Chapter Four: Parting Company
81 “STAY THREE MONTHS LEAST” Postal telegraph, The International System, Stanley Thompson, Rio de Janeiro, to Thompson Jones and Company, 5 East 46th Street, New York, New York, 30 Jan. 1935, in STF, JP, CUA.
81 “our winter activities” ST, 57 Queen Street West, to The Manager, Dominion Bank, King & Yonge Streets, Toronto, 13 Nov. 1934, ST Files, JP, CUA. Thompson wrote this letter to his principal banker so as to provide him, “for your private information,” upon Stanley’s departure for South America, “the condition of affairs of Thompson-Jones & Company.”
81 “he just could not go” Draft, RTJ, 6 East 45th Street, New York City, to ST, 30 Jan. 1935, in STF, JP, CUA.
82 “version that was ultimately sent” RTJ, 6 East 45th Street, New York City, to ST, 1 Feb. 1935, in STF, JO, CUA.
82 “nearly four month later” Handwritten letter, Ruth Thompson, Rio de Janeiro, to Ione Jones, 81 Hawthorne Place, Montclair, NJ, 11 Apr. 1935, Stanley Thompson Files, JP, CUA.
82 “sailing home on May 2” This one-page handwritten letter from Thompson to Jones, dated 19 Apr. 1935, seems to have been sent in the same envelope as the letter written by Ruth Thompson to Ione Jones eight days earlier, as cited immediately above, in STF, JP, CUA.
82 “Stanley’s death in 1953” GMC, p. 80 and 85.
82 “four different areas” RTJ Sr. to AK, p. 31.
82 “Thompson, Jones & Thompson” Barclay, The Toronto Terror, pp. 79-81. Robert didn’t know for sure what this new arrangement meant for himself, as he wrote to Ione: “Thompson is reorganizing in Canada and wants to call the company the Thompson, Jones, & Thompson. I am to share in the profits of both but less in this than at present. All in all it pans out about the same. It means that I will be subject to work in Canada when there is some there as well as here” (RTJ, Rochester, NY, to ITD, 81 Hawthorne Place, Montclair, NJ, 1 Apr. 1932). What Jones came to know about his situation was that he was still supposed to share with Stanley 50 per cent of the profits made by Thompson & Jones and henceforth would also receive a third of the profits gained by Thompson, Jones & Thompson.
83 “owing vast sums in taxes” Barclay, The Toronto Terror, p. 146.
83 “extremely hard on business partners” “Barclay recounts: “A nephew [of Thompson’s] and a niece’s husband worked on two of his projects as summer students, and had to hitch a ride home when Stanley could not pay them.” Many checks that Stanley wrote bounced. As was no doubt the case with Jones, several of Thompson’s associates would have quit had they not realized that Stanley was “paying them in kind” with valuable on-the-job experience. (Barclay, The Toronto Terror, p. 146.) The Great Depression was, of course, an especially tough time financially for Thompson, even though he managed to remain quite busy. In 1931-32, he built the new 18-hole Kawartha Lakes Golf Club in Peterborough, Ontario, which was financed by Canadian General Electric Co., Ltd., for the use of G.E, employees and their friends. In 1932-33 he laid out Woodbine Golf Course, an 18-hole circuit located only a mile from the Toronto Golf Club where he and his brothers had caddied as boys. During the same time span, Thompson created St. Leonards Golf & Country Club in Montreal and Muskoka Beach Inn Golf Club, a nine-holer in Gravenhurst, Ontario, and he got a good start on Sunningdale Golf Club in London, Ontario; Kitchener Civic Golf Course, also in Ontario; as well as Credit Valley Golf & Country Club in suburban Toronto. In New Brunswick, his company expanded a nine-hole course at Moncton, the railway and transportation hub for the entire Maritimes; in the far northern region of Quebec it built an 18-hole golf course for Noranda Mines, a company making a lot of money (some 400 miles northwest of Montreal) from extracting copper, gold, zinc, and aluminum; and out west in Alberta it performed a major remodeling of the golf course at Waterton Lakes National Park, situated on the border of Glacier National Park just across from Montana. The best paying project that Thompson was carrying out in 1935 was a nine-hole course near Fort Erie, Ontario, called Rio Vista, on the Niagara River on the outskirts of Bridgeburg across from Buffalo, which was being built on property owned by Sir Harry Oakes, an eccentric multimillionaire philanthropist who had made his fortune buying up Canada’s gold mines. But one would think, given the number of times that Stanley wrote Jones during these years asking for the loan of “the odd $50”—which many times Robert could not, or sensibly would not, give him—that Thompson was not making any money at all. “Part of the problem,” Barclay writes in The Toronto Terror, “may have stemmed from Stanley charging too little for his services. His fee for several years’ work on the course at Capilano Golf & Country Club [in West Vancouver]—admittedly during the 1930s when work was scarce—was something like $7,000.” (Barclay, The Toronto Terror, p. 146.)
83 “property owned by the British Pacific Properties Company” British Properties was the brainchild of a young Vancouver entrepreneur by the name of A.J.T. Taylor. In the early 1930s Taylor successfully approached the wealthy Guinness family of Great Britain with a grand plan to purchase (at $50 an acre) and develop 6,000 acres of choice wooded hillside in West Vancouver, then a young and undeveloped municipality that was in need of a bridge over the First Narrows even to get there from Vancouver proper. From the start, Taylor’s plan set aside 160 acres for a golf course. The bridge, called “Lion’s Gate,” eventually got built, but not until after considerable political wrangling and British Properties helping to finance its construction. With the appeal of the bridge and the gorgeous new golf course, Taylor’s real estate venture flourished on the northern side of English Bay and the southeast shore of Howe Sound. Today, West Vancouver has a population of nearly 45,000. The home of Canada’s first shopping mall, the municipality in 2006 was named a “Cultural Capital of Canada.” Its Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal is one of the main connecting points between the British Columbia mainland and Vancouver Island. On the history of Vancouver with special attention on West Vancouver, see Bruce MacDonald, Vancouver: A Visual History (Vancouver: Talonbooks, 1992) and Derek Hayes, Historical Atlas of Vancouver and the Lower Fraser Valley (Vancouver and Toronto: Douglas & McIntyre, 2006).
84 “irrigation plan was properly installed” It is readily apparent from the Jones Papers at Cornell that Thompson kept Jones fully informed about all the work being done at Capilano from 1932 to 1936. For correspondence pertaining to the plan for Capilano’s irrigation system, see in particular RTJ to ST, 57 Queen St. West, Toronto, 11 Apr. 1934; and Thompson to RTJ, 45 West 45th St., New York City, 17 Oct. 1935, Capilano Files, JP, CUA. In this second letter Thompson wrote: “Proceed as speedily as possible with the plan for the water system, an estimate, sending on to me c/o General Post Office, Vancouver, advising me by air mail c/o British Pacific Properties, Royal Bank Building, Vancouver. Make sure in producing the plans that they have our Canadian office address on, as this will cause no delay in the customs, and they are really being produced in New York just as a matter of convenience for Canadian work.” The Buckner Company was based in New York with an office in California. Founded by W. A. Buckner in 1912, the company helped revolutionize the industry with the introduction of a slow-rotation sprinkler, the first hose-less irrigation system, the quick-coupler valve, the hose swivel, and the sand-resistant bearing and cam-drive sprinkler. Before Capilano Golf & CC, Pebble Beach Links on California’s Monterey Peninsula was an early site for a Buckner automated irrigation system. For the history of Capilano, see “The History,” at http://www.capilanogolf.com/public/history/index.aspx, accessed on 12 July 2012. Thorough research in the Jones Paper at Cornell could provide a much more complete history of Capilano than has yet been written.
84 “overall landscaping plan” See, for example, Department Memo: ST, ST&CoLtd, Toronto, to RJ, Toronto, 12 Mar. 1932; RTJ, Rochester, to ST, Toronto, 6 Mar. 1933 (in which Jones notes, “I enjoy the tone of the Olmsted letter. They appear to be very friendly toward us.”); and James F. Dawson, Olmsted Brothers, Landscape Architects, Brookline, MA, to ST, T-J&Co., 57 Queen St. West, Toronto, 17 Apr. 1934, Capilano Files, JP, CUA.
84 “clarify the revenue situation between the two of them” Thompson wrote to Jones on 11 Apr. 1934:
You are to pay up your personal bills of $3,000.00 incurred during the last two years on account of your carrying the company account, and also pay up the rest of the rent, using the balance towards your yearly drawing account of $5,000.00. There are several matters in connection with our business arrangement which I want to cover in detail, and will send you a letter on these later. There are some features in the partnership agreement which I think ought to be incorporated. These will take time to think out and arrange. It is understood we are [meaning the Toronto office] to receive $2,000.00 this year and traveling expenses incurred on American work. P.S. Please keep account of moneys expended in pay-up expenses and list some. (Department memo: ST, Toronto, to RTJ, 311 Wilder Bldg., Rochester, 11 Apr. 1934, STF, JP, CUA.)
To talk things over, Jones drove over into Canada to the site of the Rio Vista golf course that Stanley was building for Sir Harry Oakes. Following the meeting, he wrote to Thompson:
I agree with you that there are phases of our agreement that could stand more discussion. After leaving you, new angles entered my mind. The proposal could be tentative until we clear things up. We can, however, follow the general scheme of our discussion in principle. Some phases should be clearly understood in regard to the disposition of the Colgate fees, most of which you have covered in your letter and which I am reiterating because some of the terms need more elasticity. My drawing account of $5,000.00 a year will be paid first. Personal obligations and unpaid drawings which I have accrued during the past three years in keeping the Company afloat will be paid next. The rent, stenography and other obligations which will total approximately $2,000.00 will be paid next…. Traveling expenses and future Company expenses will be deducted also. In the event of any business increasing our income and causing you to make frequent trips, you are to receive traveling expenses and a yearly drawing account of $2,000.00 Should there be any further assets to disperse after the above deductions, they will be split fifty-fifty between you and me. As I recall, this is about the substance of our talk.[i] RTJ to Stanley Thompson, 57 Queen St. West, Toronto, 18 Apr. 1934, Stanley Thompson Files, JP, CUA.
Jones’s letter (which was written less than a month prior to his marriage with Ione) may have satisfied Thompson for the time being.
85 “it was his own ship” By early 1935 several of Jones’s pursuits looked highly promising, but in some cases the appearances were deceiving. The deal with James Evans and the New York Bureau of Parks to redesign the golf course at Green Lakes State Park was, indeed, about to materialize. But several of the job possibilities that Jones reported to Thompson in his letter about not going to Brazil came to naught. For example, Robert told Stanley that “a close school friend” of Ione’s father had “just been made head of the State Relief Projects in Pennsylvania;” this friend, a man by the named Robert L. Johnson, “plans to build several courses which we will design.” (RTJ, 6 East 45th Street, New York City, to ST, Rio de Janeiro, 30 Jan. and 1 Feb. 1935, STF, JP, CUA. On Robert L. Johnson and Pennsylvania’s State Emergency Relief Board [SERB], see Richard Keller, Pennsylvania’s Little New Deal [Ann Arbor, MI: Garland Press, 1982], and Robert L. Johnson, “A Businessman Looks at Relief,” Saturday Evening Post (21 Mar. 1936) 108: 8-9. Like Jones’s father-in-law Howard Davis, Johnson was a Yale graduate. He was vice-president of Time Magazine before accepting the appointment as SERB director by incoming Governor George Earle, a Democrat. Johnson was a registered Republican who agreed to take the appointment provided there would be no politics involved either in relief or its administration. By and large, that proviso was adhered to by the governor. There is nothing to suggest in Johnson’s time as SERB director that he seriously entertained any projects to build golf courses.) But Johnson did not build a single golf course, partly because he led the relief agency for less than a year and partly because the local Pennsylvania politicians in control of the state and Federal relief money chose not to spend any of it on golf courses. Another example of things not working out involved what Robert believed was the very good possibility that Thompson-Jones would be building a new course for the city of Buffalo.
Jones was genuinely excited by prospects for public works projects, coming off his resounding success in Rochester with Durand-Eastman, and he was especially enthused about building the course in Buffalo, as the idea was to name it in honor of a recently deceased Buffalo notable, Ganson Depew (1862-1934). On one occasion in the early 1930s, Jones had made a point of introducing himself to Depew, one of the founders of the New York State Amateur Golf Association, a long-time member of the USGA’s executive committee, and one of the country’s leading promoters of amateur golf. (For nearly 20 years prior to his death, Depew never once missed attending a National Open or U.S. Amateur. In 1931, he also chaired the USGA’s Green Section, established in 1920 for the purpose of conducting turfgrass research.) Jones was well aware that Depew had been one of northwestern New York’s wealthiest and most formidable men. He was the favorite nephew of Chauncey M. Depew, the chief attorney for Cornelius Vanderbilt’s railroad interests; the son-in-law F. H. Goodyear, president of the Buffalo & Susquehanna Railway; and, in his own right, the president of the Buffalo & Susquehanna Coal Company.
What Jones did not tell Thompson in his letter was that the idea for a “Ganson Depew Memorial Park Golf Course” was not the city of Buffalo’s, but Robert’s very own brainchild. No foundation at all existed within the city for such an initiative, though Robert had been proselytizing with various officials to build such a course—or at least expand the existing golf course inside the city’s Cazenovia Park from nine to eighteen holes. On January 14, 1935, two and a half weeks prior to sending Thompson the “I better not go to Brazil” letter, Jones had in fact received a brief note from Edward A. Coon, Buffalo’s parks commissioner, stating, “Replying to your letter of January 12th regarding the extension of the Cazenovia Golf Course, I think that it is rather far distant. I do not think this will happen, if it happens, within the coming year.” (Edward A. Coon, Commissioner, Department of Parks, City of Buffalo, to RTJ, 6 East 45th St., NYC, 14 Jan. 1933.) Nevertheless, Jones asked a handful of associates, including Golfdom editors Herb and Joe Graffis, to send letters of recommendation to the parks commissioner on behalf of Jones’s credentials, and suggesting that in their letters they assert to Commissioner Coon “that a memorial to Ganson Depew would have national interest.” (Herb Graffis, Editor, Golfdom, 14 E. Jackson Blvd., Chicago, IL, to RTJ, Thompson-Jones & Co., 6 West 45th St., New York City, 15 Feb. 1935, and Herb Graffis to Mr. Edward Coon, Park Commisssioner, Buffalo, NY. The last two documents are in the Graffis Files, JP, CUA.)
Ever the restless entrepreneur, Robert did not give up easily on his idea for a Depew memorial. In mid-February 1935, he wrote another letter to Coon, this time elaborating on the major differences separating a mediocre golf course like Cazenovia Park from an outstanding layout like the kind he would produce:
The difference between your present course and the course which we are able to give you from our broad experience is difficult to explain in words. For your particular problem the design should be more strategic in type. This would involve a different principle of trapping and green molding than your present course. The traps would not be numerous, but must be adroitly placed so that the three classes of golfers, expert, fair golfer, and dub, will all find the course fair and extremely interesting. This design requires a bolder contouring of green surfaces and green foundations. A well-placed mound might often be the whole key to the design of a hole. If such a mound is misplaced even a few feet, the principle of the hole design might be ruined. This type of design is really the only type which will make a public links practical yet outstanding. (RTJ, T-J&Co., 6 East 45th St., NYC, to Mr. Edward Coon, Commissioner of Parks, Buffalo, NY, 18 Feb. 1935, in City of Buffalo Files, JP, CUA.)
Nothing ever came of Jones’s Buffalo campaign. To this day, the Cazenovia Park Golf Course remains as it was in 1935, as the original 9-hole layout. But the idea of doing a golf course for Buffalo in honor of Ganson Depew, if it did nothing else, added strength to Jones’s reasoning as to why he couldn’t go to Brazil.
86 “playing golf all over the country” RTJ, 6 East 45th Street, NYC, to ST, 1 Feb. 1935, in STF, JP, CUA.
86 “Famous Holes in Golf” Among the other holes featured in Jones’s “Famous Holes in Golf” series for King Features Syndicate were a few that he had not yet seen, including the 18th at Pebble Beach and 15th at Cypress Point, both on California’s Monterey Peninsula; the 8th at The Prince’s Golf Course in Kent, England; the 14th and 17th at St. Andrews’s Old Course; plus the 17th at Muirfield and 6th at Carnoustie, both also in Scotland. Among those that he had seen and played were the 13th The Country Club at Brookline, Mass.; the 7th at The National Golf Links of America; the 15th at Oakmont outside Pittsburgh; the 8th at Pinehurst No. 2 in North Carolina; the 13th at Pine Valley Golf Club in New Jersey; the 4th hole at the Lido Golf Club on Long Island, New York.
86 “go to work on it at once” RTJ, 6 East 45th Street, NYC, to ST, 1 Feb. 1935, in STF, JP, CUA. Jones also discussed the MacKenzie manuscript in his 14-15 Feb. 1991 interview with Alice Kendrick, USGA OHC, transcript, p. 136. In this interview Jones stated: “When Dr. MacKenzie died, Mrs. MacKenzie sent me a manuscript that he had written. I still have the manuscript. This was in the Depression. And I tried all over to get it printed, and I couldn’t.”
86 “the Mackenzie manuscript a full ten months earlier” Herb Graffis, “MacKenzie, Master Architect, Passes; Leaves His Mark in Golf,” Golfdom (Feb. 1934), accessed on July 14, 2002, at http://archive.lib.msu.edu/tic/golfd/article/1934feb15.pdf. Jones also knew that Graffis had been talking with “The Doctor” about his being the chief contributor to a new “architectural department” in his magazine. As a great admirer of MacKenzie’s golf courses who liked the idea of being so personally associated with not just golf’s most ingenious designer but “a consummate professional . . . attentive to the details of course construction and the maintenance of a course and its grasses,” Jones wanted to take control of the book. GMC, p. 60.
86 “Mackenzie’s new Bayside course” Following the round, Jones wrote to Herb Graffis, “We found it up to the MacKenzie standard in strategic design and artistic beauty.” RTJ to Herb Graffis, Editor, 14 East Jackson St., Chicago, IL, 9 Mar. 1934, Graffis Files, JP, CUA.
87 “Mrs. Mackenzie receive the lion’s share” RTJ to Herb Graffis, Editor, Golfdom, Chicago, IL, 15 Oct. 1934, Graffis Files, JP, CUA.
87 “where Tony taught” Herb Graffis, Editor, Golfdom, Chicago, IL, to RTJ, T-J&Co., 6 E. 45th St., NYC, 19 Oct. 1934, Graffis Files, JP, CUA.
87 “began to shop it around” Herb Graffis, Editor, Golfdom, Chicago, IL, to RTJ, T-J&Co., 6 E. 45th St., NYC, 26 Apr. 1935, Graffis Files, JP, CUA. In this letter to Jones, after telling him that he was sending him the MacKenzie manuscript under separate cover, Graffis explained: “I have told Mrs. MacKenzie that I think the smart thing to do to get some action on this business is to put it in your hands and see what suggestions you have for writing in the preface, introduction or other dope that would properly go along with this and still absolutely coincide with Mac’s ideas. Also, being in New York you probably would be able to get very quick action on a publisher.”
87 “He certainly was a genius” RTJ to Herb Graffis, 14 E. Jackson St., Chicago, IL, 2 May, 18 May, 21, 27 May, and 6 Sept. 1935; Herb Graffis to RTJ, 3 May, 18 May, 25 May, and 10 Sept. 1935. All letters are in the Graffis Files, JP, CUA.
88 “in strategy and beauty” RTJ to Dixwell Davenport, Esq., San Francisco Golf Club Ltd., Ingleside, San Francisco, 19 Nov. 1935, Alister MacKenzie Files, JP, CUA. Jones and Davenport sent a number of letters back and forth to one another during 1936 (16 Nov., 18 Nov., 19 Nov., 4 Dec.) in an almost combative discussion of the best principles for modern golf course architecture. What seems to have gotten Davenport’s dander up was Jones’s suggestion that he be brought in to redesign the San Francisco Golf Club. The author has made this correspondence available to Warner Bott Berry, a long-time member of the San Francisco Golf Club, a Cornell University graduate, and a close friend of Robert Trent Jones, Jr. Berry is the author of The Scotsman’s Dream (Privately published, 2002), one of the most wonderful books involving the history of golf architecture that has ever been written. It is a fictional story about a course that is built in the year 2000 based on secret plans created by A.W. Tillinghast, Donald Ross, and Alister Mackenzie. The “what-if’ behind Berry’s book is that the three world-class architects got together to design a golf course in 1933, but their plans were kept secret long after their deaths and not opened until the start next millennium, when the course would be built. The young Robert Trent Jones, Sr., makes an appearance in the book, being 27 years old in 1933. The site of the fictional golf course is on the eastern shore of Lake Cayuga, just a few miles from the Cornell campus. Berry had an actual property in mind when he wrote the book, and there were even some tentative plans involving Robert Trent Jones, Jr., actually to build a course there and call it “A Taste of Trent.” Thanks to Berry’s directions, the author drove to find the property on one of his research visits to Cornell. With its views of the lake and the hills above, it would, indeed, make a marvelous golf course.
88 “The Lost Manuscript” Alister MacKenzie, The Spirit of St. Andrews, Foreword by Robert Tyre Jones (Chelsea, MI: Sleeping Bear Press, 1995).
88 “Jones did not go south” Without much assistance from Jones, Stanley Thompson managed to leave quite a legacy in Brazil, a country where the sport of golf was growing more popular amidst the native-born population, due in part to the exhibition matches played in the country by Gene Sarazen and Joe Kirkwood during their 120,000-mile world tour of 1934 and due, at least equally so, to the exciting, high-quality play and dynamic personality of Brazil’s first professional golfer, Spanish-born Jose Maria Gonzalez. (Sometime between 1930 and 1933, Thompson apparently laid out the Medellin Golf Club in Medellin, Columbia. Surprisingly, there is no mention of this previous trip to South America in anything Thompson ever wrote to Jones or exists in the Jones Papers. James Barclay makes reference to the Medellin course in The Toronto Terror (p. 202), but writes only “The course was in place before 1933.” Perhaps it was a course that Stanley laid out from a map provided to him from its sponsors in Columbia. Someone interested in Thompson’s history should conduct research to discover the origins of the Medellin course and how Thompson designed it.) Not that Robert’s friendly relationship with Sarazen did not help a little in developing a South American clientele for golf courses. As Robert wrote to Stanley in March 1934, “Sarazen gave our work a great boost when he was in Rio”—no doubt in part because Thompson and Jones promised him a percentage of any business he drummed up for their partnership. (Memo, T-J&Co.: ST RTJ, Esq., 311 Wilder Bldg., Rochester, 29 Mar. 1934. In the letter Thompson asked: “Have you the itinerary of Sarazen and Kirkwood on their world tour? If so, kindly let me have it. I can get in touch with them through the Brazilian Traction Company in Rio. What do you think of putting up a definite proposition to Sarazen and Kirkwood that we could give them 33 1/3 % of the fees of any business they could deliver for us on their tour around the world?” Jones answered, “Regarding Sarazen and South America. I received a letter from him yesterday from Puerto Rico. He is going to try and get some work for us there. I discussed that with him before he left, but not at as high a figure as you suggested. I thought from 10% to 15% for the contract would be satisfactory. He seemed satisfied.” RTJ to ST, 57 Queen St., Toronto, 3 Apr. 1934. Both letters are in the STF, JP, CUA.)
While in Brazil from November 1934 to May 1935, Stanley completely revamped Gavea Golf & Country Club, which at the time was Rio’s only golf course. A “quite wealthy” club, in Stanley’s estimation, Gavea’s membership was almost exclusively comprised of engineers and managers belonging to Brazilian Traction, Light and Power Company, a holding company headquartered in Toronto. Known in Brazil simply as “Light,” the Canadian firm was chiefly responsible for developing the country’s electrical power infrastructure, including its tramways, during the first decades of the twentieth century. Thompson’s brother-in-law William Woolley, a director of Brazilian Traction, was a prominent member of Gavea. Apparently Woolley “pulled the right strings in the right places” to get Stanley the Gavea job, one whose total expense ran to nearly $80,000, about nine conto according to the Portuguese currency, which was equivalent to 1,000 milreis, valued at the time in U.S. dollars at a little under nine dollars per milreis. (Barclay, The Toronto Terror, p. 80. For Thompson’s summary of his Brazilian work and the fees to be paid, see ST, 57 Queen Street West, to The Manager, Dominion Bank, King & Yonge Streets, Toronto, 13 Nov. 1934 and ST to RTJ (Dear Bobby”), handwritten letter sent via PanAir, 18 Jan. 1935. Both letters in the STF, JP, CUA.) The work was highly strenuous and quite slow, as the heavy construction work was done not by mechanical equipment, which would have cost a fortune, not even by horses, which “weakened rapidly under the torrid Brazilian sun” (Herbert Warren Wind (from a New Yorker article in 1951), quoted in Barclay, The Toronto Terror, p. 201), but rather by teams of oxen, as “medieval and fantastic” as that sounded even in 1935. (Referring to the use of oxen to build the courses in Brazil, Robert used the phrase “medieval and fantastic” in his 1938 promotional brochure, Golf Course Architecture (p. 10-11). Overseeing much of the work for Thompson was J. F. “Hennie” Henderson, a civil engineer that Thompson sent for from Toronto after finding out that Jones could not come; also helping out were Stanley’s brothers Nicol and Bill. (Bill would pass away in September 1935 at the age 45 after a protracted illness that started while he was working with Stanley in Brazil.) The result was a challenging par-69 golf course that, while only 5,899 yards in length, played right below the beautiful mountain peak known as Pedra da Gavea as well as right up to the edge of one of Rio’s finest white sand beaches. What Robert Trent Jones offered to the Gavea project, by and large, was limited to his shipping to Brazil various U.S. product catalogues on sprinkler systems and greenkeeping devices, information on fertilizers and other agronomic materials, as well as a number of photographs that Thompson had requested showing various aspects of what had been Durand-Eastman’s own labor-intensive construction.
In Brazil Thompson also began a major remodeling of the Săo Paulo Country Club, located some 275 miles southwest of Rio, also on the Atlantic Coast; there the professional was Jose Maria Gonzalez, who raised a family of golfers that became the greatest champions in the history of Brazilian golf. In 1917, with money and labor supplied by Armour, the American meat warehouse, Gonzalez himself had designed the Clube Campestre de Livramento, located in the far south of Brazil on the Rio Grande do Sul which formed the border with Uruguay. In the case of Săo Paulo, the course had been constructed in 1901 by Scottish and English engineers who built and ran the São Paulo Railway. After hearing what Stanley Thompson was doing in Rio with Gavea, the Săo Paulo membership asked the “Canadiano” to update their 6,227-yard, par-71 layout with new greens and bunkers, to go along with the adjacent air field and polo grounds that were also being improved. As with Gavea, Jones did little more for the project than send information about equipment, turf grasses, and such.
Thompson could definitely have used Jones’s on-site help in Brazil because, along with the remodeling of Gavea and Săo Paulo, Stanley also laid out two brand new courses in the Rio vicinity. One of them was the Teresopolis Golf Club, located in a summer resort up in the mountains some 30 miles above Rio (but according to Ruth Thompson, “a three or four hour train ride, from where one can get a wonderful view of the city and harbor on a clear day” (Handwritten letter, Ruth Thompson, Rio de Janeiro, to IJ, Montclair, NJ, 11 Apr. 1935, STF, JP, CUA). Built as a private course for Rio billionaire, Eduardo Guinle, whose family amassed its fortune from the late 1800s by acquiring a 90-years concession to build and operate the port of Santos, which became Brazil’s largest, Thompson arrived on the scene in the spring of 1935 trying to fix the damage of a nine-hole layout that a local engineer had already produced. ) A football stadium and a park in Rio de Janeiro are named after Eduardo Guinle [1878-1941]. In the 1920s, Guinle opened a store in downtown Rio called “Aux Tuileries,” which sold to “high society” all the most fashionable silk, lace, linen, plus a full line of fine accessories, all coming from Paris. Guinle’s son, Jorge (1916-2004), was known as one of the richest men on earth. A tycoon playboy, Jorge squandered most of his family’s wealth, but not until after having numerous romantic and highly publicized interludes with the likes of Hollywood movie stars Hedy Lamarr, Ava Gardner, Rita Hayworth, Marilyn Monroe, Hayne Mansfield, and Susan Hayward. In the 1980s one of Jorge’s sons, also named Eduardo, began his own line of men’s fashion clothing under the brand name “Edward Guinle.” It is not known whether Robert Trent Jones ever met Jorge Guinle or any other member of the Guinle family or tried to interest any of them in building a golf course.) Stanley had plans to expand the course to a full 18 holes, making more sensible use of the Paquequer River valley in which the property lay (the nine holes crossed the river eleven times), but the plans were never carried out. Instead, Teresopolis Golf Club remained at nine holes, but augmented with 18 different tees so the nine could be played a second time, to make a full round, at different lengths and angles, adding up to a par 71, 6,329-yard golf course. Once again, Jones processed business paperwork for the provision of equipment and supplies at Teresopolis, but seems not to have contributed anything to its actual design.
A much bigger project for Thompson was Itanhangá Golf Club, which had just been organized in May 1933. Located upon “a strip of flat land about seven miles wide which lies between the Atlantic Ocean and the tremendous coastal mountains” (the phrase quoted is from an article in the Canadian Golfer from May 1935, cited in Barclay, The Toronto Terror, p. 202) on the south side of Rio, the new club (6,447 yards, par 72) came to life because the structure of the established Gavea club, which was almost completely dominated by foreigners, could not meet the mounting social aspirations of Rio’s native urban elite, which was benefitting materially from the industrialization and economic modernization started by Brazilian president Getulio Vargas following the Revolution of 1930. Behind Itanhangá’s development lay the grandiose vision of an entire “sporting village” wherein privileged members—both Brazilian and foreign—could build their own cottages for weekend getaways and choose their recreational pleasures from a rich array of activities, not just golf but also polo, horseback riding, sailing, boating, archery, tennis, skeet shooting, and lawn bowling. It was a huge project for which Thompson definitely could have used Jones’s help. “I have been virtually acting as foreman, superintendent, and everything else,” Stanley wrote to Robert on January 18, 1935. “We are doing the work with oxen.” (Handwritten letter, ST, Rio de Janeiro, to RTJ, Montclair, NJ, 18 Jan. 1935, STF, JP, CUA.)In her letters to Ione, Ruth Thompson stressed how hard her husband was working, “Stan is just about worn out. He begins his day at seven thirty and stops at dusk. It takes so much longer to accomplish anything in this country and then the work is all so new and strange to them. The Brazilians have not played golf until the last year or so, and they are getting quite enthusiastic over it. It just takes so long to do anything, though, that one can’t hurry or be impatient. They are pleased with the work so far.” (Handwritten letter, Ruth Thompson, Rio de Janeiro, to IJ, Montclair, NJ, 18 Jan. 1935, STF, JP, CUA.)
Without question, by not going to Brazil, Robert missed out on a number of highly memorable experiences and possibly some good leads on future golf course jobs of his own. He also missed out on learning about the many difficulties of building a golf course in a foreign culture, a challenge that Jones himself would face many times later in his career. One of the most memorable events surely would have been “the festive dedication” at Săo Paulo “of the combination [remodeled] golf course, air field, and polo grounds,” during which, as reported by the Brazilian press, “the planes flew so low during the ceremony that the horses bolted and knocked down an admiral who was representing President Vargas, Brazil’s dictator. (Quoted in Barclay, The Toronto Terror, p. 201.) It was a tale that Jones would have loved to tell, retell, and embellish upon. The same would have been true of the festival that came with the opening of the first nine holes at Itanhangá in the summer of 1935, which involved a great banquet attended by government officials and members of the international diplomatic corps.
How much money Thompson actually made from his foray into Brazil is unclear. What is evident is that he did not collect all the money that he was due; most likely, his profits were small. Upon his return to North America, Stanley complained in several letters to Jones that the man he left in charge down in Rio, engineer J. F. “Hennie” Henderson,” was not doing a very good job of bill collecting: “Henderson is a very capable man to run jobs, but I doubt his sales ability, and I am just a little disappointed in him. He did not forward any money nor did he send authority for the purchase of any equipment;” “Henderson has been very tardy on collections, and we have received [from Teresopolis] only $560.00 of the $1,300.00 I had expected.” (ST, T-J&Co., Toronto, to RTJ, NYC, 6 June and 25 July 1935, in STF, JP, CUA.) It is possible that Thompson and Jones made some money by representing the Worthington Company’s line of mowers and tractors in sales to their South American customers. As Thompson wrote to Jones in November 1935, “With regard to equipment for South America, I would have a talk with the Worthington people again, and tell them that we consider this business in a different category than business in North America, and would expect some consideration owing to the fact that we are developing a new territory with our own money, and need every assistance possible. I would suggest that you have any equipment orders emanating from Brazil credited to us.” The two architects also looked into the possibility of making some money by introducing Spalding golf balls into the South American market. (ST, “Notes,” to RTJ, n.d., [likely Nov. 1935), in STF, JP, CUA.)
Despite not making much money at the start, Thompson remained optimistic about the prospects for doing good business in South America and wanted Jones to keep any word of “what we’re doing down there” very quiet: “I have but scratched the surface defining business until next year, when I hope you will come down. I have a lot to discuss with you about the South. We should do no ballyhoo-ing about what we are doing there. Keep it quiet for 2 years until we are established. If you blare the trumpets we will have opposition. Let us work quietly. That is the reason I have been reticent about handing out information.” Stanley advised Robert that Buenos Aires will be “the next place to attack.” Many Argentines come north to Brazil for their winter and “the Gavea Club is our real advertisement.” As yet things were not very profitable, he admitted, but the Teresopolis job will “become a paying proposition.” He wanted Jones to “assemble your best information on airports, electricity, etc., but give no inkling why we want it.” For the time being, “Mum’s the word” [Thompson’s emphasis] when it came to everything involving golf south of the equator. (Handwritten letter, ST, Rio de Janeiro, to RTJ, NYC, 19 Apr. 1935, STF, JP, CUA.)
Throughout the summer and early fall of 1935 Stanley kept urging Robert to come with him to Brazil the following winter. But as it turned out, neither of them would go. “Unless the new business in South America is particularly attractive, we should not be keen on leaving at this time,” Thompson told Jones in late November 1935. “There is a quantity of business showing up all over the country here, and it may be to our advantage to stay and develop it this winter.” (ST, T-J&Co., Toronto, to RTJ, NYC, 29 Nov. 1935, STF, JP, CUA.)
But Stanley did not forget about Brazil, or the fact that Robert had not gone down there to help him. In the spring of 1937, the Canadian architect brought up the subject again: “For your information, I am counting on going to Brazil again this fall. I am going to try to collect some money that is owed there…. If business is good, I think a joint trip would result in getting additional business. I feel sure that, going down just on prospects, we could more than pay the expenses of Ione, Ruth, and our two selves.” (ST, T-J&Co., Toronto, to RTJ, NYC, 18 Mar. 1937, STF, JP, CUA.) Robert must not have been so sure about that, for in his next letter to Stanley he said nothing about South America, nothing at all.
Thompson himself did not go to South America in 1937. He would not return to the continent until after the end of World War II, when he started work in 1946 on the San Andres Golf Club in Bogota, Columbia; and by then, his partnership with Jones was long over. As for Robert, he would eventually travel to South America, but not until 1958 when he finally made it to Brazil for a remodeling of Itanhangá Golf Club. He returned to South America in the 1963 for the design of Club El Rincón in Cajicá, Columbia, 25 miles north of Bogota. In 1970, he came back to Brazil to build the Brasilia Golf Club for the country’s new federal capital. He made considerably more money on each one of these three projects than Thompson had made for his entire efforts in South America.
89 “that visit also did not happen” ST, T-J&Co., Toronto, to RTJ, NYC, 22 Jan. and 18 Mar. 1938, 19 Apr., 11 May, and 15 May 1940, STF, JP, CUA.