Interurban Railway – July 2014

The way to read the greens at Hyperion has been the same advice since 1910: ” Everything breaks towards the tracks”. The tracks that are referred to sat west of holes number two and three and serviced the railway known as the Inter-Urban Railway. It was a steam and electric railway that was incorporated in 1899.

It was developed by and affiliated with the Des Moines Street Railways which operated it for a short time.

It had two main lines, one that went east to Colfax, Iowa, which was a resort area at that time, reaching the Colfax Hotel & Mineral Springs Spa, which was a very popular destination and was the reason for that 24 mile stretch of line. The other main line traveled from Des Moines up the Beaver River Valley to Perry, Iowa, 35 miles away. Perry was another popular getaway destination for Des Moines residents. The Colfax line was completed in 1902, and the Perry line was completed in 1906, just four years before the dedication of the new Hyperion Field and Motor Car Club.

The railway made stops at Johnston Station, Camp Dodge, Herrold, Granger and Moran, Iowa on the way to Perry and there was also a spur line of 3 miles that serviced Woodward. The stop at Camp Dodge was immediately west and north of what is the number 2 tee box of Hyperion. Hyperion sold a booklet of tickets for $2.50 that allowed for 10 round trips between the rail stop and the Hyperion clubhouse at the top of the hill. Each .25 cent ticket allowed passage by horse and carriage for those that came by way of the Inter-Urban Railway. Quite a bargain as opposed to walking up that hill with suitcases and clubs for the weekend.

In 1917, the wooden passenger cars that were used since 1906 were supplemented by newer steel cars to support the increased traffic to Camp Dodge caused by the war effort of World War l. This line was most instrumental in bringing the 16,000 troops to Camp Dodge’s tent city that built the 2000 buildings referred to in last month’s article. The addition of hundreds of miles of additional rail lines for the camp added to the lore.

The IUR was reorganized as the Des Moines & Central Iowa Railroad in 1922 and passenger service to both Perry and Colfax was about nine cars per day each way. In 1941, the passenger service to Colfax and Woodward was discontinued, and service to Perry was three cars per day. 1948 saw the service for Beaver River Valley (west) cut back to Granger, Iowa, about an 18-mile line and the next year in 1949; all passenger service was discontinued. Freight operations with diesel engines continued. In 1951 the city system of the interurban was replaced by buses. In 1954 the Granger to Perry track was torn up, but freight operations remained active from Des Moines to Granger and all along the belt line tracks surrounding Des Moines.

After the freight operations of the DM&CI ended, the tracks remained across the road immediately west of our course boundary. The tracks were abandoned and eventually removed but not until the early 1980s.

Better advice on the way to read our greens would be to explain the course is built on the side of a hill and most everything breaks away from the clubhouse, however, to this day, we still hear the refrain about putts breaking towards the tracks, usually followed by, “what tracks”?   

        As Paul Harvey of radio fame used to say…” Now you know the rest of the story”!


Interurban Railway – November 2016

Robert was a Poet Laureate of Vermont and probably should have been accorded the same honor for the United States. Probably, and arguably, his most famous poem was entitled “Mending Wakk.” At least the most recognized line of all poems of American poets came from that little bit of written symmetry. “Good fences make good neighbors.” The future theme of this history article is indeed about good neighbors of Hyperion Field Club. In my estimations, Hyperion’s best neighbor has been Camp Dodge and the Iowa National Guard.

Over the years, as I research these monthly musing, I marvel at the intertwining of stories and the historical figures that make up the articles that appear on these pages. A couple of examples: Herman L. Sani has “The Sani” golf tournament named in his honor. He was a long-time member of Hyperion and decades director of the Iowa Golf Association. Sani also becomes the owner of a Des Moines Paving company that built many of the roads to HFC from Des Moines. A brief period the name of Hyperion Field Club was changed to the Hyperion Field and Motor Club. The automobile and the luxury and paved roads and the location of our present grounds were a coincidence; I don’t think so. Another example follows:

In previous articles, I have written about how putts on Hyperion greens all break to the “tracks.” Since the tracks (decades long gone) were from the InterUrban Railway Company that headed north from Des Moines and bordered our holes number 2 and number 3, just west of our golf course. Was it also a coincidence that Hyperion Field Club bordered the tracks of the Interurban Railway?

One of the first members of Hyperion Club, when the club was still on the three acres of ground that surrounded Waveland Golf Course was named Harry Herndon Polk. Polk was the President and General Manager of the Interurban Railway Company and also served as the Vice President of the Des Moines City Railway. Polk was a Captain of Troop A of the First Cavalry of the Iowa National Guard.

The Guard was housed at Camp Dodge which was initially a 78-acre Track of land north of Des Moines. The Militia Act of 1903 organized various state militias into the present U.S National Guard system. The Interurban Railway was an integral part of the expansion of the facilities at Camp Dodge. The land expanded to 570 acres by 1917 during the buildup for WW1. By June 15, 1917, the U.S. Army selected Board chose Camp Dodge as one of the 16 training camps for the U.S. Army for training recruits, volunteers, and draftees from Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, and the Dakotas. Land lease options expanded Camp Dodge to 6,400 acres.

When Hyperion decided to explore an expansion of membership and build their clubhouse and course after outgrowing the shared facilities at the Waveland Municipal Golf Course, a committee was formed to find a new location. Captain Harry Herndon Polk of the Iowa National Guard and would also border the newly acquired land purchased for Hyperion Field Club. Just a coincidence; I don’t think so. Captain Polk was not only a Hyperion member he was one of our original “good neighbors” of the Iowa National Guard and a very smart businessman.

The Des Moines Register newspaper printed an editorial about one of our good neighbors from the Guard.

The newspaper opined on July 19, 1975, about a controversial earth-moving project. Guardsmen were serving under Iowa Adj. General Joseph May. Obtained excavated dirt from the Saylorville Dam site. The dirt was used as fill for a washed-out ravine which was on state property. After the completed two-acre tract was leveled and ready for use, General May stated the tract of land would be leased to Hyperion Field Club for construction of new tennis courts. The nominal lease amounts and the club policy of providing free club memberships to Guard officers brought about the lie of the Register article. General May referred to a “good neighbor policy” to justify the entire earth-moving project that some locals called the “dirt scandal.”

Although I couldn’t find the particular Frank Miller (Register cartoonist) editorial cartoon in the archives, I remember his rendering of an Army Jeep with Guardsman driving over the course brandishing both shovels and golf clubs. At least that’s what I remember. It was 16 years after I had begun caddying at HFC and about a year before I joined the club as an Intermediate Member. If that Jeep cartoon is due to faulty memory and not factual, it definitely would have been something that Miller would have drawn. As someone people day: “If the facts don’t work, sell the legend,” but my memory does tell me that the cartoon is out there someplace.

Continuing with our good neighbors from the Guard, I must mention a dearly departed friend. Brigadier General Robert Hadsall was born in Colfax, Iowa December 16, 1917. Hadsall was Bomber pilot during WWII and flew over 40 missions in the South Pacific. After the end of the war, Bob became a flight instructor and later joined the Air Guard and was assigned to fly the respective governors of Iowa until his retirement. Bob joined     HFC on November 24, 1975. This was right after General May’s explanation of the dirt scandal as a “good neighbor policy.” Bob mentioned HFC junior golfers for many years and loved to promote and play the game. He served as the President of Hyperion Field Club in 1984 and stayed very active until his death on September 19, 2008, at the age of 90.

Most Sunday mornings, Brigadier General Hadsall and Scott Johnson who was on the greenkeeper’s staff (and 1/3 the General’s age) played as long as the course was open for play. They were called the “dew sweepers,” and some chilly mornings, they were the “frost breakers.” One raw November day, I tried to bow out of playing with them, when the temperature was 24 degrees at tee time. Scott Johnson reminded me that the General was waiting on the tee and he was 86 years old at the time. In essence, he was calling me a “wuss” or words to that effect. We played, and I shivered my but off and was concerned about how the cold conditions would affect my hickory shafted clubs. The General never complained or even mentioned the raw, blustery conditions. After all, he was doing what he enjoyed the most: Playing the game!

Bob was not only a good neighbor but a good member.

Next month’s Hyperion History article will continue with Robert Frost’s famous line “good fenced make good neighbors” from his poem “Mending Wall.”


Camp Dodge/General Dardis – December 2016

Continuing the “Good Neighbors” theme from the November Hyperion History article, I’d like to introduce the Hyperion membership to one of the best of the best. Yes, this individual became our neighbor when Iowa Governor Terry Branstad named him as the deputy adjutant general of the Iowa National Guard. At that time, this neighbor was a Brigadier General and had been the wing commander of the 185th Fighter Wing of the Iowa Air National Guard based in Sioux City, Iowa. In his new assignment, our new neighbor assisted with the administration, training, and operations of 9,500 Iowa Army and Air National Guardsmen. Because of that assignment, this particular “Top Gun” pilot and his family moved from Sioux City to Camp Dodge, and he and his family became our neighbors. He later was promoted to major general.

No his nickname was not ” Maverick” like the Tom Cruise character in the 1985 movie “Top Gun.” But our newly assigned neighbor had flown fighter aircraft for more than 31 years and over 4000 hours at that time and had flown the F-100, the A-7, and the F-16 fighter aircraft. And yes, he was designated as a “Top Gun.” In national training competitions, he scored 195 of 200 rounds fired while flying at 450 mph at low-level strafing missions. Unlike the movies, it’s all in real time, and there are no retakes. Who was this real-life character? It was and is our own Major General Ron Dardis who joined Hyperion Field Club in April of the year 2000 and later inherited the duties of our club’s General Management position in 2011.

In action movies, like Top Gun, there is drama, lots of drama, as well as a soundtrack blaring music over the Dolby Sound speakers. In real life, there is also drama, life or death drama. It just doesn’t come with a music score. In 1996, Dardis received an Air Force Association Citation for superior airmanship, courage, and professionalism for guiding his disabled F-16 away from a populated area before needing to eject. The plane crashed into a farm field near Valley Spring, South Dakota east of Sioux Falls. This was on June 7, 1996. Metal fatigue in the engine fan blade was determined to be the cause of the crash of the $15 million fighters.

Now that’s some real-life drama, as well as was the injuries received by Dardis after ejecting at a low level and over 200 knots. He landed more than a mile from the actual crash site and suffered fractured vertebrae that required hospitalization and lengthy rehabilitation. Flying that fighter jet away from populated areas after realizing that engine failure occurred after 4 minutes from take-off at the Sioux Falls Regional Airport was real life drama. The fact that no one was killed is indeed a reason to add a soundtrack. Bring in the string section, bang the drums loudly and blare the trumpets, and our own Tom Cruise didn’t have to pay back the $15 Million for the plane. He already had the girl (wife Carmel) as well as five children (including HFC’s Megan Martens). Better than the movie!   

Many of Hyperion members know the General as our manager, they know him as a competitive golfer on the golf course, they now can appreciate he was one of our best neighbors in a long history of the same.

Does Hyperion Field Club have good neighbors? Yes, we do, and I for one feel very secure and safe because of who those neighbors are. God Bless the Guard, and we hope that we are good neighbors to you as well.

Now that’s real-life drama. Add music score here. Turn up the volume. Repeat.


1998 Tornado – June 2017

The 29th of June will mark 20 years since the most destructive storm struck Hyperion Field Club in its 108-year history at this location. That day in 1998 was typical for late June. The forecast was for high temperatures in the middle 80’s, with high humidity and a chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon, certainly something we all have heard and expect on summer days in Iowa. What no one could foresee or predict was the formation of a supercell wall cloud in the extreme northwest corner of our state that would travel straight to Des Moines. Within that supercell, a rotational storm called a mesocyclone, formed as the storm front approached Granger, Iowa. When the mesocyclone reached Hyperion, it measured 7 miles wide, but unlike a tornado, the damage is caused by violent downdrafts which limit the area of damage to approximately a mile in width.

When the weather cleared, it was obvious that our club was a direct target of one of the downdrafts which were estimated to have been between 110 to 120 mph. The roof of the Sports Bar was partially gone, and the west wall of the Pro Shop was pushed in from one to three feet from the west to the east. Every hole on the golf course had trees uprooted or snapped off at the base and debris was everywhere. Minutes after the storm passed, I stood on number 10 tee and had to force myself to count out the holes by number as they were not recognizable.  We would later determine that we had lost 525 trees during that 10-minute storm.

Initially, clean up seemed an impossible task. Other areas across the Des Moines Metro area also suffered damage, and this supercell storm kept pushing eastward all across the state. Rail cars were blown off railroad tracks in the Iowa City area and the storm, although not quite as violent, reached the Quad Cities area before dying down. Local tree companies were being overrun and could only do 5 or 6 trees per day, but then we got lucky. A logging company from Dubuque, Iowa had just finished a tree clearing job in the metro area. We called them and told them of our situation, and they were at Hyperion the next day. They had large tractors outfitted with clamshell type pinchers. A chain saw operator would make one cut on a tree, separating the canopy from the tree trunk. One tractor would grab the entire canopy, a second would grab the trunk, and both pieces were drug to a massive wood chipper. Within 10 to 15 minutes the whole tree was reduced to wood chips which were sold to paper companies. This process was repeated day after day for three weeks.


The true heroes during this event were the Hyperion members who raked and removed debris for days on end. We were able to open the golf course for play 24 days after the storm. The rest of the year of 1998 was spent leveling and re-grassing areas damaged by the heavy equipment and the dragging of the trees from the fairway areas to the rough. A reforestation plan was developed for the entire golf course, and ultimately 450 trees were replaced, which our members enjoy today.

Although I have vivid memories of that day, I interviewed other members and staff to research this bit of Hyperion History. One interesting stat that I learned is that our membership number is now at 486 of all membership categories (golf, social, clubhouse, etc.). Of that number of 486, 404 members have joined after that very stormy day of June 29, 1998. Raise a glass to the 82 that were here then. They helped rebuild your golf course. The only reference to this storm at Hyperion Field Club is on the plaque that lists the year by year winners of ” The Sani,” held in August.  In the year 1998, the winner listed is: ” Mother Nature.”


Herman Sani – August 2014

The Herman Sani Open returns to Hyperion Field Club this year with the dates being August 8,9, & 10.

Almost all of us have heard the name and know of “The Sani,” and how Herman Sani paid the past due to taxes owed by Hyperion Field Club during the depression. He reportedly tore the bill upon the Polk County Courthouse steps, and as the story goes, there was no record of him ever being reimbursed.

My research, with the help of Des Moines Register golf editor Rick Brown, tells us more of this Hyperion legend. Herman was born in Italy on July 12, 1884. His father Eugenio Sani was a school teacher. The Sani family immigrated to the United States in 1892 when Herman was eight years old. As a youngster, he was a newspaper boy, shined shoes and sold programs at the ballpark watching one of many sports that he loved.

His professional career began as an assistant engineer with the Des Moines City streets department.

Rapid advancement led him to the positions of surveyor, instrument man and finally to chief inspector, all the while; he was studying to become a registered civil engineer. Herman loved golf and joined HFC during that period. Sani left city employment in 1916 and joined a paving company which he eventually owned.

It was this paving company that paved the brick road to Camp Dodge during the build-up for USA participation in WWI. The recent Hyperion articles about Camp Dodge were not only paved with history but paved with brick from Sani’s paving company.

Sani and W.A. (Bill) Cordingley personally planted the trees in 1926 that later framed and lined many of the golf holes at our course. Cordingley was a past president of Hyperion and the circulation manager of the Des Moines Register and Tribune.  Sani became the secretary-treasurer of the Iowa Golf Association that same year (1926) and held that position for a generation without compensation. His surveyors’ background allowed him to build, rebuild, and make golf course improvements all over Iowa. Under his leadership, the Iowa Golf Association tournament schedule grew from one tourney (The Iowa Open) to more than one hundred.

Register & Tribune sports editor Bert McGrane decided to honor Iowa’s “Mr. Golf” with a tourney named after Sani, and in 1950 the Herman L. Sani Open began. Herman Sani, his dog and constant companion “Bozo” and the cane that Sani used for years (hip injury) became symbols of the tournament that we now refer to simply as the “Sani.” Herman Sani died of a heart attack at his home in 1957 at the age of 73.

The simple term of “the Sani” would have warmed Herman’s heart as he didn’t take himself seriously, but he honored the game with a serious determination. For more personal insights on Herman, seek out Past President David O. Creighton Sr. some morning and buy him a cup of coffee. Ask him about Herman Sani, and it will soon be time to order lunch. You’ll be glad to buy lunch as well as the long-gone cup of coffee.

Submitted by William W. Reed – Hyperion Historian