History of Tam-O-Shanter and Kelso Recreation Council

In 1958 the Kelso Youth Baseball program had grown to the extent that more adequate playing facilities were a necessity. Spearheaded by adults interested in the baseball program, the Kelso Recreational Council was formed to coordinate efforts towards acquisition and development of park facilities. The Council was composed of Representatives designated by the local service clubs and fraternal organizations. The Council acted as an Ad-Hoc park board to the City Council, Not only recommending and directing improvements, but providing volunteer labor, donated material and equipment.

The Recreational Council did some research located available land that was suitable, after much work, they asked the city to buy it. This is where the original Tam-O-Shanter was to sit. The City Council at Mayor Don Talley's insistence entered into a 3 year lease with the Cowlitz County Sheriff's Posse, with the requirement that the volunteers would prove their sincerity by building the park on the leased land, and a bond levy would be put on the ballot and it was up to the Recreational Council and the baseball people to get the vote out to pass the levy. Mayor Talley also made arrangements for the Recreational Council to have the lumber and material from the old public library if they would tear it down and haul it away, hence the pulling and straightening of nails mentioned elsewhere. This park was located where the Red Lion Motel now stands, bordered on one side by I-5 and the other by the slough.

The complete baseball complex was financed and built by the baseball groups and the Kelso Recreational Council with the help of many, many volunteers. As many as can be recalled will be mentioned in a later paragraph.

These facilities consisted of two (2) Little League Fields, One (1) Babe Ruth field (later lighted), a Minor League field was added on property leased from Shell Oil in 1965 for $1.00 per year on the site of the present McDonalds. This field was build in a large part by Dean Smith, Pepper Martin, Norm Wright and of course many others. The chain link backstop and wings were donated by Amadon Iron Works. A covered community kitchen, again built by volunteers, sat near the slough behind the Little League field. It was used by the Recreation Council for Saturday Hamburger Feeds, which along with the Fireworks sales each year did much of the financing of the park improvements. This kitchen was eventually moved to the new park and is presently used by the boxing club and the canoe club.

Materials for bleachers, dugouts, etc., came from the old Kelso City Library, located at 3rd & 4th & Oak, which was torn down by these same volunteers, nails straightened, hauled out to the park and reused. Local telephone workers brought trucks out and drilled deep post holes. These were filled with gravel and acted as dry wells to drain the fields, then many truck loads of fill dirt was hauled in to make a good playing surface.

The first concession stand was a used playhouse (small) that some on acquired, people had to be short to work the whole counter. Later, again by volunteers a larger and nicer stand was built. It lasted until the Columbus Day storm in 1962.

I will attempt to name as many of the original benefactors as I can recall, my apologies to any that is omitted, I am sure many more will be brought to mind as time goes on, but here is my weak attempt. All names are meant to include the spouse and children as this was very much a family affair. Bob James, Floyd Carpenter, Wes Peterson, Tom Gennette, Russ Pollard, Wally Krall, Bob Belding, Bob Sabin, Don Gregory, George Clawson, Rudy Lund, Pete Brod, Don Bornstedt, Art Noseda, Nita Radcliffe, Frank Holliday, George Bee, Xavier (X) Baker, Jim Baker, Margaret Graham, Joe Wenaweser, Frank Price, Dean Smith, Sonny Behrends, Nancy Madison, Gordon Murphy, Larry Zandi, John Wolfe, Buck Bailey, Russ Bailey, Jeffy Maszk, Dorothy Wyman, Robert Enbody, Cliff Wilson, Mrs. Robert Fulbright Sr., Betty Roberts, Ralph Vining, Bertie Wishard, Ada Belle Davis, Sonny Higgins, Lathel Bales, Bob Giles Sr., Archie Radakovich and Dory Lavier.

Mrs. Roy Manninen was a large force for getting things started by her persistent pushing of both the people and the city officials, in the manner of "why don't they?" Don Talley was Mayor during both the building of the Original Park and Present Park, without him I feel sure that no park would exist today, as he steered the council to make the right decisions and he also made sure the money from the old park could only be used in the construction of the new one. Mrs. Hilda Leak, a member of the city council, was Chairwoman of the parks, of course, Kelso had no parks to speak of but she was a big help in seeing that Tam-O-Shanter was built, along with Mayro Talley and all the volunteers.

A sidelight I would like to add is that the late Gus Bergonzine of B&K Paving arranged to leave his large rollers, compactors, graders or other equipment that might be needed parked near one or more of the local youth ball fields each weekend in the spring and a volunteer employee would show up and operate it to help get the fields smoother and safer to play on, all the pay he ever asked for was a letter of thanks from the leagues.

In 1961 the $25,000 levy for General Obligation Bonds was passed to provide funds for property acquisition and development. Approximately 15 acres were purchased. Of the amount raised about $16,000 was used for land costs, and the balance for improvements consisting mainly of roads, a bridge, restrooms, water, and sewer service. No money from the levy was used for construction of the baseball facilities except for some earth leveling.

The Columbus Day Storm of 1962 severely damaged the dugouts and fences; but thanks to the city's insurance plus some creative financing by people such as Gale Van Curen, Rudy Lund, Pete Brod, Carl Carter, and others, cement block dugouts designed so they were below ground level, with a "dry well" underneath cement block walls and chain link fence across the front, some said built to last a century. With some smooth talk by Dory lavier approximately 700 feet of chain link fencing, and approximately the same number of feet of surplus gas line, courtesy Northwest Natural gas, were acquired for back stops and fences, also several hundred feet of surplus boiler tube was acquired, courtesy of Longview Fibre Company.

In the late 1960's Kelso Babe Ruth entered into a contract with Cowlitz County P.U.D. for $15,000 to put "good lights", (for the time) on the Babe Ruth field. Don Crouch spent many of his off hours drawing up plans on specifications for the lights so all parts of the field was adequately lighted. Raffle tickets and other means were used to make the annual payment the first few years, later the city was persuaded to put it in their budget. The leaders of the lights movement were Buff Chambers, Rudy Lund, Pete Brod, Stan Nelson, Keith Brill, Dean Smith, Betty Roberts, and many others.

Prior to this the Kelso Highlanders had used this field, and later the new field at the present park, sometimes for day games and sometimes for night contests. They continue to use this field in conjunction with their own field located right next to Tam-O-Shanter Park. The Kelso Legion also played their games on this field for several years, as well as Senior Babe Ruth.

A Girls Softball field was added at the present location of what is known as Miller Field. R.N. (Johnny) Johnson, with his tractor and rototiller could be seen many nights getting the field in shape, again along with many others.

Many other people were of great assistance to the park and to the Recreation Council over the years, Gale Van Curen, Buff Chambers, Bob Blackstone, Ben Embree, Ben Hill, Stan Nelson, Keith Brill, Hill Moulton, dave Bradley, Mamie Mortimer, Ena Baxter, Sonny Higgins, Don Young, Art Costello, Bill Wood, Tom Long, Dennis Hair, Jack McWain, Jim McGhee, Freda Groff, Ken Dahl, John Ronnebaum, Alice Higgins, and Larry Zandi.

At about this time it became apparent that the widening of the I-5 Corridor would take so much of the park that the rest would be useless for baseball, so a small group of farsighted individuals formed the Kelso Recreation Council, Inc. A non-profit group, these people were Don Bornstedt, Frank Holliday, Art Noseda, Nita Radcliffe, and George Bee, of these two (2) members were still active in 1995, Don & Nita. Judge Frank Price volunteered to do the paper work and until recently he and his wife Arlene also sent a check in the amount of $100.00 each January as donation. This group from then on operated as a separate unit from the Recreational Council.

This group negotiated a contract with MR. WM. C. Hose for the purchase of 15 acres of land in the bend of the Coweeman River (the present playground and soccer fields); they paid at the time with annual payments, primarily from the fireworks sale. Just at the time the land was needed, it was donated to the city completely paid for by the Kelso Recreation Council. The part of the park where the ball fields are was purchased with a grant of $22,000 from the Federal Government, the city was able to furnish the $8,000 matching funds from their general fund.

As can be told from the above and was well known by the city council and most of the citizens of the area there was a large, what some us like to call Sweat Equity built up by all of Volunteers, this was used as a bargaining chip-s to get the price of the park charged Holiday Inns high enough so the new facilities could be built.

In approximately 1967 the City Council appointed the first Park Board, consisting, of B.K. "Buff" Chambers, Chairman, Ken Dahl, Vice Chairman, Don Bornstedt, Art Noseda, George Bee and Wilbur Cyrus, Ada Belle Davis acted as our volunteer secretary. The Park Board's primary job was to oversee the building of the new park. The first order of business was application for a grant from the Federal Government for money to buy more land, this was accomplished and the city, with the help of a 75% grant from the Federal government acquired the 15 acres where the ball fields are now located. The Holliday inn Group had purchased the old park for $199,000.00 (Every dollar of this amount went into building the new park). The next job was getting the new park completed without losing a season of play for the ball groups. Buff Chambers, with the help of some of the board members spend many lunch times and evenings keeping track of the progress, the layout of the park, the design of the buildings, location of playground equipment, placement of picnic tables and all of the construction. The new park has three (3) Little League, one (1) Babe Ruth (lighted) and one (1) Girls Softball fields, a second girls field was later added by the Kelso Girls Softball League, (both lighted). Kelso Little League later changed to Kelso Bambino. These fields were laid out, tilled, leveled and planted by the Castle Rock F.F. A. 9Kelso's group was not available), under the supervision of Larry Gross. Ditches to put drain tile in were dug around each base path, gravel, etc. added a refilled by PUD Machinery. More practice fields and a softball field knows as miller field were also added. The old lights on the babe Ruth field were replaced with modern Mercury Vapor lights, the old lights were given to Girls Softball and in 1972 with the help of more volunteers and again with cooperation of the PUD and Don Crouch they were erected on the softball complex. These are now very much in need of replacement and a drive is underway to accomplish this.

A concession stand, meeting room and storage area was designed by Buff Chambers and Verlon Clark; it is a 40 ft. by 40 ft. in size with an overhang to protect customers at the windows. The upstairs was originally laid out so the Little League later changed to Bambino president or his representative could oversee all the activities at all three of the fields under his league, with a large meeting room, and rooms to store equipment in. The Kelso Park activities director now has his office upstairs.

The Press Box at the Babe Ruth field is the direct result of a lot of begging, borrowing and trading to acquire the material and volunteer labor by Donna Smith and Ada Belle Davis, who also is responsible for the attractive signs pointing the way to, and also directional signs inside the park.

Don Bornstedt, Nita Radcliffe and Buff Chambers have been involved with both the Recreation Council and the building and maintain of Tam-O-Shanter Park from its inception to the present time.

From the generosity of Mattie Thornton, who remembered the Kelso Children in her will with a bequest of $40,479.38 we were able to acquire some very nice and durable playground equipment, and thanks to some frugal park board members over the years a small amount of money is still in the fund.

A committee headed up by the Kelso Rotary, with substantial donation from the Kelso Recreation Council and help from many other organizations and individuals built a really nice covered picnic area complete with concrete floor and some unisex bathrooms. This was a welcome and much needed addition to our Park.

The Kelso Lions Club, through a committee headed mostly by Bill Price and Bob Chambers, built and erected the large sign at the junction of Kelso Drive, Manasco Drive and Tam-O-Shanter Drive in 1995.

The Kelso Recreation Council Inc. members were replaced as the original ones left but always maintaining the five member size. They continued to hold fireworks sales, Donkey Baseball and other fund raising events. All monies raised have been used for the good of the youth groups as needed and improved Tam-O-Shanter as they could afford. They also paid for the necessary fence, sod and other things needed to construct the Lads & Lassies Park in South Kelso at 8th and Elm, the actual work being done by a group of high school students under the direction of Rob Johanson and Wayne Holderby, as a summer project. They also bought the benches placed along the Coweeman dike and around Tam-O-Shanter drive, paid for the paving across the private property from Safeway to the Parking lot by the basket ball courts. In 1972 the Recreational Council funded the start of the summer recreation programs at the school which began in 1973 and is still continuing.

The Kelso Recreation Council at present awards (4) $500 college scholarships per year to Kelso High Graduates as well as contribute to many other projects for the good of the youth of Kelso Community. This year they helped a girl to go softball nationals, supported DARE program with $1000, plus contributed $750 to the Kelso Police Kinship program, and each year they contribute at least $500 to the youth football program to help them provide safe equipment for the players. The Council enables a local youth organization to earn approximately $3000 to support their own program. Present Members are Buff Chambers, Don Bornstedt, Nita Radcliffe, Ken Dahl, and Dave Van Curen.

This History has been compiled not only from my own memories but I have jogged the memory of many of the aforementioned, to help me to be as accurate as possible. I apologize for any error or omission that may be found, the purpose of this paper is to give credit to the people that are due credit, not to gain special recognition for any one person. To the family of anyone I omitted, may I offer my sincere apologies.

This History was compiled by B.K. "Buff" Chambers with the help of many old and dear friends, and is not yet complete and may never be.

This is the history more of the park than just the girls fields.