Friday, December 10, 2010

The End of An Era – Mourning the Loss of the IBM Country Club

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

20 comments:

One Womans Eye said...

A great post and yes another reminder...corporate America is not what it used to be which is why so many of us are willing to risk it on our own.

Carol Kilgore said...

This makes me sad on a lot of levels. We can't go back, but we can make it better.

Colette said...

Joanne, yes, things have changed (and I like your new pic!)

Carol, I'm sad, but honestly I am also grateful that my family had the opportunity to take advantage of this while we had it. It holds a lot of memories.

Tom said...

Working in White Plains and living on Long Island, my work week was spent more or less mid-way between the Poughkeepsie and the Sands Point IBM Country Clubs. Obviously I spent more time at Sands Point than Poughkeepsie... but have fond memories of both. Sands Point lacked a swimming pool... but Poughkeepsie lacked the beach on Long Island Sound.

I often wonder what happened to Sands Point? My guess is that it was sold off long ago... and is now probably some massive gated community of billion dollar homes!

I agree with all.. "corporate America is not what it used to be"... in so many ways!

Anon_e_mouse said...

I have fond memories of the Country Club... attending the holiday parties as an IBM brat (and the holiday gifts that the company gave us urchins... although the only one I actually member was the slot car track when I was about seven or eight years old). Another memory from about the same time or a little earlier: swimming in the pool with my father one weekend, and coming out to find that the parking brake on someone else's car had failed and rolled down hill into the front of ours. And, after I joined the company, going to the holiday party with my wife and our two older children (a Barbie for our daughter and a terrycloth bathtub toy for our infant son). And then we transferred to Raleigh in 1981, where there was no such thing as a country club, or even a holiday party as I recall.

Colette said...

Tom, lucky you, you had a beach! A quick search finds that what used to be the Sands Point IBM Club became a residents only golf and tennis club in 1995:
http://www.nytimes.com/1995/05/07/nyregion/sands-point-inaugurates-residents-only-former-ibm-club.html

Anon-e-mouse, thanks for sharing your memories. I too remember how much my kids looked forward to those toys each year -- they weren't extravagant, but the celebration (and Santa) was so much fun for them!

Anonymous said...

Nice post! Just yesterday, my daughter (who now has a toddler and is taking him to see Santa at her workplace - their sole Christmas benefit) and I were reminiscing about the fabulous Christmas shows and summer Family days she enjoyed as a child. We will miss the country club and what it stood for, and like you, I am thankful my children too enjoyed these benefits. Padmini

Colette said...

Padmini, it's great that your daughter remembers too!

netmouse said...

I remember as a child of the 1950's and 60's going for summer swimming, ballet lessons, the carnival in summer,and seeing great shows like the singing group, the Supremes. And of course, Christmas festivities with gift and candy. Really great club.

Anon_e_mouse said...

Thanks for the reminder about the concerts, netmouse... they had slipped my mind earlier. The one in particular that I'm dredging up from the depths of memory is Ferrante and Teicher, and I also seem to recall a folk group with both banjo and guitar - could it have been the Brothers Four? - from when I was even younger. And I'm sure there were others, although I'm equally sure that my mother (a folk musician herself, as well as an adjunct at Vassar and a classical harpist / pianist on top of that) would never have gone to see the Supremes.

Tom said...

I spent most of my pre-teen summers at the IBM Poughkeepsie Country Club. My Dad played in the Thomas Watson Twilight Golf League. We went to "Family Day" outings and Christmas Parties there - oh my the model train set up is still burned into my memory. I saw Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons there as well as Gary Lewis and the Playboys and the Diana Ross and the Supremes. I saw Mary Martin as Tinker Bell - flying across the stage of the field house there.

Then, as a college student, I worked there. Dick Thomas and Claude Mulaney were my managers at various times. Red Lamont has an office there. Eventually it was the stepping stone to what became a 35 year long career until my retirement in 2005.

Colette said...

Netmouse, anon-e-mouse and Tom, thanks for sharing even more memories! I didn't know about the concerts... before I came to the Hudson Valley I guess.

Anonymous said...

The headline reads "... Mourning the Loss of the IBM Country Club"; if you read through it, IBM sold off the Poughkeepsie IBM Country Club years ago; the headline makes it sound like recent news.
The POK facility was immensely better with swimming pool, etc. than the Sands Point facility, although Sands Point had a 9 hole golf course, but the beach while overlooking Long Island Sound was nothing to rave about. The facility was sold off by IBM years ago.

Colette said...

Anonymous, you are correct, and as I have noted IBM sold the club years ago. The current mourning period comes as the facility itself closes its doors. That recent announcement has stirred up feelings in this author and the community, and it what I am acknowledging here. As always, thanks for weighing in.

KarenG said...

I came here looking for the post that just showed up on my dashboard & it's not here, but this one is really interesting! Glad I caught it. A bit of corporate nostalgia- intriguing to a small town, small company (except for that short stint at Costco but I certainly wasn't corporate!)never lived East of Illinois kind of girl. It's wonderful that IBM could do that for its employees and their families.

Colette said...

Karen -- you caught me in a bloggy boo-boo! I was working on a draft of a post for Jan 2011 and accidentally typed 2010 and boom it showed up as posted for January 2010. Then I had to figure out how to delete it and start over! Ahh, it happens...

Anyway, glad you liked this one. Yes, it was great while it lasted.

Liza said...

Wow...I can't imagine have had such a perk. What a way to breed company loyalty. Sad when the things we use to have go away for ever.

Thank you Colette for your comment on Middle Passages. It made me feel better...although I don't feel bad...just apprehensive about the change ahead, I think!

Liz Fichera said...

In another life, I worked a lot with lots of IBMers. I was always in awe of their perks. And I never begrudged IBM for having them either--if they wanted them, that was up to their company and their shareholders. Not me or anyone else. But for those IBMers who once had the whole package, I would imagine it could be quite an adjustment.

Colette said...

Liza, interesting that you used the word 'loyalty' -- yes! that's exactly what it encouraged, and what so many people miss.

And you are very welcome for my other comment. I find that the best thing to do is to enjoy each phase. I cried for a day when I dropped my first son at college -- but now, I just try to go with the flow. Each phase has its new surprises!

Antonio Abad said...

Wow! A nice 2010 blog. I missed Sands Point very much. A lot of fond memories. Harvested a lot of oysters there when low tide... yup, did not die from it too. The management there did a good job maintaining the place for us IBMers.