Talon News - Good Local News




March 24, 2017

With additions by Paul Dailey and Pat Kelley

The time was the summer of 1960 or ‘61 and Arnold Palmer, along with television, was making golf known to all of America. A young Jack Nicklaus was starting to make the news. It was about this time that four 12 year old boys decided to make a golf course in the small town of Coulee Dam, Washington.

The Grand Coulee Dam is located about 80 miles West of Spokane. The Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area stores behind the dam the waters of the Columbia River all the way into Canada. There are four small towns that create the Grand Coulee Dam Area. The small towns Grand Coulee and Electric City are located upstream of the dam with Coulee Dam and Elmer City located on the downstream side. The town of Coulee Dam is divided into two sides by the Columbia River. During the construction of the dam, the east side of town was called Mason City but was changed to Coulee Dam at the completion of the dam. At the time of construction, the Bureau of Reclamation constructed a junior high school, swimming pool, tennis courts with a basketball hoop and a handball court with a grass park on the west side of the river. The grounds were then maintained by the City of Coulee Dam. These facilities were each built on a different level of an uphill slope. In front of the junior high was a paved half circular drive off Columbia Street. At the beginning of the half circle the road went straight alongside of the school providing parking on the side of the school, and continued going around behind the school and up the first hill to the parking area for the swimming pool and access to walk to the next levels of the park.

The school bus would use the half circular drive to drop off students for the junior high and pick up students needing a ride to the high school and grade school on the other side of the river. Exiting the bus, students would go up a few steps one level to flat concrete square court yard, then more steps into the school. To the right of the square was a sidewalk and grass area leading uphill to a roundabout walk with more steps to the right leading to the swimming pool parking lot. Going straight from the roundabout led to a wooden walk bridge spanning a rock filled drainage channel called Fiddle Creek (better known as Rattlesnake Gulch). From the left of the sidewalk is a large semi triangular grass area going uphill from the exit end of the circular drive. At the top of this grass area is a semi-circle of large trees and bushes. Fiddle Creek runs along the full length of the other side. The half circular park area across the drive from the school was landscaped in halves with two sets of steps coming down from the drive to a center median with a sidewalk on each side. The trees, bushes and grass areas along the road had slight variations in the landscaping. In the middle of the median area was a large mulberry tree. This tree was probably climbed by most every kid in the area.

The area sports, either school related or pickup games, were football, basketball, baseball or track. The large area was used for football & baseball practices. Many a baseball was lost to the bushes of Fiddle Creek. After seeing televised golf, Bobby Hargrove and I started whacking golf balls there. Bobby’s dad played often at Sun Lakes State Park, a recreation with a nine hole course about 40 miles away. One day his dad and a couple of his friends took us to a little used sand green course in Nespelem. We wacked and hacked our way through the large pine trees, having the time of our lives. We decided we needed a place to play at home and that large grass area and the half of the circular area by the mulberry tree looked good. Bobby had some old clubs, my dad had a partial set from the 1930’s (Denny Shute model) and Paul Dailey had some of his dad’s. Taking three Dinty Moore Beef Stew cans that my dad kept nuts and bolts in, we were set for the hole cups. These cans were wider and shallower than regular soup cans. Along with Patrick Kelley, Paul, Bobby and I, set off to hit balls. We drug an old push reel blade mower to the park and set it to the lowest mower setting. (I think it was Paul’s family mower.) We mowed one green in the area by the mulberry tree, one by the circular tree area and Fiddle Creek, and one to the right of the sidewalk and steps to the swimming pool parking lot. Taking some fairly straight sticks, we drove nails in the end, ground off the nail heads and sharpened to a point at Paul’s house. We were able to punch holes in the bottom of each can to hold the flag sticks. So we dug small holes, placed the cans in the ground and proceeded to smack Kroydon golf balls all over. If a ball hit the roadway that was considered a water hazard and Fiddle Creek now swallowed errant shots. Soon more kids our age joined us. We did not really know the rules, so everyone would tee off (hit the ball), then go find their ball and hit again. This was all fun until Paul hit a shot between Pat’s shoulders. We learned a lesson then, stay behind anyone hitting a ball.

After about two weeks of playing the Mulberry Tree Golf Course, I was told the Justice of the Peace for Douglas County wanted to see me. The Columbia River not only divided the two sides of the town, but was the County Line with this side being in Douglas County. The Justice of the Peace for Douglas County at that time was Water P. Greenwood, my dad. He stated there was a compliant from the City that the grounds by the Columbia School had been damaged and vandalized. Judgment was for me to tell Bobby, Paul and Pat that we had to notify all others that we could no longer use our course or fear the law. Pretty sure my dad and other USBR people had a good laugh at our expense.

BUT that is not the end. About a week later, we decided to play a pickup baseball game but we couldn’t.

A few adults were playing on our Mulberry Tree Course. So we ran to our homes, got the few clubs and balls we had and joined them. After that an agreement was made that the greens could stay but we had to mow & maintain. Shortly after this, another green was added across Columbia Street with the permission of the private property owner. This area had been an extension of the park but at some time had been sold to the owner. A house now sits where our green #4 was.

FOOTNOTE: My family moved away from Coulee Dam in 1963 just before my sophomore year of high school. I returned in the summer of 1966 after playing golf for next three years for Montrose, Colorado High School. Now having a full set of clubs, Paul & I went to the park. We were joined by Pat and hit a few balls to where the old holes had been. Next day we went and played the new course in Wilbur, Washington.

The area by Electric City now has the Banks Lake Golf Course, a challenging 18 hole golf course. I had the pleasure to play this course during the 2016 all class reunion. This was the 50th. Reunion of the class I would have graduated with. The reunion was open for all classes from the 1940’s thru mid-1970’s.


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