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Caddy Par Excellance

Story ID:3534
Written by:Suzana Margaret Megles (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:Cleveland Ohio USA
Person:Frank M. Stipkala
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My fellow parishioners at St. Cyril's always give me their read Jednotas -
the news organ for an insurance society started by our early Slovak
immigrants. They recognized early on that such an organization
was a must to help those families who faced an unforseen emergency
or sudden misfortune. The insurance money would help to tide them
over in times of crisis. I thought this concept wonderfully enterprising for
these new, struggling immigrants who came to America to be part of
a new land with its endless possibilites for them and their children.

One of these children from the 30's and 40's demonstrated this ability
to use his talents at an early age to make money to pay his college tuition
and expenses as well as to help with the family needs. Frank M. Stipkala
has written some wonderful pieces in the Jednota re growing up in Cleveland
and his latest submission "A Slovak Boy Describes His Days as a Caddie at
Shaker Heights Country Club" I found so interesting and enjoyable that I
thought Our Echo readers would too. Since Frank doesn't use a computer
and he lives on the East Side and I on the West Side, I felt certain he wouldn't
mind my copying one of the four columns of his story printed in the Jednota.
He is blest with a writing ability which my paraphrasing would only diminish.
I have commented to Frank before re my enjoyment in reading his stories
in the Jednota of growing up Slovak. I will certainly send him this small
inclusion of one of them in Our Echo. I know that he will be pleased even
though it is but a snippet of his wonderful piece.


For the first eleven years of my life, I lived within the "walls" of my Slovak neighborhood
in Cleveland, Ohio. But my life changed the day a friend asked me to join him as a
caddie at Shaker Heights Country Club, about nine miles from home.

I left my comfort zone with great trepidation, as I began my venture into this
new world consisting of wealthy men and women, and young boys who like
myself, were there to earn enough money to pay for their schooling and books,
put food on the table at home, and help pay the monthly rent.

To get to the country club, I boarded a rapid transit car (I think he meant the
street car because the rapid transit car came later), which dropped me off
at the second hole of the course. It cost me a dime to ride each way, but as I
grew older I began hitch-hiking and usually got a ride within minutes of
sticking out my thumb. (This practice was relatively harmless at this time.)

My mom made sure I left home with a brown-bag lunch: two sandwiches, a
pickle, a yellow pepper, and either an apple or banana.

The first person I met was the caddie master, a tall gray-haired man named
Tom Butcher. After giving me some tips about caddying, he assigned me a
number, 148, which meant that before I could get a loop (the assigned to carry
a golf bag), caddies with lower numbers would go out first. This didn't deter me,
because I surmised that if I worked hard and made a good impression on Mr.
Butcher, the following summer he would give me a lower number. My strategy
worked. Now my number was 48, only 47 caddies would be in front of me. Most
days, I got to caddie 18 holes in the morning and 18 holes in the afternoon.
My take-home pay was about $3.00 a day, which was quite good for a 12-year
old boy. My parents were thrilled that little Frankie was making so much
money. Since my parents had taught us to be frugal, it was easy for me to save
enough money to pay for my schooling, and have some left over for clothing,
shoes, and other essentials.

Most caddies played cards, ping-pong, basketball, or smoked cigarettes. I was too
busy carrying golf bags, so to this day, I'm a lousy card player, don't smoke, and
never could make a basketball team. However, caddie I could. By the time I was
17 years old, I had worked my way up to be the Number 1 caddie. Since I was
first to get a bag, now it was possible to caddie 45 holes a day. A few times, I
caddied 54 holes, which meant that I made three 18- hole trips around the
course-a total of approximately 15 miles-carrying about 30 pounds of golf bags
and clubs on my shoulders.

My college tuition was about $480 a year, plus books, but thanks to my caddying,
I made enough money to pay my way through college, and have spending money
left on the side. (The end of his first column of writing.)

I was impressed by Frank's enterprising ways at such an early age. I am about his age
and I can't say that I remember doing anything nearly so well. I picked strawberries in the
summer -a task at which I was a dismal failure. Being a perfectionist, I would only pick
the reddest and the ripest and so others would fill two pints to my one. I did some baby-
sitting, but the "high point" of my young working career was to sort and count ration stamps
for the local grocery manager. This time - being a perfectionist was just the right job for me
because in this capacity I would imagine that I did a superb job even though I don't
remember the manager throwing any accolades my way for so small a task. However, I
have always felt it doesn't matter how big or small the task but how well you do it. So,
in this case I recognized my worth even if the manager didn't! Frank too knew he was a
darn good caddy and both of us experienced the joy of recognizing our worth though I
must say that his accomplishments at this age far excelled mine.

I never understood golf and it looked like such a waste of energy. However, I
have since learned that as all sports, it requires skill, patience, and hard work.
The caddies like Frank certainly are an important part of this sport. From
Frank's piece I learned a lot about caddies and golf generally which I didn't know
before. Thanx Frank.