CHAPTER FOUR

(Maturing, Stability and Change Mark Decade of the 90’s)

R. Dal Rasmussen

Bobby Waldron

The decade of the 90’s began a period of maturing, of settling-in, as well as a time of change, subtle change, but change none-the-less.  The Club was now on its way to reaching its 50th birthday.  All social clubs experience ups and downs, good times and bad times during any 50-year period.  The University Yacht Club has been no exception.  However, the decade of the 90’s was a time that saw good times, growth and financial stability.

The maturing process came naturally and easily, aided by the strong foundation on which the Club was built.  As the 90’s began the Club had established a strong base of long time members, strong leadership guided by a well thought-out set of By-laws that have stood the test of time for 50 years. Two additional factors are a large part of the ease with which we transcended into the 1990’s.  A very large number of the active members of the Club had at one time or another been elected or appointed to hold office in the Club, providing them with a hands-on look at what makes the Club function.  In addition, the Past Commodores took their responsibility as ex-officio members of the Board of Governors seriously.  They were involved, attended meetings regularly offering advice and direction on avoiding mistakes previously made.  Although many Commodores thought of them as sometimes being “meddlesome”, their involvement and dedication provided a strong safety net for the Club.

This maturing and settling-in also came in part because of the lack of any type of crisis or major problems.  There were no Clubhouse fires, no major tornadoes and no major financial problems.  Membership during this period was stable as each year we lost 10-12 members and gained about the same. Maturity, stability and “sameness” usually go hand-in-hand.  The Club enjoyed “sameness” in the Club’s physical facilities, the continuance of the very active social calendar, which had been honed by Past Commodores, Bud Kelsey and Chuck Murphy from the late eighties, and the continuity provided by Manager Howard Giddens. 

During the 90’s the Club also moved into a period of financial stability, something that was not the case in the previous decade.  The Club was the beneficiary of the financial acumen brought to it by professionals such as Phil Carswell, and Steve Walker.  As treasurer of the Coca Cola Company, Phil Carswell’s guidance was always on target, albeit his financial reports for the Club were as complex as those for Coke and many of us were unable to interpret those reports.  It was really Steve Walker, a CPA who took the Club’s financial reporting to the next level. Aided by the Club’s new computerized accounting system, the reporting became simplified and much more timely.  Reports went from a few times a year to monthly providing the Club’s Officers and Manager the latest up-to-date information.  Another step towards financial stability came when after years of “jaw-boning”, Dal Rasmussen convinced the Board to discontinue capital spending based on ‘projected income” from new members initiation fees during the current year, to “actual income” with those monies spent during the following year.  Stability was also quite evident within the ranks of the Club’s officers, as many of the officers during the 90’s served in each “chair” prior to becoming Commodore.

Another very interesting and unheard of event took place in 1995.  Following Past Commodore Phil Carswell’s untimely death, Tiia Carswell at the request of her husband, made a gift of $100,000 to the Club.  This tremendous gift to the Club was never publicly announced at Tiia Carswell’s request.  History now needs to reveal and acknowledge this most generous gift from the Carswells who really loved this Club.

Change began to take place during the decade of the nineties.  The changes were slow and subtle, with many of these changes going unnoticed at the time.  The Club from its formation was made up of members from Atlanta, one might even say “old Atlanta”.  Most were native Atlantans or at least Georgians, or residents of long standing.  People who knew each other from families, schools, churches or businesses.  Each new member proposed for membership was a friend or acquaintance known by many current members.  This would begin to change dramatically during the nineties as the “old guard” began to fade.   This point is exemplified by examining the list of Past Commodores.  Prior to the 90’s virtually every Past Commodore fit into the above group.  Beginning in 1989 and throughout the 1990’s this changed.  Just as Atlanta began to change to the New South, so did UYC. Many new members were transferees who had moved into Atlanta from around the country.  New members as well as the Club’s officers tended to be younger.

So the face of the Club began to change when the early and founding members began to be taken from us, either by advancing age or death.  It was during the 90’s when we would lose stalwarts like Past Commodores John Raine, Andy Andrews, Walter Askew, Phil Carswell, Tom Gresham, Jack Woodside, Scotty Dahin, Don Yancey, Bobby Crumbley and McKee Nunnally many of whom were active boaters and frequent attendees at Club functions until their deaths.  The Club would see the death of three additional Past Commodores during the early years of the next decade.  These were John Farmer, Tommy Thompson, and Don Fairchild.  Other losses during this period were architect Jack Frye who designed Bulloch Chapel, the enclosure of the porch on the Clubhouse and Carswell Pavillion. Also, long time Club Manager Howard Giddens who died in a tragic car accident within months following his retirement from the Club in 1996.  All of this is accentuated by the fact that as the Club loses about ten members per year, and gains 10 members per year. Over 100 new faces show up during any decade.  Generally these are many of the most active members as well.

Other less subtle changes took place as well.  As society became more casual so did UYC as evidenced by more casual dress in the dining room and in more casual activities.  This of course in stark contrast to the increased number of “black-tie” events such as New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day and the Commodore’s Ball. There were also changes to our facilities. F&G docks were built in the early 90’s; Bullock Chapel, the dream child of Sam Robinson, was completed in 1991, as was the little A-frame house built for the cook/chef; this was also the year that the kitchen was expanded and renovated. In 1992 Commodore Buddy Browne spearheaded a redecoration of the Clubhouse along with enlarging the dining room by enclosing the Clubhouse porch; Carswell Pavilion was built 1995; in 1997 on Commodore Andy Spark’s watch, the Club replaced all underground water lines and converted from well water to “city water”.  C-dock (our first tinker-toy dock) was constructed in 1998; the Memorial Garden was built in 1999 and Bobby Waldron’s new front gate became a reality in 1999 and was completed in 2000.

There were also changes that were not so subtle.  For many years the club blazer was green, but during the 1990’s a sentiment favoring a change to a blue blazer began to grow.  At an annual meeting in the mid-1990’s a heated discussion of the issue took place, with the green blazer winning the day.  However, the sentiment for change stayed alive and grew.  In 1999 Commodore Bobby Seitz polled the membership by mail about blazer color preference.  The results strongly favored a change to blue, and at the opening day ceremonies that year almost all attending members wore blue blazers.  Throughout the 1990’s, there was an on-going discussion about smoking in the Club buildings; the tone of the discussion ranged from emotional to downright nasty.  First cigar and pipe smoking were eliminated, followed by designation of no-smoking areas.  Finally, during the watch of Commodore Dr. Dave Erickson, a total ban of smoking in club buildings was passed by the Board of Governors in February 2002.

In 1993 Hall County re-appraised the value of the Club’s property from $730,000 to $1.4 million.  Past Commodore George Kennedy, a real estate appraiser by profession, lead the Club through an appeal process, finally convincing the authorities that the 11.5 acres of water front in leased from the U.S. Corp of Engineers and not owned by the Club. Through his efforts, the appraised value was reduced to $900,000.

 Other interesting changes in the 1990’s included the first issuance of the plastic credit card type of membership cards in 1993; the reciprocal arrangement with the Ashford City went into effect; the annual dock party was alternated with the Atlanta Athletic Yacht Club; the formal addition of Rev. Bruce Shortell as Assistant Fleet Chaplain was confirmed; Dr. Dan Thompson began the very popular Saturday morning Walkers Club; and the Lanier Cup Open Regatta was conceived by O. J. Reiss in 1996 and continues today. Printed programs, seating for members and guests, and group pictures at Opening Day were a part of the 90’s.

 Commodore George Kennedy as a private party at his lake home, was brought to the Club by Howard Giddens and Dal Rasmussen as an outdoor event, and later fine tuned as an indoor event by Spiro Pappacostas. The Commodore’s Ball and Christmas Light Parade; were started by Dal Rasmussen in 1995; the Commodore’s Cup Sailing Regatta which requires that a power boater must accompany each sailor was formulated by Buck Kinsey in 1996; and Dr. Dan Thompson’s annual golf tournament was started in the 1990’s.   One of the most memorable events came in 1996 when nearly forty members of the Club chartered a dozen plus boats for a week-long cruise in the San Juan Islands in British Columbia.  This undertaking was planned and organized by Spiro Pappacostas and Dal Rasmussen. Although smaller in number, these trips to the San Juan’s continued during the mid-nineties.

One of the Club’s oldest traditions, off-lake-cruises, began to fade during the 90’s.  Although there were some memorable trips such as the Suwannee River trip in Florida and several wonderful trips on the Tennessee River to Watts Bar, the frequency of these trips and the numbers of members making the trips saw a sharp decline.  Unlike the previous four decades, fewer and fewer members owned “towable size” boats thereby reducing the possibility of these trips.

Another change that has had a lasting change on the Club has been the number of members whose permanent residence is either on the lake or close to the lake.  In 1990 there were only 16 members living at the lake or close to the Club.  By the year 2000 this number had increased to nearly 50 members..   A more dramatic and yet subtle change was beginning to take place at UYC as we progressed through the decade.  Much larger boats - houseboats, cruisers and even sailboats, were becoming the norm.  This single change had a domino effect on the Club.  These larger boats provided comfortable overnight or long week-end accommodations as well as year around use. This in turn caused a demand for new and larger boat slips, which in turn caused members to use the Club’s facilities differently, particularly the dining facilities, putting a pressure on the Club for change.  As pressure for new members increased, new members pressured the Club for new and improved facilities.  This in turn put financial pressure on the Club to provide those new facilities.  The operating budget for the Club increased from $389,000 in 1990 to $550,000. As we approach the year 2005 the budget is close to $1 million.   The initiation fee increased from $1,500 in the mid 80’s to $7,500 in the mid 90’s.  Dues went from $50.00 per month to almost double during that same period. Dockage increased at a rate of about 5% during many years throughout the decade.

At the end of the decade, an excellent plan was put forth by the members of the dock/water based facilities committee chaired by Commodore Steve Walker. This well thought-out plan was to borrow $750,000 (the largest loan in Club history) to replace and or renovate most every dock at the Club.  The plan also included a thoughtful and responsible pay-back plan.  This loan was expedited by member and banker John Hopkins. As a result, UYC boasts the finest facilities on the lake.

Yes, indeed, the Club did mature and stabilize, but it also changed during the decade of the 90’s

Editor’s Note: Friend and Past Commodore John Farmer was always quick to point out the “history” is an in-exact science.  He said, “History is only the recollection or interpretation of the writer, or the research of someone else’s recollection or interpretation of what actually happened”. That is my disclaimer.  RD

Additional information