North Lewisburg has never had a municipal swimming pool, nor privately owned and operated facility. It all has to do with the high cost of liability insurance - a reality on which the town's government and private entrepreneurs placed great emphasis. If the kids - and adults - of the 1950s and 1960s wanted to go swimming in the chlorinated-waters of a swimming pool, there were few options. They could go to the swimming pool which is located at the north end of the neighboring community of Marysville, some nine miles distance. They could go to the old Lakewood Beach facility that was situated on old Highway 55 between Urbana and Springfield. They could take an even longer drive to the YMCA swimming pool in downtown Springfield.
If the swimmers were not concerned about the quality of the water (and if they were reasonably sure they would not contract the dreaded polio disease during the "dog days" of summer),they could elect to swim in one of the various farm ponds which could be found in the area of North Lewisburg. Or, the truly daring swimmers could opt to make use of a few deep pools which could be found along Spain Creek.
Most kids - or their parents - chose to make the short drive to Marysville on those particularly hot days (and nights) of summer to make use of the American Legion swimming pool. It was clean and well-maintained. It was adjacent to a park where families could picnic or otherwise while away the time. It was relatively inexpensive. It had qualified life guards who stood their posts while overlooking the safety of the swimmers. Many youngsters of the era can undoubtedly recall the shrill whistle, or the admonition to "Stop running on the concrete!" which emanated from the life guards. The pool was often crowded as it attempted to handle the water-borne traffic of both Marysville and the surrounding communities.
Sometimes, families or groups (4-H, FFA, church, or scouts) made the longer trek to the quaint, lively Lakewood Beach - noted for its sand-bottom swimming area. Many young people and adults plunged into the frigid water of the pool, and stood up - teeth chattering - to walk the sandy bottom, grains of wet sand oozing up between the toes. The sand got into everything, and was often carried all the way home in wet towels and swimsuits. When they tired of swimming, everyone could take part in the midway-type games and novelties which were adjacent to the swimming area. There was the huge, covered pavilion when families and groups could gather for the traditional potluck lunch or supper. It all had an atmosphere of "Coney Island," with fun, laughter, shouting, and excitement for everyone in attendance. "A good time was had by all!" was often the line which appeared in the area newspaper's accounts of the Lakewood Beach festivities.
Church groups often scheduled weekly trips to the clean, expansive and chlorine-environment of the YMCA swimming pool in Springfield. The boys who were regulars in attendance at the Friends Church in North Lewisburg were packed into cars on Friday nights for the drive to Springfield - a ploy, by the way, which attracted a very large attendance at Sunday's church meetings. The Reverend Raymond Gram and other adults served as supervisors of this motley crew of boys who cavorted, dove, swam, splashed, and otherwise enjoyed the heated waters of the pool. Back in those pre-1970s days, before the YMCA was open to female participation in the many activities held in the building, it was not uncommon (as a matter of fact, it was encouraged) for the male swimmers to do so in the nude. There was a practicality to this - the lint and other debris from swimming trunks had a tendency to clog up the filtration system. Besides, there were no "prying female eyes" to observe the boys. "Back in the day," it was a perfectly normal way to behave. The modest church leaders from North Lewisburg, however, preferred that all of the boys come to the outing with the appropriate trunks.
Swimming in some area farm ponds were usually restricted to members of the owner's family, or close friends. Once again, insurance liability was a big issue, so some farmers denied the use of their ponds for swimming. Often those small ponds which were used were the habitats of rushes, and cattails, and other grasses, bushes and shrubs. Moss was a real problem on the surface of some of those ponds which had limited fresh water feed into them. The bottoms of the ponds were often slimy, with deep, oozing mud, and wet banks. Only a few more venturesome swimmers made use of these ponds.
Along Spain Creek could be found a few deep pools of slow-moving water, generally carved out where the creek made a wide bend and changed direction. Some of these pools were just deep enough for potential swimmers to walk on the gravel bottom with torsos rising above the waterline. Still others were considerably deeper, with water over the top of the swimmers' heads. Most were not deep enough for diving, but there were some foolhardy folks who chose to dive in just the same. Some places had nearby trees with branches which could support a heavy rope and the added weight of the swimmer. These places afforded the brave hearts to swing out over the water and to drop the short distance to its surface.
Two of these pools were very popular. One was located at the west end of the community, on a bend in Spain Creek which flowed behind an old meat-packing, concrete building which was owned by Tom Arthur, who owned and operated the local IGA grocery. On any warm, summer day could here be found a large group of boys - and sometimes, girls - who were taking the opportunity to cool off in the creek's cold water.
Another such spot was located at the eastern edge of town, just a short distance from where an old brick, single-room school building had stood. It was easily accessible from the nearby highway (designated State Route 275 at the time) which connected North Lewisburg to Marysville. But, most kids who made use of the pool hiked to it, and generally walked along the creek from town via Black Bridge and the narrow trails which had been carved out of the trees and shrubs which abutted the creek bank. Once again, it was not uncommon to see a large group of young people assembled here for frivolity and exercise in the creek.
Skinny dipping was a term which did not creep into the language until the 1950s and 1960s. In the urban areas of the nation, the very idea of swimming in the nude was unheard of. Swimsuits or trunks were the norm of the day, in all but the rural areas of the country. In places such as the latter, beyond the common daily traffic of people and vehicles, it was not uncommon for boys - and girls - to shuck their clothes down to bare skin and dive in. Many kids who grew up in this era of innocence might well recall the occasion - or occasions - when some prankster absconded with all of the clothes to be found near a swimming hole, and left the swimmers with some "em-bare-ass-ment" in getting home unseen.
Sometimes there were excursions away from town, to the deeper, more turbulent waters of Big Darby Creek. Many young people first learned to swim there, after being tossed unsuspectingly into the deep waters and told to "swim or drown!"
Those were all innocent days as we grew up along Spain Creek, much akin to Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn - barefoot, carefree, and full of zest for life.