By Wally Wachter
Retired Herald Managing Editor
TTHERE IS PROBABLY only one place in the country _ maybe the world _ where you can play a round of golf without shelling out country club dues or greens fees.
There are but a few places anywhere where you can play a set of tennis without the obligation of a club membership or a court reservation. Where can you go on a hot summer day for a dip in a large modern public swimming pool for only a pittance?
Exercise buffs have a place where an entire therapeutic course has been planned and laid out for them to use at their will.
For those with more leisurely intentions _ picnicking in shelters or outdoor facilities, lolling in the grass at lakeside, strolling through bowers of hundreds of shade trees and towering pines, or enjoying the rendition of a fine concert or the beauty of a breathtaking flower garden _ there is a place.
Youngsters have a place where they can swing on swings, teeter on teeter-totters, fish in a large lake, play football or baseball and fly their kites and home-crafted model airplanes on vast expanses of lawn. In the winter there is a place to ice skate on the frozen lake or ride sleds or toboggans over rolling hills.
Buhl Farm, this recreational Utopia, has been with us from the time that we were youngsters. It was a gift to the community from the late Sharon industrialist Frank H. Buhl and his wife, Julia.
We take the facilities for granted most of the time, seldom stopping to realize we have one of the greatest endowments that any community could hope for. It is fitting that we now pause each Labor Day to honor the Buhls and, ostentatiously with parades, concerts, art shows and special ceremonies, say ``Thank you.''
The pleasures of Buhl Farm that are accentuated each year with the observance of Buhl Day go back even beyond the days when we were youngsters. The park was a community playground way back when, and since has added many facilities for public recreation.
When we were kids we liked it because it offered a change from our usual neighborhood summer activities. We would pack lunches, strap tennis rackets or canvas golf bags on our backs and hike three or four miles to our favorite spot. After a satisfying day of sunshine, we were never bothered by the fact that we faced a long walk home.
Then, there were Sunday school picnics when we were transported to the park on open-back trucks, singing and cheering most of the way there and back.
The free golf course in those days had four holes on the south side of Thornton Street, now a part of the Sharon Country Club course. The other five were located along the north side of Thornton, now the site of the entire improved nine-hole free course.
Even before the course was built, a large baseball field occupied the area which part of the country club links now occupies. A wooden grandstand overwhich it appeared the sun was always shining in your eyes was erected for the spectators. There were always Sunday baseball games. It was the home field for the Sharon American Legion baseball team. It was a thrill when a slugger's long drive rolled and rolled and followed the hill down Thornton Street.
The most popular place in the park was the stately white casino located on a peninsula of Lake Julia, named after Mrs. Buhl. Before the concrete swimming pool was built, Lake Julia was the swimming hole, the ice skating place and the fishing spot for youngsters. On hot summer days it teemed with bathers who struggled their way through the seaweed, or trickled by scurrying fish that were trying to avoid the hooks and lines of the little boys sitting on the opposite banks. In winter the frozen lake attracted skaters from all parts of the area.
In both winter and summer, the casino was an oasis. Its concession stands were always crowded by youngsters spending their nickels on ice cream cones, soda pop, klondikes or Black Cow suckers. On summer weekend evenings, chaperoned dances for the teen-age set were held on the second-floor ballroom of the casino.
The use and appreciation of Buhl Farm has grown through the years. The addition of an outdoor performing arts center where regular outdoor concerts and other productions are staged during the summer has added a dimension of culture to the park.
But with all of the facilities available, one of the main offerings of the park is serenity. Many have gone there to relax on blankets, to study the sky and the clouds, to sunbathe or just to nap in the open air. Many artists have spent hours capturing on canvas the stately casino, the splendors of Lake Julia and its bridges, the natural beauty of its trees and foliage that abound in the 300 acres, and the flower garden that is a memorial tribute to the late Mrs. Buhl.
Buhl Farm has been a blessing in our past, in our present, and certainly will be in our future.