– Commodore Steve Harris, BLYC Historian
Captain Eddie Getrost was a well known citizen of Columbus, a veteran of the Spanish-American War, a Captain in World War I, a successful businessman, and our Commodore in 1925.
Born in Bellaire, Ohio in 1877, Gettrost came to Columbus at the age of 16 where he worked in a restaurant by day and attended business school at night. When the Spanish-American War broke out, he enlisted in the US Army, served in Cuba and participated in the landing at Guanica, Puerto Rico in 1898. After returning from the war, he purchased the Swift Bowling Alley on East Gay Street. Over the years, he purchased several other bowling alleys and restaurants throughout Columbus, culminating in his lavish Gettrost Recreation Hall encompassing the second, third, fourth, and fifth floors of 44 North Front, at the corner of West Gay (this location is the site of the Leveque Tower Garage today.)
At the start of World War I, Mr. Gettrost placed his businesses in the hands of his managers and again enlisted in the US Army. He was soon thereafter commissioned as a First Lieutenant and sent to Virginia where he organized and trained a company of African American soldiers. In August of that year, he accompanied them to France as their Commander where they were assigned to the Quartermaster’s Corps. While overseas, he was promoted to the rank of Captain, and was honorably discharged in August of 1919.
Mr. Gettrost owned property on the south shore of Buckeye Lake near Millersport and was quite apparently a very active part of the lake community and BLYC. In that time period, one of the more popular “off-season” activities was participation in the Inter-Lake Yachtsmen’s Bowling Association. Frequently, their tournaments were hosted at Gettrost’s fine establishments in Columbus.
Sadly, club records from the 1920’s are scarce and, according to Kyle Armstrong’s Book, Story of Buckeye Lake Yacht Club, there is also some question as to the manner of how officers were elected during that time. There are no records available, save the names of the Commodores, of who served BLYC on the Board or its committees. Regardless, Eddie Gettrost became Commodore, our 14th, in September of 1924.
Commodore Gettrost’s elevation to the office coincided with the period of U.S. history later to be known as the “Coolidge Prosperity.” Industrial production was up 70%, wages rose nearly 25%, widespread electrification improved the lives of many Americans, and by the end of the decade over half of all American’s owned automobiles and other “luxury” items previously beyond their reach. The Club, too, benefitted from this era. Activity at BLYC was higher than ever! In order to accommodate this increase in participation, the Board eliminated the old “billiard hall” upstairs, enclosed the staircase, and added additional sleeping accommodations for members visiting the lake on the weekends. BLYC had also outgrown “Gob’s Mess” (today, the bar) as it’s only dining area with meal service frequently spilling over into the “lounge” (as we now know it, the Fireplace Room). The Board elected to enclose the west porch to add our current glazed-in dining room with arguably the best dining views on Buckeye Lake. As a part of this project, BLYC finally and officially dedicated our island in the name of the Honorable George H. Watkins who was immensely instrumental in the early developement of both the lake and of BLYC years earlier. On the evening of July 3rd, 1925 – 11 years after his death and nearly two decades following the Club voting to so dedicate the island – a group of Mr. Watkins’ friends, along with members of the Club, unveiled and dedicated a monument appropriately commemorating this “member and and lover of the Club, friend of the common people,” who “departing, left to them in Buckeye Lake a beautiful and valuable heritage to which his spirt invites us to return again and again to enjoy the fruits of his labors. He it was who made our Yacht Club possible.” So originated the large bronze tablet still mounted, although perhaps somewhat obscurely, on the chimney in the Club dining room.
Commodore Gettrost passed away in November of 1929 following a stroke suffered at his Buckeye Lake cottage. He was 52 years old.
While bowling may not enjoy the popularity today that it once did and both the billiard hall and sleeping rooms upstairs are gone, the members of BLYC are certainly indebted to Commodore Gettrost for his leadership and vision in providing us what is, arguably, still – nearly 100 years later – one of the greatest features of our Clubhouse. Regardless of the season, is there anything better than enjoying a good meal with friends while looking out over our beautiful lake?