Debbie Turner and Willow Creek: Special memories

Susan EspirituHalls, Our Town Neighbors

Not many people can or should say they left their 6-year-old at a ballpark. I have to admit I did when I took a van of softball players to lunch in Halls between games at Willow Creek Ballpark. When I looked for my son, Billy, we realized he was back at the park.

Indeed, he was at the park playing beside the concession stand and Debbie Turner was giving him a hot dog and lemonade, grinning at me because she knew I had left him.

She probably doesn’t remember that event as well as I do, because Willow Creek was just everyday life for Debbie back in those days. It was mine too, as it was for our whole family. Both my girls played through their youth and I even played, reliving my own youth. My husband dug water lines, created a new entrance sign and spent hours keeping up fields. Willow Creek was home for years and the Turners were like family.

Debbie and Steve Turner

Willow Creek wasn’t always meant to be a ballpark. When the Turners bought the 27 acres on Quarry Road, the original thought was to build a drive-in theater. Since Debbie’s husband, Steve, and his brothers played in softball tournaments almost every weekend at different parks, a family meeting quickly turned a drive-in theater vision into a softball field, hosting their own men’s’ tournaments.

The pasture land became ball fields in 1980, hosting men’s tournaments from across the city with the first concessions being a portable Coca Cola metal stand with a folding table and grill. The Turners kept the tournaments legitimate with brackets, score books, lined fields, trophies, etc.

Cinder block concessions, restrooms and the longstanding barn were added within just a few seasons which led to being contacted by the Halls Softball Commission, and that was the beginning of girls’ softball at Willow Creek.

Charles Turner is remembered at the park where he lived and he passed away when working at a building beside his home on the property.

The 27 acres wasn’t only ballfields as Debbie’s in-laws, Charlie and Roxie Turner, built their home at the back, and then Debbie and Steve followed in a few years building their own and raising three boys: Russ, Chad and Jake.

Debbie stocked and managed the concession stand all the years I can remember even after the Turners decided to sell the park to Halls Softball Commission.

Debbie recounts: “My sons had plenty of kids come to play every night in their front yard, Willow Creek! Cupball was a favorite. They crushed the ball and ran bases made up between the fields. One night, I caught my youngest, Jake, charging people in the bleachers 25 cents to watch him roll his belly and he was good at it! Russ, Chad and Jake all loved their years at Willow Creek and going with me to the candy store to buy boxes of candy.

“I made a lifetime of friendships at Willow Creek over the years. Not too many families can say they built a ballpark!”

The Turners, Willow Creek Ballpark, and Debbie’s concession stand are certainly entrenched in many Halls’ families’ favorite memories.

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