photograph by Forsyth County Public Library Photograph Collection

Remember really big pools? I do. I used to go to one that was just a large concrete swimmin’ hole — a ceeee-ment pond, as the Beverly Hillbillies would’ve called it. It was just a big, water-filled thing with no mud and no fish and questionable sanitation standards. I loved it.

Of course, the big one around here, Crystal Lake in Winston-Salem, was gone by the time I was born. It was large — 200 feet long and 65 feet wide — and came complete with slides, a snack bar, and a nearby dance floor. You could rent a bathing suit (ew?). The water came in via springs, hence the “crystal” in Crystal Lake.

When the pool opened in 1925, bathing suits left as much to the imagination as possible. And, most important, there was no air-conditioning! How are you going to stay cool in the sticky, hot summer? With a pool. That’s the business model. The air is hot. The water is slightly less hot. Pay up.

Back then, insurance was a thing, but it wasn’t the fun-stifling/risk-averse business it is today. Thus, Crystal Lake had a diving board that rose 50 feet into the air. Seems high! There was also a big waterwheel that rotated in the middle of the pool. But who cares? No rules here. (Well, sort of.)

The Great Depression got rid of most of those big swimming holes in Winston-Salem, and they were replaced by plain old municipal swimming pools. Still, Crystal Lake persisted. It was there until the ’70s, when the Davis family got tired of running it, and any potential suitors were scared off when they learned just how hard it was to maintain a large, concrete-lined reservoir. After it closed, Crystal Lake was plowed under and turned into apartments. Today’s pools are simpler, and the water parks sure are safer, but in the end, when it’s hot outside, we all still just want to go where the water is cool.

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Jeremy Markovich is a digital manager, writer, and podcast host at Our State.

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