GREEN VALLEY COUNTRY CLUB
...Then and Now
Many years ago on a cold winter’s night in December, 1919, about one hundred and fifty men met at the Vendig Hotel, at 13th and Filbert Streets, Philadelphia. Their mission was very simple – they wanted to establish a Golf Club. These men, in their thirties and forties were the prominent business and professional men of that era. Although most of them had never played golf before, their vision was clear. They had already purchased the mansion of Harry Sacks, at Ridge Avenue and Livezey Lane, in Roxboro, and about one hundred forty-five acres of adjoining wooded, rolling land to the north and south. At that opening meeting, the same Harry Sacks was elected President, along with four other officers and twenty five directors.
A week after that initial meeting, the elected club officers adopted the name, Green Valley Country Club, and optimistically limited the membership of the Club to three hundred fifty. The officers and directors proceeded to plan and build a golf course over those one hundred forty five acres of wooded mountains, stony terrain and running creeks, to reconstruct the Sacks Mansion into a Clubhouse, and to convert the Sacks stable into a locker room. Sixteen months later, in April of 1921, the job was done, and the golf course and the Clubhouse were opened. On the course there was but one start, at the first tee, and the first shot was over a small lake about one hundred fifty feet in diameter. Picture a Sunday morning in the late Spring of 1921, and a golf membership standing at the first tee, mournfully banging new one dollar golf balls into the lake. Follow those golfers through thirteen holes of ravines, stone bottomed hills, dense forest and twisting streams, and meet them standing on the fourteenth tee, confronted first by a sharp descent of one hundred yards to a rushing creek, and then by a ninety-degree ascent, sheer mountain, of three hundred yards to the Green. Four more holes up and down, and around, alongside and over creeks, to the eighteenth Green and to the Clubhouse.
In 1922, the Board borrowed money to build an auditorium addition to the Clubhouse. On March 1, 1924, George Griffin was engaged as the Golf Professional and on April 1, 1924, Ance Gallagher was employed as Caddy Master.
Golf interest was intense, champions began to emerge, and social activities were occasions of great gaiety and warm friendliness. At the height of this boom, in the Spring of 1929, the members realized that the existing Clubhouse and locker house were inadequate. Elaborate plans were drawn to build a modern Clubhouse in the interior of the course, near the tenth tee. The estimated cost of construction was $200,000.00. The members voted and the plans were approved. The stock market crash changed everything, and bust followed boom.
A resolution to dissolve Green Valley was defeated by the membership. The Club struggled during the Depression years. But the members would not accept defeat and continued to fight on despite a rapidly declining membership of eighty-six men. A few years later the mortgage was foreclosed and Samuel Houston, mortgagee, took over. He was a true benefactor to the Club charging no rent for several years. In 1938, we finally paid him $1,000.00 “as a gesture of friendship.”
The membership slowly but steadily began to increase. Many young, successful businessmen joined the Club, and a fine spirit of camaraderie developed. The old Clubhouse and auditorium had long ago been abandoned and were rapidly decaying. The little Grill Room adjoining the locker room was renovated. It was there the men met each Thursday evening. The walls of that room echoed with laughter and banter. A young, vigorous group of young men assumed leadership. In 1939 the Club obtained a favorable ten-year lease from Mr. Houston, and under the leadership of this group money was obtained to build the new dining and assembly room, known as the Pickwick Room. The Club was in the black again. The Golf Course was renovated and several new golf holes were added. Applications for membership poured in. The Club reacquired its excellent standing in the community, and the members felt a sense of pride.
Yet, twenty five years had gone by, and the rocky hills of the course had become more difficult to climb. Twenty five years of tender and devoted care, still left the fairways stony and rock-strewn. Our occupancy was tenuous, because, beginning with the year 1944, our lease was subject to cancellation by the landlord on one year’s notice. Green Valley was again approaching a fork in the road. At the junction were two roads, one smooth, clear, dull and uneventful, and its destination was early disintegration and dissolution, and the other, rough, bumpy and dark, but overhead a rainbow, leading to continued and renewed life, a new golf course and a modern Clubhouse. In 1944 the visionaries prevailed and purchased the Marble Hall Public Golf Course, from its owner, the prominent golf course architect, William Flynn. The transition of golf play from the old wooded, rocky course to the new began.
In 1948 our new Clubhouse stood overlooking the new golf course.
The new golf course continued under the watchful eye of our longtime professional, George Griffin. Assisting him was his son, George Griffin, Jr., who later took over the position upon his father’s retirement. He and his wife, Penny, ran the pro shop with dignity and pride. Many a day was spent by the members on the practice tee under George’s tutelage and many a night was spent at the poker table. Later, George and Penny were joined by their sons, George III and Keith, to have three generations of Griffins connected with Green Valley golf.
In the new men’s locker room, Ance Gallagher, caddy master at the old club, took charge, dispensing his wit, charm and shoe polish for the members. The caddy master chores were later given to Mutzie, who never smiled. Member-owned golf carts soon made their appearance.
In the dining room, it was strictly B.Y.O.B., since a liquor license was not then available. Harry, the bartender, poured the drinks from each member’s personal stash and the slot machines in the bar room kept club finances in the black. The dining room was run by Maxwell Demchick, Green Valley’s diminutive Napolean. Lorraine was the hostess. Maxwell’s food was great, and the dining room was full. Maxwell offered catering for member’s parties at the club, and no matter what menu each member wanted, Maxwell provided his own.
Soon a liquor license was forthcoming, and the new club prospered. Membership was increasing, bringing in new young families. The swimming pool, under the direction of Warren Conrad, was a focal point each summer. The children all looked forward to the Labor Day races and proudly showed off their trophies and ribbons at the Labor Day barbeque. Before air conditioning, there were summer dinners by candlelight on the porch, and movies shown outside behind the 18th green.
If you wanted food at the pool, you could walk up to the pro shop and get a hot dog or a pack of crackers. The halfway house on the golf course was at the 7th tee, where Millie and her sister cooked up hamburgers, made chicken liver sandwiches, and served homemade marble cake.
In 1969, the clubhouse was renovated to add a new bar room to overlook the golf course and to incorporate the women’s locker room into the main clubhouse. Bingo nights and the ladies’ golf team shows were the highlight of each summer season. More refurbishments were made to the club in 1978. A new and larger pool was built to accommodate Green Valley’s new families.
Generation passed to generation. The Griffins had moved on. Ance and Maxwell and Millie and her sister were gone. Mutzie was replaced by Charlie Butera, who himself became another Green Valley institution. Sons and daughters of members were now bringing their children out to the club, were taking leadership roles and were making important decisions.
Management of the club and the dining room passed on to a series of interesting and creative individuals. Bill O’Hara and Judy began the difficult task of upgrading our food service. Following them, not necessarily in order, were Tony Cardella, Frank Wrampe, Rolland Wente, Tony Lombardi, and Gary Barnett. Each of them left their mark as the quality of life at Green Valley continued to move forward. They were followed by Harry Ginther, who began at Green Valley as a chef in 1983, and who by 1990 had diligently worked his way to General Manager.
However, by 1992 the membership was again at a crossroads. Should more money be spent on patching our decaying clubhouse or should we take the opportunity of a strong membership and a stable economy to move forward. The cross-county expressway, known as the Blue Route, was completed, linking Green Valley to the residential communities in Chester, Bucks, and Montgomery counties. Our membership was strong and our golf course ranked among the best in the area.
Once again the membership, filled with men and women of vision, decided to look to the future and voted overwhelmingly in favor of a new Clubhouse. In mid-September, 1992 after a 3 day farewell celebration over Labor Day, our existing clubhouse was razed to the ground to make way for a new beautiful facility.
The office staff moved to temporary trailers and every piece of equipment was either auctioned off or placed in storage. The construction crew encountered some problems along the way, but continued to work diligently throughout the fall and winter months. By the time spring came around, much of the building was complete. The construction crew put the finishing touches on the Clubhouse in May. Hard to believe, but the building was complete in only eight months. Our beautiful new Clubhouse was dedicated on Memorial Day weekend in 1993 with a Ribbon Cutting Ceremony followed by a fabulous party!
The 90’s brought steady growth to Green Valley and further improvements were deemed necessary to keep up with the demands of our membership. We renovated the Children’s Dining room, expanded the pre-function Green Valley Room, renovated the swimming pool, changed the drainage on the golf course, renovated 3 holes, 14, 15 and 18 and refurbished our Indoor Tennis Facility.
In 2004 we again underwent major reconstruction. The old halfway house was torn down to give way to a new and improved tee house. We added a new caddie building and renovated the short range and practice greens. The expansion to our Clubhouse included a new golf cart and bag storage area and maintenance facility on the lower level. The upper level expanded the children’s dining room, added 2 children’s lounges, new ladies’ card and game rooms, bridal suite with adjoining lounge, member business center, staff offices, separate entrance and lobby and a state of the art Conference Center with 2 meeting rooms. The Clubhouse addition and Short Game Practice Facility was dedicated in the Spring 2005 with a Cocktail Reception and BBQ!
Green Valley has continued to attract new members, most of them young couples with young children. In 2007 we added a co-ed changing and dressing facility with showers and bathrooms to our pool area along with a state of the art children’s playground.
So history moves forward, and the face of Green Valley continues to change. Our members take great pride in a country club which maintains a high level of service and close family feelings that have always been an integral part of Green Valley Country Club. And so as we enjoy the 21st century celebrating our 100th anniversary and beyond, third and fourth generation families together with new faces prepare to carry out the proud tradition of Green Valley Country Club.