Thursday, December 23, 2010

Seaview Country Club

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Bill Kelly conversation with Jack Lacy – June, 2K.

Kelly: When did you start working at Seaview?
Lacy: Officially, March, 1954, but I caddied there in 1949 as a kid I caddied on summer there.
Kelly: Where are you from originally?
Lacy: Locally, I went to Pleasantville High School.
Kelly: Elwood Kirkman was still there when you first started?
Lacy: Oh, yes, I knew him well.
Kelly: When did Kirman leave there?
Lacy: Yea, there were a lot of shady deals in the papers and the Glenns, the President and Treasurer and the stockholders kind of voted him out. That was prior to 1985 when they sold it to Marriott, so it was probably in 1983-84 when they knocked him out of the box.
Kirkman was the young lawyer who tied it all together after Clarence Geist died. And he was President there for years and years and ran it with a strong arm.
Kelly: It seems like Geist and Kirkman were both interesting characters.
Lacy: I have a lot of stories about Geist. Of course I wasn’t around, since he died in 1938, but a lot of the original employees were still there when I arrived. I worked with one fellow who used to have to go up and help him with his shoes off after he’d been out on the course playing in his limousine – he had the world’s first stretch limousine, an old Cadillac or Pearce-Arrow stretched out, and they could only use it on the Bay Course. They would play cards, play a few rounds of golf, they would be out there all day with waiters running drinks and food out to them.
Kelly: Is it true about the machine gun?
Lacy: Yes, whenever Al Capone was in town – Atlantic City, or any of the gangsters, he had bars put on the old Presidential Suit and had a guard stand outside with a German police dog and a machine gun at night time. He had his own information, in the 20s Gist was so paranoid about being kidnapped, you know, he would often have them follow him around, one guy had a sawed-shot gun and another guy with a machine gun when they played golf.
Kelly: Seaview was the place to be in the Roaring 20s?
Lacy: One of the bellman told me that when the crash came in 1929 and they were jumping out of windows in New York, they couldn’t wait to get to the papers to see who jumped because they knew most of them. I have some good old stories I tell on my little tour.
Kelly: Did you know any of the Frasers when they were at Seaview?
Lacy: I didn’t know Sonny, but I heard a lot of stories about him. We had a bartender named George that worked there, who was a scratch golfer and he grew up with Sonny, they were neighbors near where the Bay Course Cart building is now. That’s where their homes were. And he told me stories about Sonny, who was like six foot four, and he said Sonny had the biggest wrists he ever saw in a man, and could drive number one and some of the other holes in the 30s, with a hickory-shaft clubs and the old balls. They talk about long-hitters today, I’d like to see what Sonny Fraser could have done with the equipment they use today.
Kelly: The Fraser house was there on the first fairway.
Lacy: It was on the bayside corner, right where they have a lot of trailers right now.
Kelly: The house was there until recently?
Lacy: It was there until Marriott. They used it as a sort of dormitory; they called it the “Animal House,” where a lot of the assistant pros would stay when they came in to work for a year or so.
Kelly: What about the clubhouse? That has a lot of history too.
Lacy: When I do my walking tour I show them when they did a lot of construction, which was in 1962, the major year. I tell them about the front door, I was told that in 1942 they took out revolving doors and put in the present vestibule there. It always amazed me because when Marriott first came in their people said that the first thing they were going to do was modernize the front doors and put in revolving doors. Well they had revolving doors and took them out in 1942. It kind of tickles me.
Kelly: Where you there when the Rolling Stones came through?
Lacy: Oh, yes. Well the complexion of the whole place changed when Marriott took over, I mean the attrition was terrific, the Rooneys of Pittsburgh and all of the majors ones just turned in their resignations because they didn’t want to be around the dungaree crowd. That was in 1985.
Kelly: You mention the Rooneys of Pittsburgh, can you give me the names of others of that stature who were at Seaview?
Lacy: The Duponts, Mellons, all the big corporate people who were from the original industrial families who founded these companies. Back in the early 1960s we had all the big horse people – the Whitenys and their trainers, you know, Elliot Birch and the Duponts, Dr. Lee, the guy who gelded the famous horse Kelso. The talk around was that they should have gelded him for gelding Kelso.
Kelly: Can you tell me what was the highlight of your entire experience there?
Lacy: Oh, my, I guess that would be President Eisenhower, he would come to play and he would always go around and shake hands with everybody. He would sign one-dollar bills and he would carry around a whole pack of them and pass them out to everybody –employees at the front desk and through the building. He was my hero because of the war, and was President.
I was almost shot by the Secret Service one time. I came down the stairs from the third floor to the Presidential Suite, it was a busy night and I was in a hurry and a guy jumped out in front of me with a gun in his hand. Of course he recognized me immediately, and said, “Jack, slow down.” And I said, “Boy, you scared me,” and he said, “You scarred me,” and I learned you can’t just run fast near his room, as he almost shot me.
Yea, I’ve had a lot of experiences at Seaview.
Kelly: How many years were you there?
Lacy: I was there for 43 and a half years.
Kelly: Is there anybody left from when Geist was there?
Lacy: I don’t think so. They’re all pretty much gone.
Kelly: What is the best story you’ve heard about the place?
Lacy: I’ve heard a lot of stories, and the best ones I wouldn’t want to be quoted on today.
Kelly: So we’ll have to wait and hear them when you give us a tour. Thank you Jack Lacy for sharing some of your more interesting experiences with us.

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