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A History of Roland Run

 

Maybe it was the sudden change from sunlight to shade. Maybe it was the unexpected combination of Familiar with a Ninety-Degree Warp. But she stood there, looking dazed and disoriented, RRC-Rainbowblinking and unsure, her mouth slightly agape. As I approached her to greet her and ask if I could help her, she quietly responded, “I was a member here once, a charter member.  It looks so different…and yet, somehow, the same…”

I introduced myself as the manager for the last twelve years and, walking her over to the framed documents and newspaper articles from Roland Run’s past on display in the Breezeway, I said “Well, you might enjoy looking at these then.” Approaching the only clipping with an accompanying photo, she began her story with “Well, that’s me right there…” In the photo, under the heading, “Swimming Pool, Dream of Roland Run Club,” sat a young woman surrounded by children eagerly listening.

That is how I first met Mrs. Janet Williams and that is how much of Roland Run’s history was revealed to me. I felt as though I were a character in “The Titanic.”

Baltimore’s famously hot and humid summers planted the seed. Sweltering during the summer of 1952, a small group of friends, Janet and Jack Williams, Tom Massey and Alva Niles fantasized about a pool for good refreshing family fun. Among them, there was an architect, an engineer, and a lawyer. In the face of the money required, a suitable tract of flat land and enough people to share the expense, the idea evaporated more quickly than the persistent humidity. But the desire lingered.

As the conversations continued to resurface, two more families were drawn into the dream: the Eichelbergers and Nancy and Bill Chenowith.   Canvassing the Ruxton-Riderwood Improvement Association, six additional families were enlisted to join in the plans: the Helms, both Sachs families, the Diefenbachs, the Grows and the Winters.

At about the same time, a farm on Roland Run between Riderwood and Ruxton came up for sale. The owner, it was rumored, was hesitant to sell to a developer. The small group of friends incorporated into The Roland Run Club in 1953 in order to bid on the property. Unfortunately for them, the property was in fact sold to a developer and some of the houses of Ruxwood now occupy that site. Although this property was gone, the group’s name was kept, largely in deference to the $40 charge it would require to rename it. Continuing to endure the sultry summer, the newly formed corporation discussed details for their dream such as by-laws, officer positions, tennis courts, and other amenities, just in case. All they needed was a pool to go with it all, or, at least, some land on which to build one. The search had taken nearly two years.

Mrs. Williams and I sat down on the Adirondack chairs, ice teas in hand, and she swept her other hand across the deck. “It was here,” she said.   What is now our pool was once a parcel of land consisting of a house and a nine-acre field and was occupied by a single elderly woman who was hard of hearing. The field itself had been leased to a farmer who had planted the entire acreage with oats. In the course of negotiation, the owner’s attorney was forced to hoist up to rap on the woman’s window as she was unable to hear her own doorbell. Adding to the animation of the story, it was detailed that the only way the farmer would agree to give up the land would be if the corporation purchased all the season’s oats! Combining the lawyer’s climbing skills, financing by Mrs. Williams’ mother-in-law, and a pretty large appetite for-oat based recipes, the deal was sealed and the old Lee estate was purchased for $20,000. The deed was signed on July 12, 1955 transferring ownership from Mabel Scott Georgi and John C. Georgi of New York City to The Roland Run Club, Inc. for the fee of $5.00.

It was estimated that, between property purchase and pool construction, the project would require $90,000. George Helm, the first Membership Chair, felt that, if 300 families each put up $300 for a bond, the dream would be within reach. No bank would lend the money in total; each family borrowed the money themselves. Nonetheless, membership grew as interest in the “6.25 acre tract directly opposite Heatherfield” intensified and some 1,500 letters were sent out advertising the Club.  

Bond #1 was issued to Jack and Janet Williams on April 26, 1955, signed by President L.H. Eichelberger, Jr. It was $250. Jack also served as Roland Run’s first Treasurer. Milton Sachse served as Building Construction Head. R.A. Dieffenbach was Legal and Financial Advisor. It was Walton Canedy’s duty as Treasurer to collect the $40 dues that first year, along with $8 Federal Tax. Mrs. Pollyanna Winter as Secretary took the first minutes… albeit in pencil, long hand, on a writing tablet. As of June 3, 1955, there were 150 Charter Members.

The next of two issues to face was rezoning, followed closely by the growing prospect of the Beltway/ Interstate 83 interchange going right through the property. Since the Club was to be a non-profit one, Baltimore County, it was discovered, did not require rezoning. Problem number one was averted. The second issue proved to be a bit more challenging as the owner (and taxpayer) of nearby property had persuaded the county to avoid his land in creating the entrance and exit ramps. Through the applied efforts of one of the charter board members who personally went to the County, only a small piece of property was required for the access and, in exchange, the County agreed to landscape and plant trees at a later date as compensation. The membership drive intensified.

All at once, it seemed, everything was falling into place. Measurements were taken and retaken by Tom Massey and Jack Winter and steam shovels were brought in. The contractor, Paddock Engineering Co., was the same company that built the pool at the United States Naval Academy and the Membership Committee tried to keep pace enough to generate matching funds. Memberships were offered to some interested parties residing outside the original R.R.I.A. boundaries. Tom Massey was elected the first president. The first manager was Louis F. Martin.

The 40’ x 82.5’ pool and the circular wading pool were dedicated on Decoration Day, Sunday, May 30th with an Open House from 11 AM until 5 PM. The budget in 1957 was a whopping $17,000 with $50 per member family dues and an added $10 tax. These 300 families were to generate an income of $15,000 while “concessions” – a dispenser for hot dogs, ice cream and soda – were to bring in $500. Guest fees were budgeted at $1,300 and swim lessons were expected to provide an additional $200, creating the income of $17,000. Projected expenses were as follows:

Taxes –  Payroll                             $   300

Real Estate                                    $1,000

Water and Chemistry                   $1,600

Wages                                            $3,600

Accounting/Stationery                  $   800

Insurance                                       $   400

Repairs/ Maintenance                 $   500

Supplies                                         $   600

Electricity                                        $   600

Interest                                           $   300

Reserves                                       $2,300

Improvement/ Debt Reduction  $5,000

TOTAL EXPENSES                      $17,000

Much has changed, certainly the budget itself. A second competition pool, the Tiger Tank, was added; the pools themselves were renovated. Two diving boards became one. Swim team records have been set and broken with the names of Coblentz, Gorman, Kimmel, Shimkaveg, and White still holding on after over 30 years. The Stingrays have competed from Division One to Division Four, with every visiting team in awe of our facilities. Playground sets have come and gone and come again; horse swings were retired, jungle gyms and sand lots have taken their place. The single brick grill has been joined by a propane option, accompanied by 24 picnic tables scattered in sun and shade. What was once used as a lacrosse field is now purely tennis courts, alive with Interclub, tournaments, lessons, clinics, and a long standing and ranked Tennis Pro. The Greenspring Inn no longer offers a complete turkey dinner including gratuities and tax for $3.75 as it did for the Annual Meeting in 1957. A monument at the base of our flagpole bears testimony to the ultimate sacrifice offered by a former lifeguard. Third generation families are eagerly exploring becoming members. And the original Club House, band-aided for decades, persevered for five decades. Yet, the sounds of “Marco Polo”, “Sharks”, “Four Square” and “Gutter Ball” still echo on the grounds, reminding every parent of his or her days at The Run.

On its fiftieth anniversary, Roland Run unveiled a brand new Cape Cod style Clubhouse, complete with locker rooms and a screened-in dining area. Having moved ninety-degrees around the property, we sacrificed little and gained spaces for the fifteen additional new umbrellas. An opening dedication greeted members with champagne (in plastic glasses, of course) in the still preserved characteristic breezeway.  Paddle tennis made its debut in 2008. Hot dogs and ice cream have been joined with Caesar Salad and Thornbird Sandwiches and a double purpose Summer Recreation Room serves as a Winter Warming Hut for the paddle tennis enthusiasts. Membership boasts 385 families with an ever-ready waiting list. One thing, though, has remained the same: Roland Run has kept its backyard, wholesome, family fun identity, a tribute to the legacy of families who have preserved and nurtured its unique presence in the Baltimore area. The summers may still be sweltering and humid but we have a summer home away from home.

I am so grateful to Janet Williams for sharing so many of her memories with me but I must admit that, at times, I find myself still looking for the "Lost Emerald" at the bottom of the Diving Well.

 

Jim Kuhlman

Pool Manager

1996-Present