I is for IBM Country Club and the great divide. Ninth of 26 posts in the April 2021 Blogging From #AtoZChallenge. Theme: “Endwell: My Early Teen Years”— adding my story to the family history mix. Please join me on the journey.
During my elementary years in the late 1950s, there was a sense of egalitarian camaraderie among my Endwell, N.Y., classmates. We were all just one, great mob of youngsters crowded together in grade school trying to learn — and having a bit of fun after school and on the playground.
But as I entered my teens in the early 1960s, new divisions began to emerge — between the jocks and the nerds, or the River Rats (who, like me, lived down near the Susquehanna) and the Snob Knob crowd (who lived up on the hill by the high school), or the popular kids and the rest of us.
Yet the great divide that trumped them all was between the kids whose parents worked at IBM — and those like me, whose parents did not. And in the summers, that divide was epitomized by the IBM Country Club and Recreation Center.
A country club is born
IBM was founded in the 1920s in Endicott, N.Y. — know as overtown to us Endwell teens, who went there on weekends to shop, see a movie, buy records and hang out.
By the 1960s, IBM was the biggest company in the area with thousands of employees — and one of the perks of working there was admission for employees and their families to the IBM Country Club, with its pools and recreation center and even a bowling alley!
A dawning awareness
At the start of my teens, I was not too aware of the IBM Country Club. My family went to our lakeside camp most weekends in the warmer months, or on vacation to Cape Cod when my dad’s General Electric plant shut down in the summer, or on car trips to visit family members — so we were pretty busy with our own activities.
But as my teens progressed — especially right before school ended — I’d hear my IBM classmates tell one another, “See you at the country club this summer.” Or in the fall, some teen girls would talk about guys they had met “at the country club.” And gradually, I started to feel left out.
Sure, there was the GE picnic we went to every year — with a big cookout, raffle prizes and Bingo (where I once won a set of six tumblers in their own wire carrying case!). But this was nothing like the stories I heard coming out of the exclusive IBM Country Club when summer ended — and I longed to go there.
Finally, I heard that IBM teens who had access to the club could bring someone along with a guest pass — so I managed to wrangle an invitation from one of my female classmates.
The grass is always greener
I was totally excited to finally be getting in — and looked forward to swimming and sunning myself on the pool deck with my friend and checking out the boys. Yet after hanging around the pool for a few hours, I found myself wondering what the big deal was — it was not much different from En-Joie pool in Endicott, where I swam as a kid.
And that’s how I learned that my teen envy was just a classic case of the grass always seeming greener (and the pool water pristiner) on the other side of the fence — in this case, on the manicured grounds of the IBM Country Club.
Up next, J is for Junior High the Junior Prom. Please leave a comment, then join me as Endwell: My Early Teen Years unfolds one letter at a time!
© 2021 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.