The Germantown Museum

A project in the making

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In Times Past………..
By Andy Pouncey
June 15, 2006

Did you enjoy the last Annual Germantown Charity Horse Show?  You could easily tell that it takes a lot of volunteers to pull such a tradition together.  Over all of those years a great number of changes took place.  I continue with more from the late Betsy West.

In 1950, the Horse Show was held at the Ralph B. Hunt Field of M.C. Williams High School in Germantown.  A little more experience with horse shows began to reveal certain weaknesses in the facilities by 1951, and the founders began to envision the perfect horse show ring. 

 For instance, the judges’ stand was located in the middle of the ring and shielded the horse that broke its gate from being seen by the judge on the opposite side of the ring.  In another incident, the temporary ring was made of fencing stretched on metal fence posts.  In one roadster class, the hub of a bike wheel became caught in the wire fence.  The driver sustained the fall, but the need was established for a safety hub-rail to protect the bikes.

 On another occasion, a high-spirited jumper jumped the gate that enclosed the ring, so the founders planned an in gate and out gate.  With these issues in mind, the Germantown Charity Horse Show Association (GCHSA) sought to find a new site for the show.

 A 16-acre tract owned by Earl Dickey lay just east of the high school football field.  The Oak Grove Hunt had been allowed to construct a three-quarter mile track around this property before, for the purpose of holding the Oak Grove Spring Mule Races.

 The racetrack had been constructed on the rim of a natural bowl, with a levee built up on the lower side.  Bart Mueller saw the site’s features as perfect for a horse show arena, and suggested enlarging the already low area to make a bowl with a natural stand on three sides.

 Mr. Dickey agreed to sell the property, if the buyer guaranteed that the land would be used for community recreation only. 

 Directors of the Horse Show met at the schoolhouse with representatives from Oak Grove Hunt, Germantown Civic Club and the City of Germantown to discuss the possibilities and responsibility of achieving the dream arena.  Architect David McGehee gave a perspective on construction; C.C. (Bubba) Burford, the first City Manager, discussed the city’s interest in a custodial relationship; and John Stivers represented the horse show in discussion of legal and financial possibilities.

 The result…a community park that includes tennis courts, playgrounds and picnic grounds, as well as horse show facilities, and a sound program for financing the park. 

 Germantown Charity Horse Show Inc. issued bonds and offered them for sale to local citizens.  Some of the facilities were built from these funds and the balance from horse show proceeds.  Upon redemption of the bonds, the GCHSA was free to lend the Civic Club the necessary $2,000 down payment on the property purchase.  The Civic Club then deeded the park property to the City of Germantown with the warranty that it would forever be used for recreational purposes. 

 In order for the GCHSA to make permanent improvements, it was given a fifty-year lease with the understanding that by mutual agreement the lease could be renewed indefinitely.  The Civic Club continued to operate all concessions and, in addition, received a share of the profits from the horse show.  With these funds, an additional 16 acres between the arena and the woods was purchased.  This area was much needed for parking and eventually for more rings and stabling tents. 

The show ring was graded and enclosed with a board fence, whose hub rail was placed at the correct height to protect a bike; and a judges/announcer’s/secretary’s stand at the end separated the in gate from the out gate.  The design, drainage and auxiliary buildings were handled by Director/Architect David McGehee. 

 In 1954, their dream became a reality, and after the rain quit the show went on as scheduled. 
And so goes tradition………
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