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Depression Beach
William Gieske
Jul 4, 2003
Summer time and the living is easy and the kids are in the pool. There are lots of backyard and munincipal pools here in the valley but it wasn't always so. In the thirties during the depresion we had swimming but not always in pristine settings with lifeguards on duty. The canal had its swimming holes, one was on Sand Island behind the Surefit building that burned and was torn down. This was one of the biggest and one of the last of the silk mills that many were employed at years ago. I remember swimming there when I went to Brougal in the thirties. At noon several of us with our bikes would go to the doggie shop on fourth street for two hotdogs and a large bottle of soda. That cost fifteen cents plus two cents on the bottle. We would bike down the ramp to the island and soon we would take a quick and short dip in the canal. With only one hour for lunch we could not dalley and we had to return the bottle on the way back. It was traded back for two pretzil sticks we ate on the way back to school refreshed after our dip in the canal. Another place I swam was out near the Fabs. Must have been about twelth avenue where there was a big storm sewer pipe that enabled us to get over to the tow path. You had to be on the tow path because the railroad side was too rough to enjoy. I still remember crossing the Lehigh river along side a large water pipe that is on the bed of the river. Why? well boys do those things.

Altho I do not remember any places in the Lehigh for swimming I am sure there were. I do remember most of those on the monacacy tho. Starting off of Conastoga street that dam was called the first dam, very few swam there tho. Going upstream and crossing Union Blvd. there was a place near Lipkins old wooden wharehouse that was used by a local church for baptising converts. On those occasions when they arrived it provided the neighborhood kids with a bit of entertainment. A little further up near where the ready mix cement plant now stands there was a well used swimming hole. The water was always cold tho. Upstream behind the paint mill there was another dam. This was second dam. Its gone now blown up to stop the activity that took place there. In the early thirties it was avery popular place and had lots of atmosphere. There was a diving stand and a beach and venders and at times a real carnival feel to it. I remember it as having a nice swimming area and below the dam there was a small pool where us smaller kids could learn to swim. No lessons at the "Y" in those days. Unfortunately the railroad ran close to the water here and altho they fenced it off there were still accidents. No one ever took credit for blowing up the dam and ruining what was a great place to cool off and enjoy yourself back in the depresion. That was Depresion Beach!

Illick Mill was known as the third dam and always was a popular place to picnic. Places along the stream were used for years even before the WPA workers placed the stoneworks along the banks and built the Gazebos. The area near the paint mill had several springs and watercress could be found in abundence. There were only a few large pools in the valley that I can remember. One was at Willow Park and another was Hiawatha in Lower Saucon. I think Hellertown had a pool and Bethlehem had one at Saucon Park. I dare not forget the minehole out by Freidensville. Swimming here was dangerous but I do not remember anyone drowning there. The zinc in the water healed up the rash from poison ivy so it was always a great excuse for a dip. The area around the holes was great for bike riding or horseback riding with stables close by. There was also an old mud hole known as Lake Thomas out in Saucon Valley that was left over from iron mining. One time the valley had a few of those old holes. Several once were beyond Wegmans in Hanover township. They were filled with munincipal garbage years ago.

With all the streams running thru the area I am sure there were a lot more swimming holes. The Delaware and the Tohicken also had many good places, some commercialised and others au natural. Today its all backyard pools or big munincipal pools with lifeguards and better yet for enjoyment the water parks with wave pools and slides. But I bet they do not provide any more pleasure than our old swimming holes did.

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