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The History of Lake Hickory Country Club

written by Sarah Willis

Country clubs originated in Europe in the 1880’s. The idea spread to the United States and America saw the growth of country clubs between 1880 – 1930. Country clubs were called country clubs because they were located in the “country” where members could participate in various outdoor activities; cricket, fox hunting, and golf for example. They were also designed to bring members together to enjoy fine dining. Country clubs in North Carolina began forming in the 1920’s.

Hickory Country Club, now known as Lake Hickory Country Club, had its’ first organizational meeting on November 14, 1921 and was incorporated May 30, 1922. It opened to members in October 1923 as Hickory Country Club. The property consisted of 62.5 acres located 2.5 miles from the city proper. The club house was a rock and wood combination built by L. L. Moss. The first floor consisted of the dining room, pantry and kitchen separated by a center hallway from the ladies’ dressing room, and the men’s locker room. The second floor consisted of one large room, which was used alternately as the club lounge and ballroom. The lounge opened to a balcony where there was a gorgeous view of the blue ridge mountains. Directly in front of the terrace at the back of the club house, was a 30 x 80 ft. concrete swimming pool that graduated from three to ten feet.
Both the balcony and swimming pool overlooked the last hole of the 9-hole golf course. Additional activities to golf and swimming were Saturday Night “open houses”, bridge luncheons, and holiday dances. Members also hosted private events.  Other clubs founded around the same time as Hickory Country Club (LHCC) was Forsyth Country Club, Country Club of Salisbury, and Mimosa.
The first Board of Directors were: K. C. Menzies, J. A. Moretz, G. L. Lyerly, H. C. Menzies, G. N. Hutton, T. A. Mott, A. A. Shuford, W. O. Goode, R. E. Ballenger, D. S. Menzies, W. C. Taylor,
O. H. Hester, M. C. Baldwin, H. D’Anna, and H. J. Holbrook. The first group of officers were: A. Alex Shuford, president, R. E. Ballenger, first vice president, J. A. Moretz, second vice president, Walter C. Taylor, secretary and Treasurer.
“Pops” and Josephine Grimes were among the early caretakers of the club. Mrs. Grimes did all of the cooking. A steak dinner was served on Saturday nights at the cost of $10.00. Reservations were required. There was no food service during the week.  Lucille was the manager in the 1950’s and 60’s. Followed by other managers most found through the Country Club Managers Association.
Men were required to always wear ties in the club. If they came off of the golf course they were asked to put on a tie before entering the club facilities. Ladies always wore a dress, the kind of dress was dictated by the event; i.e. bridge, cocktail party, etc. Ladies always wore a dress to play bridge, no pants. While playing bridge they could watch the children in the pool from upstairs. The dress code at LHCC was changed in 2006 to allow blue jeans to be worn in the casual dining area at that time known as Duffy’s.
The club was struggling in the 1950’s. Most of the members were from a specific company and there was very little community involvement. Three men organized a membership drive. They recruited new members for $10.00 a month and no initiation fee.
In prior years one of the main revenue streams was slot machines. People would play the machines while waiting for their steak dinner. The club was forewarned if there was a “raid” planned and the machines would be moved. One place they were said to be hidden was the stable on the nearby Shuford property.
A gentleman named Johnny Jones supplied and maintained the machines. He also provided slot machines in other locations around Hickory.
The golf course was re-worked several times over the years. Before there was an EPA the creek was re-routed 2 – 3 times. The golf course was a walking course with sand fairways because golf carts could not make it up and down the steep hills. When golf carts were introduced they were fueled by gasoline. Memories of the smell of gasoline was mentioned, being associated with the golf carts.  Golf clubs could be purchased for $1.00 and caddies were available. When Pete Sherrill was hired as the golf pro he handled all golf course responsibilities; golf maintenance, lessons, and billing. He worked from 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
There was a weight room for men until the club was renovated in the 1990’s. The renovation included both men and women’s locker rooms. Women were not “allowed” in the weight room until the 1980’s and at that time it was during specific listed hours.
The pool was originally located where the putting green is today. It was a cement pool filled with well water and said to be very cold! There was a chain link fence separating the shallow end from the deep end. Children were required to pass a swimming test before they could swim in the deep end. There were grills inside the wall of the pool area where fabulous hamburgers and cheese burgers were cooked and served. Stories have been told of members jumping/diving into the pool from the balcony that is today off of the ballroom.
The most remembered staff members were Elijah Brown, Walter Dirks, and Willie Pope when they worked in Piper’s Lounge. When members were seated there were match books on the table with their name printed on them. The waiters always knew the member’s drink of choice. The Justine was introduced by Mr. Brown and children were allowed to order it without alcohol. Mr. Brown kept the recipe for the Justine a secret and would prepare and freeze it when he went on vacation so it would be available when he was gone. There have been many attempts to emulate the recipe.
The 1970’s saw a push for tennis and other amenities. To join the club, it was $100.00 for a share of stock and $700.00 initiation fee. Before plans for Catawba Springs were formed there was discussion of merging with Catawba Country Club.
The Tudor style club house burned in the late 1960’s. The memory of that club house most often mentioned was the beautiful stone fireplace. The building was torn down and replaced.  The club house and golf course have been through additions, renovations and changes over the past 100 years and enjoyed by many members over the years. The board, management, and staff, hope you will support and enjoy the upcoming events celebrating LHCC’s centennial.