Recollections of Early-20th-Century Swimming Holes

A reader shares a letter written to her grandmother from a friend about his recollections of the fun country boys had at their favorite swimming holes.

| July/August 2014

  • A Lyn Wellsand illustration of five boys cooling off on a hot summer day in a local swimming hole equipped with a rope swing.
    Illustration by Lyn Wellsand

When my Grandmother Annie (Hays) Williams died, among her possessions was a letter, postmarked 1942, from a childhood friend. The letter relates to some of their favorite swimming areas when they were teenagers. I thought you might enjoy reading about the recollections in the letter.

My grandmother was born in 1902 and would have been around 15 when her friends hung out at the swimming holes in 1917 or 1918. The letter, which is sure to take you back to another time – a time in the life of a country kid — was signed by Edmond. 

I’ve never figured out who Edmond was, but here’s what he wrote:

Today brings to mind the many fine old wash-holes that we used to inhabit every chance we got on a hot summer day. We were so anxious that we jumped the gun in mid-May, if not sooner.

Goin’ washin’ seems to be another old custom among country boys that is fast fading away. Shucks, the swimmin’ holes we had were a conglomeration of soft mud and sharp rocks or occasionally a sand bottom.

Thinking back, I guess the wash-hole at Roberts Mill Pond, about two miles from Eden (Alabama), was the best, but there were others. The one in Barber’s pasture, where several of the churches did their baptizing, was good, except when they ousted us. Another good place was in the flat woods, known as Slickum.

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