The caddie house at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda is a plain white cinderblock but screened by several tall oaks from the members' parking lot nearby.
It belongs to men like Shirley, Cliff, Mike, Glen and Sergeant Forty-Four, who break open beer and fried chicken every afternoon and swap tales about the curious ways of the well-to-do.
Among them they have more than 120 years of experience carrying golf clubs, wiping balls and lining up shots for the politicians and businessmen who make up Congressional's membership.
"It's two worlds, them and us," says Jessie Cooper, 37, a 25-year caddie. "These guys got beaucoup bucks, Jack. They're used to dealing with servants. You know deep down there ain't never gonna be no 'Guess Who's Coming to Dinner.'"
Sergeant Forty-Four, a retired military veteran who has caddied for a decade -- and insists that this is his real name -- put it differently.
"You got the field hands, the house hands, and the boss hands, and there ain't nothing in between," he says. "I call it the plantation."
With the 1980 Kemper Open Golf Tournament at Congressional this year, the club is enjoyng one of the biggest weeks in its history. Such professionals as Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Tom Watson, and celebrities such as Gerald Ford have congregated here, attracting thousands of fans in designer visor caps, alligator shirts, alpaca sweaters and peculiar but nonetheless expensive shorts. Congressional this week is the kind of place where even portable toilets can be adorned with prestigious titles -- "Sanitation by E-Lite," they say.
This story, however, is about the other side of the club; the commoners, the servants who work every day at Congressional, answering the whims and fancies of the members who come to this funhouse for the rich.
It is about, as Sergeant Forty-Four put it, "The Kemper Closed."
To the working people at Congressional the Kemper Open signifies just another tough week on the job -- more bags and golf clubs to carry, more prime ribs to serve and more crystal to wash.
"It's heaven to the members," says grill hostess Debbie Farmer. "For us, it's a longer walk from the car."
This week at the club is dedicated to golf, originally a wealthy man's game that requires acres of fields, forests, waterways and well-kept lawns. Caddies have been the game's backbone, carrying the tools from hole to hole.
Congressional's golf course is more than 7,000 yards long, and most of the regular caddies here carry a couple of 35-pound bags twice a day over these furlongs, five days a week, nine months out of the year, for $10 a round.
For the most part they are happy with the job. "It beats punching a time clock," says Cliff Gantt. And the money isn't bad, either. On a good week the caddies can bring $225 back to their Southeast and Northeast Washington homes.
They share an excitement for the sport, and in the greasy little den they call their headquarters esoteric terms like "rabbit" -- a poor professional -- and "leather" -- a golf bag -- pop in and out of their conversations. Mention words like "ballbeater" and "William Rogers" to them and they howl with laughter.
"Ballbeaters take thirty strokes to get outta' the sand trap and that Rogers," says Cooper, referring to the former secretary of state, "was the best of the breed."
But don't say the work "Muskie" in the caddie house, for that one is not likely to make them laugh.
"Every time you go out you expect a tip. That's what makes caddying "That Muskie was a cold mother, cheap as Scrooge. Every time he came here, you see the caddies run the other way."
Since he rose from senator to secretary of state, however, Muskie has become a slightly better customer to caddy for, the men say. Muskie, whose second love in life is golf, according to a State Department spokesman, played a round at Congressional the day he was sworn in a secretary.
"He still don't open that wallet," says Sergeant Forty-Four. "But the other members tip us for him."
More than 300 golfers flocked to Congressional this week to vie for 160 spots in the Kemper Open. The 15 regular club caddies found lots of work, but the really lucrative jobs -- working for the top professionals -- were taken by professional caddies who, like the golfers, travel from tournament to tournament across the country.
Most of the veterans at Congressional are content with sticking close to home, even if it means that when a major tournament comes to town, they are stuck with the less successful golfers.
Caddie Ferman Simpson, for instance, was hitched up with a golfer named Bob Bilbo. "Man" said a caddie house visitor, "you better talk some serious s--t to that man."
"I might have to hit for him, too," Simpson sighed.
The clubhouse at Congressional is an antebellum-style mansion of red tile and white stucco, set on a tranquil knoll overlooking the eighteenth hole. To get inside the other day, visitors had to check in with a group of rainbow-shirted, blue-skirted members' wives with impressive hairdos who -- depending upon the color of the entry tag one was wearing -- reacted with impressed, wide-eyed stares or unimpressed stoney glares.
The clubhouse interior is furnished with thick sofas and carpets and glistening light fixtures. For the staff, the working conditions seem very comfortable. There are two dining areas in the clubhouse, a first-floor dining room and a downstairs bar and grill that employ about 35 workers, including cooks, busboys, waitresses and hostesses.
Ernestine Clemmons of northeast D.C. hostess of the main dining room, came to Congressional 20 years ago after working at an exclusive all-black restaurant in Washington called the Kingfish. She has stayed at Congressional because she likes what she called the "relaxed" atmosphere.
Occasionally, though, some disturbing things happen in the dining area. The other day an elderly member suffered a heart attack in a hallway after spending several hours on the golf course and then eating lunch.
"So many of the members are older," says one waitress. "They're on the courts and playing golf all day, then they come in here exhausted with those red faces to eat."
"Sometimes," she says, "I have to just blot the thought of heart attacks out of my mind. They terrify me."
Another idea employes must forget about is eating the food. "The management gives us the house rule from the very beginning," says grill hostess Debbie Farmer. "No job if we eat the food."
Farmer, a spry, blue-eyed, 23-year-old blond woman, came to Washington a year ago after leaving her home in tiny Pearisburg, Va. She said she wanted to see the glamor of the big city. She ended up at Congressional eight months ago, and since then has become gradually soured by such notions as glamor and power. She works 50- to 60-hour weeks at $4 an hour, without overtime compensation.
"The club is on tax-free status," she said, "but they sure do take taxes out of my check."
The employes were excited, at first, by the Kemper Open.
"The boss said we'd get overtime and lots of money," Farmer recalled. "Then they said the first 40 hours we put in was for the club, and everything after that was for the Kemper, so nothing is really new. The 70 hours I'm working this week is just that -- 70 hours at the same rate."
"But nobody complains about money, at least not publicly," she said. "That's forbidden. It's too easy to get fired around here."
Farmer was asked about famous people who have eaten at Congressional.
"Oh, Ford, Tip O'Neill, Nixon," she sighed, unimpressed, wiping her brow. "I wasn't here, but other people say Nixon used to come in wearing golf shoes on the carpet."
"How about Muskie?"
"No tip.Real dour," Farmer answered.
According to the club's employes, life at the "Kemper Closed" isn't too bad: Plenty of natural beauty outdoors, and opulent surroundings inside.
But the workers all agree that newcomers must understand certain taboos. Don't eat the food, don't complain about the money -- and watch out for secretaries of state.