Jack had a single bed. The first Christmas I remember Jack told Jerry and me that we would see Santa and his sled fly in if we stayed up all night so Jerry and I stayed awake as long as we could watching out the window. “When is he going to come?” “Just keep watching.” “Maybe he won't come if we're watching!” “He'll come – just keep watching” Goddamn it we eventually fell asleep and missed him. But the presents were under the tree so he had definitely been there.
New Years Eve 1950 must have been a warm night because Jack, Jerry, and me were to sleep out on the screened in front porch which faced the clubhouse. At midnight we could hear the fireworks and celebration coming from the clubhouse and we got excited and got into a pillow fight. Every time that had happened before I always succumbed to Jack's power, but this time I decided to really fight back and I went nuts and wild until Jack temporarily gave up. I felt so empowered and proud of myself. Of course Jack couldn't let that stand and later he overcame me again. But I had had my first taste of the freedom and independence that comes from expressing myself and I wanted more.
During the winters my older brother Jack would go toboggan riding on the fourth fairway from near the PCC parking lot down to the creek and willow tree north of the house. One cold January morning I pleaded with mom to let me go and she made Jack and his friend Paul Eldridge take me along. I remember the excitement as they put me on the sled and pushed me off. As the sled sped up I was scared shitless. What the fuck did I get myself into? I could hear Jack and Paul laughing as I sped toward the creek. I knew no matter how scared I was I was going to have to go back for more. But as the trip progressed I became less scared and became excited about the thrill of it all. So I went back and asked to go again and they couldn't believe it. Eventually mom let me take Jerry and go by myself.
In the fall of 1950 at the age of six I left the security of my home to start grade school. First grade was at McKinley school on the East bluff about a mile and a half from our house. My mom would drive me to school and back, but later I would walk a lot from my home to the east bluff to play basketball or hang out with the kids. To get to Court St. it was about a half mile walk south on an unpaved lane from our home passed Boznos' Nursery. Boznos had a vicious dog and he was free to roam so it was dangerous. He had four foot high bushes between his yard and the lane so I could never see where the dog was. I usually tried to walk on the third hole till I got off PCC property as that was near Boznos' southern property line. One afternoon as I was walking home I had forgotten all about the dog and I had just passed the PCC southern property line and was now in front of Boznos' Nursery when all of the sudden I heard the dog growling and I looked up as the dog was in mid air jumping over the bushes with a mouth full of teeth bared and headed right for me. Thankfully I was only about five yards from the place where I could enter onto PCC property and I ducked in there as fast as I could and ran my ass off for 50 yards or so. I never walked in front of his property again.
Before Jack got old enough to baby sit we had various girl baby sitters. One night our baby sitter kept going down into the basement. We could hear the kittens meowing. She was trying to drown the kittens. I don't remember if she drowned them all or not. Turns out mom had told her to do it. As I remember it mom tried to pretend that the babysitter was just nuts. I didn't find out mom had ordered it till years later.
As I became old enough one of my first responsibilities was to take a bucket to the drinking water well pump near the caddy shack and hand pump water and carry it back to mom. One day the water I pumped out was full of ants and I had to keep pumping and pumping until they were no longer in the water.
My next job was to run the 100 yards or so between the Pro Shop and the caddy shack to tell one or more of the caddies they were needed to caddy. I would sometimes hang around with the caddies at the caddy shack. Sometime in the early 50s word got out to the caddies that my my dad was going to introduce the new electric golf carts to the country club and some of the caddies were pissed off about it. I felt conflicted about it because they were upset with my dad that they might be losing their income. One day several of the guys had been drinking and talking about the situation and threatening to do something about it. They were talking about setting on fire a large pile of hay that was stored some 30 yards away in a fenced in area. Somehow I let them talk me into doing it and I went over and lit a match and threw it on the pile and it went up in flames. It turned into a big fire and the fire department had to come out. The next day my dad approached and said “Son – don't worry – you're not going to get in trouble. I Just need to know the truth. Did you start the fire?” I admitted it and then he wanted to know who had told me to do it and I felt bad having to give them up. I'm not sure what happened to the caddies who talked me into doing it, but they were probably suspended for awhile. It took awhile for the carts to completely replace all the caddies but within a couple of years the caddy shack was abandoned. I think the economic lesson I learned from the golf cart experience later helped ease me into the libertarian philosophy. The loss of jobs (Schumpeterian creative destruction) caused by the technological advance was distressing at the time but the eventual more widely disbursed economic benefits far outweighed the temporary disruption to the lives of the caddies.
Soon after the fire several new Westcoaster electric golf carts arrived and they were stored and charged in a large wooden garage some 30 yards north of the house. I'm guessing ten or so carts could be stored there. Jack showed me how to operate and charge one and we became responsible for driving the carts to the proshop and back and charging them up. The house and garage were at a higher elevation than the first fairway and we would have to drive south up the driveway toward Court St and the first tee some 80 yards before we could turn west onto the fairway to head towards the Pro Shop. Some times the carts would die on the course and Jack and I would have to drive another cart out there to tow them back in. Later Jerry became part of the crew.
Often in the winter when we would get snowed in or I would get sick and I would have to stay home from school I would read the comic books mom would buy me. At the time there were a lot of them about WWII and the “Japs.” I remember the stereotype of the ugly, buck toothed Japanese pilot sticking his head out of his plane and laughing while the bombs he had dropped exploded. Because of this propaganda I began to ask mom about the Japanese woman that I had seen sitting at the pool. I asked mom why the Japanese woman was allowed to be a member after the war. I have never forgotten what she said. “It's over and everybody just wants to forget about it.” I remember getting the distinct feeling that as a country we had done something that we weren't real proud of and that's why we wanted to forget about it. After reading about Hiroshima and Nagasaki I understood why.
In the early 50s one of the couples from the club would occasionally come home with mom and dad after an evening social at the club for a visit. The man's name was Claude Mason and he was a wonderful story teller and impersonator and whenever he would come over we would all start yelling for him to come in to our bedroom to tell us some stories. He could make all these weird noises that would make us all laugh so hard. What a funny man he was.
Occasionally I would shag balls for members and make a few bucks. The last time I remember seeing Claude was around 1958 when dad said Claude wanted me to go to Peoria to shag balls for him. I couldn't understand why we had to go all the way up there and I was a little irritated about it. Our club didn't have a real driving range so I guess that was why but we usually used a spot off of the 7th fairway by the Pekin Park or in Bozno's field next to our house if it was fallow. Anyway I wasn't very friendly as we drove up to Peoria and I still feel guilty about it since he was such a nice man and had always made me laugh as a child. If I weren't such a bridge burner I would have found out what happened to him.
When I was around eight years old I began to work in the locker room at the pro shop tracking towels and cleaning up. The members would give me tips. It gave me a chance to spend time with my dad who ran the Pro Shop. It was my first exposure to the adult would as I would listen to the conversations and comraderie of the members with my dad.
In 1953 I heard on the news that a woman (Ethel Rosenberg) was going to be executed by our government and I became very disturbed. My mom was a woman. How could they execute a woman? It made me think our government was evil. I asked my mom about it and she seemed confused about it. She said it was a controversial decision and they didn't usually execute women. It was the first time I had thought about government other that reading about WWII.
Dad's job involved some socializing and every monday during the summer he and three other members would go to the local pro-am around the area. One of dad's drinking and golfing buddies was a member named Rollie Recktenwalt who always had a beer in his hand and often played in the pro-am with dad. Rollie had a daughter named Penny who would hang around the club sometimes. One day I called dad to tell him that a kitten had broken it's leg and it was writhing around on the ground. He told me to get the 4-10 and shoot the kitten. For some reason I was not able to use the 4-10. It was either out of ammo or broken so dad said to use the BB gun and shoot it in the head. Of course I was horrified at the thought but I did as he said. The BB didn't penetrate the skull. It just sort of burrowed into the head a little. So I tried again – and again – and again until the kitten became weaker and stopped trying to move but just laid there meowing begging for mercy. I called dad back and told him the gun wasn't strong enough to penetrate her skull. He sent Penny over with instructions to get the coal shovel and smash the kitten's head. She arrived and got the shovel and after some debate over who was supposed to terminate the kitten she finally took the shovel and gave the kitten two or three whacks ending her short existence. I repressed the whole episode until 1969 when I dropped some acid and went to a Joan Baez concert at the Assembly Hall in Champaign, Illinois. While there I sat next to two girls whom after the concert I started telling about the kitten that had broken it's leg that I had to kill and I started crying and couldn't stop. They felt so sorry for me they came home with me and my roommate started dating one and me the other.
So what were the lessons from that? Don't use a BB gun when you need a 4-10.? Don't try to suppress unpleasant memories unless you're going to drop acid later in your life in which case you will get laid? Seriously - couldn't the kitten have survived with a broken leg? We fed them anyway so it just would have had a limp. I have to question my dad's apparent chivalry toward animal life. Should I have just refused to follow dad's instructions and hidden the kitten to save it and then tell my dad after the kitten recovered? That makes the most sense to me now that I think about it. Why wasn't I born with more faith in my own judgement? Every time in my life that I have strayed from what I felt to be right because of people who supposedly had the authority and expertise to know the right action it has been a mistake.
As a golf pro dad wound up playing golf and socializing with the members in the bar and he did some drinking. One winter night he and mom came home a little late and dad was a little inebriated and mom told him he needed to load the furnace. So he went down to the basement to shovel in some coal. About 15 minutes later mom realized that he hadn't come back and she sent Jack down to see what happened. Dad had passed out in the coal bin. Jack brought him upstairs and Jack finished filling the furnace. Around the mid 50s we switched over to oil and dad was saved from any more coal fiascos.
On my ninth birthday I received my first bicycle. Dad gave it to me at the pro shop. He was busy working and I guess he thought I could figure it out myself but I was so little I couldn't get up on it and get started. I went into dad and told him I needed help but he couldn't come right away. As I was trying to get on it one of the members came walking by and offered to help me. He helped me get up on it and calmed me down and gave me a little push to get me started. After that I drove all around the clubhouse the rest of the day.
Occasionally Jerry and I would switch beds on our bunkbed. At this time I was on the top bunk when one night I purposely dropped a corn kernel down on Jerry's head and it went into his ear and he couldn't get it out and he started to freak out saying he was going to tell mom. I convinced him not to tell mom and that it would fall out tomorrow. He had to have it removed some twenty years later.
My mom had a friend who had a son my age (Jimmy Parker) who lived close to Washington Jr. High School and I started to stay at his home overnight and on weekends. One night around Christmas (I'm guessing 53) he asked me if I knew there was no Santa Claus. I had my suspicions but I had not wanted to believe that mom would lie to me. I acted as if I had already known but I'm sure my surprise and disappointment in my mom were evident to him. That April the McCarthy-Army hearings came on TV and Jimmy and I and a next door neighbor kid our age (Dan Dancey) would go into the basement and watch the hearings fascinated by the formality of it all. We were particularly impressed with this new profession of lawyering we were seeing and after the hearings would go off the air we would hold our own court and imitate the lawyers. That August Dan's dad was killed in an explosion at the American Distillery plant after a fire and I didn't see him again until high school. Jim's family later moved from Pekin and I never saw Jim again.
One day dad told Jack to take me and a golf cart and go out onto the course and shoot ground hogs. I was horrified at the thought of it. I went along and wasn't very good moral support for Jack as he attempted to kill some. I don't even remember seeing any killed but Jack says we used to do it. Now that I've seen the History Channel's show about the extinction 65 million years ago and how our ancestors only survived because they were similar to groundhogs and could survive underground I would be even more reluctant to kill one.
The new pro shop was finished in early 55 and the course numbering was changed because the new shop now stood near the old 6th green and 7th tee which now became the 9th green and 1st tee making the old 1st hole that ran next to our home now the 4th hole.
The new proshop had a garage on the first story where the electric carts could be stored so we didn't have to store them at our home garage nor drive them back and forth from the club to our house anymore. After several failures dad finally hired a man who worked out well in handling the carts and bag storage department. His name was Frank Herhammer and he looked a little like a neanderthal man with a little stoop and long arms and big hands. I worked with him for several years. One day I asked him if he had any children. He said he had had a son but he was killed in the war. I vaguely remembered reading about the war in the comic books but it had been so long ago. I guess my mom telling me everybody just wanted to forget about it had had some influence on me and I had almost forgotten about it. Anyway I said “What War?” He said “World War II.” I said “OH.” My world had been so peaceful and happy since I had arrived at PCC that I just couldn't imagine how recently the world had been at war and so many people had died. I felt really sad for Frank as I could feel a part of his loss.
Around 1999 I read a book by a former member of PCC (Bob Monge) who lived in southwest Florida about all the casualties of WWII from Tazewell County and Frank's son was in there. He was 26 years old when he was killed in the Pacific.
I started swinging a golf club when I was five or so but I couldn't play the course till I reached a certain age. Dad was always busy and mom was always trying to talk him into playing with her. Mom had a unique swing and played barefooted for many years. She kept promising that she would get Dad to play with us boys. One day she surprised me by telling me to get ready that dad was going to play with her and Jack and me. I was so excited to show dad what I could do. I remember how proud I was when he would complement me.
In the fall of 56 Jack entered Pekin Community High School and Jerry and my temporary hell began. Jack joined the wrestling team and would want to try out his new found knowledge on us. “Let me show you the SUGAR!” “Aw Shit”. One night when mom and dad were gone Jack was being an especially generous teacher. He pissed me off and I began mouthing off to him. Finally I said something that really pissed him off and I got scared and got to the bathroom and locked the door before he could get to me. Safe behind the door I began taunting him. He tried everything to get to open that door. “If you don't come out now when you do come out I'm going to SUGARIZE you, you little shit.” “HA HA HA – you can't touch me.” “OK, If you come out now I promise I won't hurt you.” “I don't believe you.” “No Really!” “Yeah, right – I'm not coming out till they get home.” “If you do that I'll really get you tomorrow.” “Come on – I've got to pee.” “Go outside”, “Now I've got to go number two.” “Go outside.” and on and on. I stayed in there for a couple hours till mom and dad got home but paid for it the next week.
One day dad told Jack to take me and a golf cart and go out onto the course and shoot gophers. I was horrified at the thought of it. I went along and wasn't very good moral support for Jack as he attempted to kill some. I don't even remember seeing any killed but Jack says we used to do it. Now that I've seen the History Channel's show about the extinction 65 million years ago and how our ancestors only survived because they were similar to gophers and could survive underground I would be even more reluctant to kill one.
The Pekin Chinks Football stadium bordered the seventh hole of our golf course and when I was 12 years old mom let me start going to the football games by myself. The stadium fence on the 7th fairway served as the out of bounds marker and had a spot which could be lifted enough to allow someone to slide underneath to get onto stadium property. Once I found that out I told Gordon and we started sneaking in to the games without paying. One night after we snuck in an older boy approached us and said he worked for the school and that he was going to turn us in. Then he said if we gave him a dollar he wouldn't turn us in. I knew he was lying but I gave him a dollar anyway. After Gordon refused to pay him anything I regretted paying him anything.
Around the house I often was alone and had to find ways to entertain myself. After Gene Durbin turned me onto the St. Louis Cardinals I became a rabid Cardinal fan and my interest in baseball found several outlets.
I had a makeshift bat that I used to hit the rocks I would throw up in the air. Home plate was in front of the garage and the outfield wall was the trees in front of the creek to the north. If I could hit it to the trees that was a home run. I would play nine inning games with two teams making sure the Cardinals always won.
Our house had a concrete facade from which extended from the ground three feet or so up to where the brown tile on the outside walls started. The motif of that area was one of jagged edges and peaks and valleys. I noticed that if I would throw a tennis ball against that area of the house the direction that the ball would bounce off the wall was totally unpredictable and that it would be a great way to practice fielding grounders. I would pitch balls into the wall and if I could field it before it got beyond me it was an out. If it got beyond on the ground it was a base hit. If it got beyond me in the air it was a double, triple, or home run depending on how far it went before I retrieved it. I would have nine inning games just as I had done with the rock hitting exercise always favoring the Cardinals.
One day I came outside after listening to a St. Louis Cardinal pre-season game in which the new Cardinal second baseman Don Blasingame had fielded a grounder and thrown behind his back to the shortstop at second base for the first out of a double play. I was playing my throw against the wall game when Dad came walking home from the pro shop for supper and I was so excited I had to show and tell him how Don had made the play.
Dad worked from 6 in the morning till after dark so I didn't spend a lot of time with him and the moments that I did I always remembered. One “Field of Dreams” moment happened on day around noon when Dad came walking back from the Pro Shop for lunch. I was out near the first fairway in the rough between the fairway and our house throwing the ball up in the air as far as I could and catching it. I asked him to throw me the ball. He did. Then I asked him to throw me some fly balls. He did but I wanted him to challenge me more so I asked him to make me run after it more and he did. I caught them all and he finally had to go. I said “Thanks Dad.”
One night Dad was driving us boys home from some function and he pulled into the clubhouse parking lot. He got out of the car and took a piss. When he got back in he let out a sigh and said “Boys – there's nothing like a good piss.” I was so shocked it caused me to temporarily lose my breath.
It was around this time that dad installed a basketball hoop onto the garage and I began to practice basketball. Jack being older than me wasn't around the house that much to practice as much as me and when we would play even though he was taller than me and three years older than me I could keep up with him and sometimes beat him. When I would play with his older friends up on the east bluff behind McKinley grade school I could hold my own. They used to call me “Little Hall.”
One day at school I was approached by a schoolmate who said he had a friend who wanted to play the golf course and he wanted to know if I could get him on the course. I agreed and one day he and I played nine holes together. As we got to the seventh hole he starting asking me if I had ever masturbated. I asked him what that was. He told me that if you held your penis in your hand and moved your hand up and down it would feel good and milk would come out. “WHAT???? - ARE YOU KIDDING?” Then he asked me if I had ever had a blow job. “What's That?” “You put your penis in someone's mouth.” “WHAT???? - ARE YOU KIDDING?”
Between the eighth green and the fifth tee there was a wooded area and we got to the eighth green he asked me if I wanted a blow job. Now I was starting to feel things in the netherlands that I had never felt before. I was tempted but I demurred.
As soon as I got home I took down my pants and sat down in the living room and began trying this new “masturbation.” “WHOA – HEY, THAT FEELS GOOD! What's happening here – damn. OH MY GOD YES YES YES YES WHEEEE!!!” But no milk came out. What's up with that. What's wrong with me. I don't know but this can't be legal. Anything that feels that good has to be a sin. Oh my god, I've sinned. I've got to confess. I can't do this again. I went outside and prayed for god to forgive me. I started crying and asked god to show me a sign that I was forgiven and I would never do it again. Believe it or not at that time I looked in the eastern sky and saw a rainbow. I was sure that it was a sign from god and I promised never to do it again.
I was in eight grade at St. Joseph's and went to church every Sunday. Not long after my first masturbation episode I went to confession and told the father that I had masturbated. He told me not to do it again and to only touch myself when bathing or urinating. I said my hail marys and felt better for awhile. My sinless state didn't last very long though.
I'm not sure when my resolve was overcome by the curiosity to make sure I was a milk producer but before long I was spreading my milk all around the area. My favorite areas to make sure it still worked were behind the garage and in the caddy shack which still had old musty girlie magazines.
The only problem was how to do it without getting the milk on my hands which had to be wiped off. The caddy shack had a hole in the floor which I came up with the ingenious idea of sticking my penis through while I masterbated and looked at the magazines so the milk would go onto the ground. That worked until the day I was running through the weeds near the caddy shack and saw a snake. After that I decided it might not be such a good idea to stick it in terrain unknown – a practice I unfortunately forgot about later in life.
I avoided the divulger of the secret milk from then on and he later went into the priesthood where his yearnings could find better fulfillment.
My freshman year in high school I came home one night and the house was empty. I turned on the TV and sat down in the living room to watch. Soon I started to hear what sounded like scraping on the outside wall behind me. I acted like nothing was wrong and didn't move. It got louder and then I heard scraping on the window screen behind me. Now I was scared. “YEOWH – I rand into the bathroom and locked the door. A few seconds later I hear Jack and Paul laughing and they came into the house and ask me how I'm doing. Motherfuckers.
While I was working in the pro shop in the summer around 59 a teammate of mine from the golf team whose family were not members at the club began hanging around the shop while I was working. He was a year ahead of me in school and he and I would later go on to be number one and two golfers on the 61 and 62 teams. Dad came to me one day and said that some of the members had began complaining about balls going missing out of their bags which were kept in the pro shop club cleaning and bag storage area. He asked me if I had taken any balls. I said no I hadn't. A few days later he came back and said it was getting worse and that some of the members thought my friend was stealing balls. I hadn't thought about that possibility and the next time my friend showed up I asked him about it and to his credit he admitted it. I told my dad and my dad had a talk with him and told him to bring back whatever he had left and they wouldn't prosecute. Needless to say he stopped coming around the pro shop after that.
My senior year in high school I was a starting guard on the basketball team. In the early 50s dad had started taking me to some of the Bradley Braves basketball games in Peoria and telling me about a guard named Squeaky Melchori who had played for a Bradley team in the 40s that had been quite good. I guess because of my size he knew that if I was going to play I was going to be a guard. The starting guard for Bradley in 53 and 54 was Bob Carney and he became a hero of mine. I began listening to Bradley's games on the radio and rooting for them. Bob had inspired me to take up basketball seriously in high school.
One day while I was behind the counter at the pro shop dad approached with another man. He said he had someone who wanted to meet me. He introduced Bob Carney to me and I was totally caught off guard – pun intended. I told Bob how I had used to watch him play and how he had inspired me. I later found out that Bob had been at the club for some golfing event and I figured dad had approached him in the bar and told him what a fan of his I had been.