While gathering information about the history of the Erie District Women's Golf Association, I realized that the best source would be someone who lived it. I immediately thought of Blossom McBrier. In an article from the Erie Times on Monday, August 10, 1959, Jack Polancy refers to Blossom as the "Swanville Queen." Known as "Awesome Blossom" to her family and friends, Blossom graciously spoke with me about her experiences with EDWGA and beyond.
Although the original thrust of my inquiry was about the history of EDWGA, I was captivated by Blossom's memorable history and I wrote this article to share it with those who may not have had the good fortune to meet her. I believe it is important for all of us to be aware of those who created the foundation for what we have today. Blossom has not only participated in a wide variety of activities, but she has done them all very well. My perception is that the only things she doesn't do well are the things she hasn't yet tried.
Blossom Diana Parke is the fourth daughter of Dale and May Parke. Born in 1923 in Los Angeles, California, she was encouraged to "get involved" at an early age. Tennis was her major interest, and she spent many hours at the Los Angeles Tennis Club. At the age of 16, she began studies at Stanford University. I asked how that happened and she told me that, in those days, when students did well they skipped grades. During the war years, the country needed more professional people at home because our young men, who usually filled those needs, were in the military. In order to get graduates as fast as possible, students were allowed to attend graduate school concurrently during their sophomore year of college. In 1943, Blossom entered law school. She was one of three women in her class and carried a whopping 27 credits. She also had her first golf lessons at Stanford and she confessed that she nearly flunked chemistry because of it! That was the beginning of her lifelong devotion to golf.
Blossom graduated in 1945, but she never took the bar exam. In September of 1945 she married James R. McBrier, an Erie native, who also attended Stanford. Following their wedding, James and Blossom moved to Erie. Along with being a busy wife and mother, Blossom began to play golf more seriously and took lessons from the Habert brothers at The Kahkwa Club. She joined Interclub and Northwestern Pennsylvania Women's Golf Association. She loved playing with all the other women and always strove to play better. Over the years, Blossom won the Northwestern Championship and was a seven-time winner of the Women's Club Championship at The Kahkwa Club. Blossom played in a staggering number of tournaments spanning many decades. She has participated in Women's American Seniors and the US Senior Women's Golf Association. She and her husband participated in the People to People Golf Team. This was a program started by President Eisenhower to make better relationships between countries through golf. They played around the world and made friends in faraway places through this wonderful game of golf.
From the 1950s through the 1980s, Rose King was a central figure in EDWGA. She planned and supervised many of the tournaments and worked tirelessly to create the Bylaws and establish the procedures and rules for team play that EDWGA is still using. Blossom assisted Rose with much of this work and donated the silver trophy known as the McBrier Cup, which is awarded to the winning team each year.
In 1976, Rose was contacted by the men's organization, Erie District Golf Association, to participate in a joint Hall of Fame project. Blossom McBrier was the first female inductee into the newly established Hall of Fame. This honor is bestowed upon women who exhibit distinguished sportsmanship in golf and community in addition to distinguished unselfish contributions. Those following Blossom are Sally Schickler (1977), Rose King (1978), Lydia McBrier McCain (1982), Jean Forsyth (1983), Elaine Uht (1985), Aurelia Englert Herrman (1990), Mary Ann Fessler (1994), Pat Tatara (1997), and Dottie Vassar (2001).
Beyond golf, Blossom has an impressive array of other talents. She is an accomplished pianist and composer. She produces award-winning rhododendron plants, which is underscored by her fabulous garden. She is a potter and sculptor, with her work displayed in her home and patio. She was the Vice-Chairman of the Civic Center Commission for twenty years. She served as president of the Erie Day School, and the Project Chairman for the Erie Planetarium for two years. She was also the first woman to be president of the Erie Symphony. From her experience in that position, she was asked to be on the first Pennsylvania Arts Council. It should now be obvious to all why she is "Awesome Blossom."
We anticipate The US Women's Amateur Championship at The Kahkwa Club in August, we are grateful to Blossom McBrier and others like her who have made tremendous contributions to a golfing community that embraces all that we hold dear about the great game of golf. She has nurtured an attitude of good sportsmanship and respect, which is shared by the hard-working committee and volunteers who will make this championship a success.
Upon parting, I asked Blossom if she had any words of wisdom for us. With no hesitation, she replied, "Golf is an intriguing social outing. We should all strive to do our very best and try to improve. Yet, we should care whether the other side makes their putt. Help each other and always show courtesy and respect."
The Swanville Queen still reigns.