Jerry King has completed his book on the history of the Shawnee Hills Country Club, the product of over a year’s worth of research.
Called “A Vision for the City… A Passion for the Game,” the book explains how the country club came about in 1921, to its completion in 1922 and the decades that followed.
It was a plaque on the chimney of the country club that inspired King to begin the research that would lead to the 200-page book.
“When you play golf game at the country club you come down a brick path and pass the chimney that has the names of the guys that started this. The dudes are right there on the chimney,” King said.
“I’d been looking at it for years.”
He told himself one day he would find out some information about the country club’s founders, including the directors President Geo. C. Stephens, Vice President M.S. Coleman, Secretary Chas. E. Combs, Treasurer Harry M. Woolcot, George O. Davenport, Jno. D. Lee, Ralph D. Brown, J.H. Mallonee and Frank P. Skaggs. The building committee consisted of J.H. Mallonee, Ray Burnam, Edw. L. Heister, H.R. Martin, O.L. Baker, J.C. Quade and Ralph D. Brown.
The early 1920s was a booming time for Harrisburg. During that period the downtown bank building — now the Clearwave Building — was built and the Cummins Building was built. According to the 1930 Census there were two Southern Illinois towns that grew in population in the 1920s: Harrisburg and Carbondale.
Shawnee Hills Country Club was not the first golf course in Harrisburg, but it rapidly became the most popular, boasting at one time 250 members, 18 holes and four tennis courts.
“It had a bowling alley in the basement,” King said.
The country club’s bowling alley was not of the type we think of today. It was duck pin bowling with shorter pins and shorter lanes. There were only two lanes in it and there is no longer any indication there was a bowling alley there.
“We’ve looked for it,” King said.
The club was famous throughout the region with people coming from as far as Alton, Woodriver and St. Louis to participate in trap shooting tournaments.
“It was like one-stop shopping for recreation,” King said.
The country club shut down and was purchased by Charles and Lenora Kurto in 1940. The Kurtos lived in the house and operated it as Kurto’s Country Club until the mid-1950s, though they closed the golf course down. Dining and dancing were the chief entertainments for club members.
King interviewed Lenora Kurto for the book.
Page 2 of 2 - “She said, ‘I did the cooking and Charlie got the bands,’” King said.
The golf club reopened in the mid-1950s. The Egyptian Golf Association began operating it in 1954.
King researched his book extensively at the Harrisburg District Library, gleaning much of his source material from microfilm from The Daily Register which he said covered the country club’s events and golf tournaments extensively. He credits the library’s Geneology Librarian Sherry Hinant in the book for her tireless assistance.
In the early newspapers the technology for local photographs was not available, but there were detailed descriptions of the decor in the club house including the styles of drapery and rugs. He consulted with interior decorator Angela Rowe who researched the descriptions and found examples of the types of decor described. King included images of those in the book.
King wants the history of the country club preserved, but does not want to take on printing costs. He donated a copy to Shawnee Hills Country Club so people could read it at the club, a copy to the Harrisburg District Library and a copy to the Saline County Geneological Society.
He also provided a digital copy on CD to the country club so that it could sell them for $10 as a fundraiser. Those interested can read it on the computer or print their own copy. Those interested in ordering the CD may call the Shawnee Hills Country Club at 253-7294.