He was 3 years old when the family signed up in 1955 — high times for the company and the club. The club had just moved to this location north of the plant from its original spot south of the steel mill, on Jones Creek. The clubhouse and first nine holes of the golf course opened in 1954, followed in the next few years by another 18 holes, tennis courts, a swimming pool and what an official history calls a "yacht pier."

Bethlehem Steel was up to about 30,000 employees, boasting "the greatest metal-making capacity on earth" according to Mark Reutter, author of "Making Steel: Sparrows Point and the Rise and Ruin of American Industrial Might."

The club is a testament to those halcyon days, even if there has sometimes been tension in the cultural anomaly of a country club tied to a blue-collar industry.

Former member Rex Fulghum, who retired from Bethlehem Steel in the early 1990s after 37 years, recalls an occasion at a dinner when the waiter took orders for martinis, wine and other refined libations. He ordered a beer, prompting several at the table to change their minds: Come to think of it, they'd have a beer, too.

"I'm not a pretentious person," said Fulghum, 74, who lives in Dundalk and belonged to the club for 27 years, quitting when it went public. "My name was always posted on the bulletin board for being late on my dues. But I didn't care."

These days, the club needs all the cash it can raise. The golf course irrigation system is nearly 40 years old. Glomp says the 58-year-old clubhouse is due for new decor, plumbing and electrical systems.

The pool house is holding up well enough, but Glomp imagines it would have to be torn down at some point to put up a more attractive building. He found the institutional tiled interior walls so unsightly that he recently had a high school student cover them with murals of undersea scenes: green turtles, gray dolphins, purple whales and golden striped fin fish on a deep blue background.

The proposed development plan is sketchy, and the club has not even chosen a developer. The club envisions about 200 townhouses on a portion of those 57 acres along part of the waterfront and Wise Avenue. The zoning request is the first step in a project that would probably not be completed for at least three years, Mosmiller says.

But if the numbers don't work out, Glomp says, the members who are happy with things as they are might get their wish.

"If we get through this process, and it's not a good deal for the club, we're not going to do it," Glomp said.

arthur.hirsch@baltsun.com

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