Among the hundreds of guests attending the Pine Bluff Country Club Centennial on Saturday night were a number of lifelong members whose families include relatives who were one of the 98 charter members in 1914.
Russell Wilkins of Little Rock counts no less than five charter members in his family tree.
“This club was home,” Wilkins said of PBCC. “I was born here in Pine Bluff and we attended First Presbyterian Church. I guess I was 9 years old and I asked my mother if you had to be Presbyterian to be a club member because it seemed like everyone at the club was.”
Wilkins said he and his siblings spent their summers at the club.
“Our parents always knew where we were,” Wilkins said. “This was our playground, our yard. We were friends with the managers, the golf pros, the greens keepers and the cooks. As a kid I would just go right into the kitchen and they would make me a sandwich. It really was an extension of home; a happy place.”
Wilkins said that when his mother was sick she was visited by members of the club staff and that his family would give Christmas gifts to staff members.
“So many big life events happened here,” Wilkins said. “My sisters had their debutante balls here. Their wedding receptions were here.”
Sis Pugh’s grandfather E. A. Howell was a charter member of the PBCC.
“I know he must be proud to know that we are remembering this anniversary,” Pugh said. “I grew up at the club. Walter Trulock was the owner of the Pines Hotel and was a charter member of the club. My parents were good friends with Mr. Trulock’s son and his wife. We often went to the Pines for family gatherings.”
Pugh’s husband, Bob Pugh, shared an anecdote involving the wife of a charter member during World War II.
“A. M. Barrow Sr. had already passed away but I remember his wife brought out this electric car they had back around 1942 because of the gas rationing during the war,” Pugh said. “It was really fun watching her drive that electric car.”
Gaines Williamson’s great-grandfather C. H. Triplett Sr. was a charter member.
“He was Jefferson County sheriff back in the 1880s and built a house at Fourth Avenue and Oak Street for his family,” Williamson said. “At the time going from their house out to the Country Club was quite a trip because it was gravel roads and the club was out in the country at that time.
“My great aunt Pearl Triplett was club manager for several years in the 1940s,” Williamson said. “I had great respect for her. She loved every minute of being around people.”
Williamson said he has fond memories of swimming in the club pool in the 1960s.
“Back then it had a big front porch,” Williamson said. “I remember coming here for lunch after church on Sundays.”
Lara Hutt’s grandfather and two other men were instrumental in keeping the club solvent during the Great Depression.
“The bank was going to foreclose on the club but my grandfather and two other men put some money together to keep that from happening,” Hutt said.
Hutt said he has been an avid golfer for many years.
“I am probably the oldest member who is still playing golf here,” Hutt said. “I played three times last week.”
The evening had a 1920s theme, with two Model A Fords parked in front. Guests were greeted as they entered by club president Gene Hudson and his wife, Jean Hudson.
“I’m so excited,” Jean Hudson said. “I can’t stand it.”
Gene Hudson said he shared his wife’s excitement.
“We began the planning for this last year and everything was organized by board member Gail Bellingrath,” Gene Hudson said. “She has done an amazing job. The number of members who have participated in putting this together has been incredible. This is just such an exciting evening.”
Women in flapper dresses served champagne to the guests, with many of the female guests also dressed in 1920s period attire. The men by and large chose formal wear for the evening, with others opting for traditional suits.
The Grand Ballroom was the scene for music provided by the David Rosen Orchestra from Little Rock while the walls were adorned with a series of prints that featured black silhouettes of men and women in 1920s formal attire striking various poses. The tables were set with black tablecloths while gold streamers cascaded down from the ceiling.
A cigar bar was in place next to the pool while the pool itself featured a fountain framed with beautiful lighting.
“It is a homecoming for a large number of people,” Mac Bellingrath said of the evening. “Some of them people whose families have been a part of the club for five generations.”