A letter arrived in the mail a couple of weeks ago, notifying us that the Casperkill Recreation Center in New York’s Hudson Valley would be closing its doors at the end of this year. The Poughkeepsie Journal also reported the closing triggering a flood of nostalgic memories.
You see, before it was the Casperkill Recreation Center, it was the IBM Country Club. In the sixties, seventies, and eighties, IBM prided itself on being family-oriented. The company held annual family outing days, provided Christmas gifts and holiday parties for children of employees, and provided a recreation facility for families to gather and spend their summer days. IBM employees in the Hudson Valley were automatically members of the IBM Country Club. This was a class-blind facility, not just for managers and executives. Every employee and their family members could use the facilities, free of charge.
The IBM Country Club was where my kids learned to swim, and where my youngest first went off the diving board at age three (he always loved the water). It’s where my kids spent many weeks at summer camp – usually sports camp – while I was working, and where my son worked as a lifeguard in his teen years. It’s where I first met my husband (although he will argue that we actually met a couple of years earlier in an IBM meeting). It’s where I played softball, volleyball, and basketball in the IBM sports leagues with my new colleagues when I first joined the company. I made some friends for life through those activities.
The IBM Country Club was a benefit that most of us took for granted as employees, and some may not have appreciated it until it was taken away.
Over the years, changes were made to make the club more self-sustaining. First, employees were asked to contribute to their annual membership; this started as a modest fee (I recall less than $10 per year) that jumped to a couple hundred dollars per year over time. But IBM couldn’t afford to keep the facility.
We watched as things changed.
The golf course was sold to Ginsberg Development company, and continues to operate as the Casperkill Golf Club, a private membership golf club considered one of the best in the Hudson Valley.
In 2004 Bright Horizons purchased the recreation facility and expanded the daycare and summer care programs. The recreation facility, now owned by Bright Horizons, continued to operate as a private membership club, open to the entire community, with fitness and pool memberships available, but has been unaffordable for Bright Horizons to maintain.
For sale for the past few years, the recreation facility has had potential buyers, and the Town of Poughkeepsie even considered purchasing the facility but that fell through last year. Now, after many years, the recreation facility will finally close, reminding me once again that Corporate America is just not quite what it used to be.
Photo by Harry Yudenfriend