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No Swimming at Sesqui: 1990s   31 comments

Posted at 1:05 am in Uncategorized

The Boat House at Sesqui also used to be the Bath House. I didn't swim there too often since we had access to Bell Camp, but it was an odd little setup.

The park guys in the mid-section of the building (there is, or was a counter behind those wooden shutters) would give you a wire hamper and a honking big safety-pin with a numbered stamped metal tag. You would go into the Men's Dressing Room, strip out of your clothes and put them in the basket, put on your trunks, fasten the safety-pin through them, and hand the hamper to the park guys. They would put the basket with your clothes on a shelf inside and you would go swim. After you finished, you would turn in the safety-pin, they would match it to a wire hamper and give you your clothes back. Even at the time, it seemed a rather quaint and archaic procedure.

The Boat House / Bath House, like a lot of the original Sesqui structures, was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps. This was a Federal government team recruited during the Great Depression from the vast ranks of the able-bodied but unemployed. The CCC did a lot of great work on public projects, kept a lot of men off the dole and probably not coincidentally helped forestall any more Bonus Army-like incidents. I know they also built the main structures at Poinsett State Park and Florida Caverns State Park. Their work tends to have an identifiable style, and the Boat House is a good example of it. I suspect the bench alongside the structure goes back to that era as well.

I think that American youth have gradually been undergoing a "swimming wussification" over the last several generations. My grandparents' generation thought nothing of jumping into totally unimproved "swimming holes". My mother's generation were happy to swim in Hartsville's minimally improved "Black Creek". I, on the other hand, already didn't really like swimming in lakes. Bell Camp was fine since the swimming area in the section shallow enough to touch ground had had all the stumps removed and the bottom covered with sand. (Still some of my peers were irked at the way the water turned any swimsuit to yellow). The Sesqui lake was a bit too slimy for my tastes, and I didn't like touching bottom at all. I suspect the generations after me didn't want anything to do with lakes as far as swimming went. At any rate Sesqui banned swimming in the 90s, and I have to think falling demand for lake swimming had something to do with it. I read the news in The State and remarked on the end of an era though not one I had much partcipated in. I don't know if the ban was state-wide, but last time I went into Poinsett it applied there as well.

The lake is still available for fishing and walking around, but like many lakes, it has been so overtaken by filthy waterfowl, that even if you liked lake swimming, you would hesitate to thread the feces-laden-minefield from the boat house to the water's edge. Even if you could still get a hamper and pin.

Written by ted on December 2nd, 2008

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31 Responses to 'No Swimming at Sesqui: 1990s'

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  1. I remenber swimming out there -- back when Sesqui was the only thing out there. A place you passed on the way to Charlotte!

    They had a floating dock (still is there, I think) that you swam to. It had a regular diving board (a rare sight these days) and a very tall high dive, maybe 8' up.

    I have one of those wire baskets at home. Wish I had one of the pins.


    2 Dec 08 at 8:46 am

  2. I remember the Urban Legend about Sesqui Lake about the boy who jumped off the dock into a bed of cottonmouths. I'm sure it's on Snopes somewhere, attached to many lakes/ponds.


    2 Dec 08 at 9:08 am

  3. They also used to have paddle boats you could take onto the lake. I always loved paddling around the island in that lake.


    2 Dec 08 at 10:04 am

  4. At certain times you can rent canoes out there.


    2 Dec 08 at 12:09 pm

  5. The floating dock is still there, sans diving boards:


    2 Dec 08 at 12:46 pm

  6. I remember when they closed swimming at Sesqui. I think part of the reason for closing was due to all of the private neighborhood and country club pools that were opened as the area became more suburban. The park could not compete with the pay these pools were offering life guards, and as a result, one summer were unable to find anyone to life guard. After that year the lake was closed.


    11 Dec 08 at 7:41 pm

  7. I remember swimming at Sesqui--Yuck!


    11 Feb 09 at 7:35 pm

  8. I worked at the park in the mid-1970's through 1981 earning money for school, starting first as a park maintenance worker and finished up as a lifeguard and waterfront director. Your description of the clothes procedure is dead on. The park at the time was WAY OUT OF TOWN. I spent most of my youth on that lake or in the park. The water wasn't that slimy (but it was opaque), and we scoffed at the wuss guards that worked at the country clubs. The opacity of the water made guarding a challenge and we sometimes went after suspected drowners only to find they were doing breath-holding contests.

    We called the main building the "bath house." One end was the first aid room. At the other end, was the camp director's office and the staff lockers. I assume my initials are still there carved in one of the doors. Most days, only the center section was open, but when it got busy, all three sections were used. The central "dock" doesn't float. It's anchored to the lake bottom and is all concrete like the four wing docks (that have since been removed). Like most of the CCC structures at the park, it will still be standing long after humans die off (the benches were made in the maintenance shop and not from the 1930's). The diving boards were nearly regulation at 1m and 3m. The 3m springboard had a substantial but controlled flex, and was able to throw the diver into any move possible. The park spent some money on those boards back then. By the way, I never saw any snakes in the swimming area, only at the spillway at the other end of the lake. This brings to memory that in my early years working there, the park enjoyed a full time naturalist (for guided nature hikes) and a snack bar. I remember we kept the grounds immaculate during that era. Truly a relic of a simpler time.


    9 Dec 09 at 11:11 pm

  9. Thanks Tommy!

    I wonder if there's a diving board left in Columbia?


    10 Dec 09 at 3:06 am

  10. CCC also built most of Oconee SP above Walhalla, SC. They still have a working swimming area, complete with high and low dives on that concrete dock, snack bar, PEDAL boats along with canoes and john boats that you can PADDLE. The mountain water is much clearer than that "ole black water" at Sesqui. No slime on the sand. They put up that orange temporary construction fencing along the rock walled bank every evening to keep the Canada geese and ducks from fouling the fenced swimming area (they don't fly over, for some reason. I guess they need to land on water, so as to not break their legs.) Table Rock SP swimming area, also CCC built, may be still open.


    1 Jul 10 at 3:23 am

  11. Is there still a free full sized golf course at Goodale SP?


    1 Jul 10 at 3:25 am

  12. I remember being just a wee little girl when you could still swim in a lake! I remember being taken to one, though it may have been Bell Camp and not Sesqui. Even being 4 years old and having no real alternatives for swimming I thought it was pretty sketchy. And if you think the lake at Sesqui looks like a gross place to go swimming, go check out Poinsett state park's watering hole. It's tiny and just looks so yucky I found it hard to believe even past generations could get excited about swimming there. I say good riddance to lake swimming. Now if they could just find a good use for the old bathhouses...


    23 Sep 10 at 10:31 am

  13. Last time I was at Poinsett my impression was that it had gone downhill. All the little paddleboats were gone, and the building that used to be a little nature museum was closed.


    23 Sep 10 at 10:35 am

  14. It is certainly sad to see the "swimming areas" disappearing. As a kid, we had the luxury of Lake Paul Wallace in Bennettsville...nice sandy bottom, terraced hillside for sunbathing and picnicking, a dock with standard and high diving boards, two long docks with sliding boards and a killer bathhouse/snack bar at the top of the terrace. The negative was that the swimming area was in the same side of the lake as the "skiing" area....the swimming area was separated bu creosote poles with cables attached. The water smelled of gas and oil. We loved it anyway. Occasionally we would go to Cheraw State Park and swim at "Carolina Beach" or venture to Lee State Park for an overnight camping trip and would swim in their lake. Both Cheraw and Lee state parks were WPA projects and looked exactly like Sesqui. Man, back in the day we would swim anywhere, especially the gravel pits that dot Marlboro County. That water was as clear as swimming pools!

    Scott Johnson

    23 Sep 10 at 8:12 pm

  15. All I can say is that I'm glad I did the majority of my swimming before I was old enough to dwell on what was in pond water. My friends and I would swim in the most disgusting places, at least through the filter of my present sensibilities, and we never once thought about water-borne disease or funky pond bottoms. We used to swim at the Forest Lake dam for goodness sake. Even as late as my mid-20's, I swam in the Reedy River coming south out of Greenville, which is a river that flows on the soapy and oily side of things, having just left the industrial district of Greenville South Cakalaky. Ah, the ignorance of youth. Today, forget about swimming in lakes, ponds, and rivers with all the fish (and bird) poop, toxic microorganisms, and industrial waste, I won't even swim in a pool. Between the massive amounts of chlorine and the blooming clouds of green fluid spreading out from the little kiddies letting go of a bladder full, how can anyone possibly enjoy swimming? ;-)

    I learned how to swim in the Sesquicentennial State Park pond (just barely). This was before everyone had air conditioning, and if you didn't have access to a pool, swimming at Sesqui or Lake Murray was what you had to do to deal with the summers around here. Back in those days, it was almost like driving to another town to get to Sesquicentennial, so it was a great treat to be out in the country secluded in those pine woods splashing around in the little spring lake. My memories are mostly from the olfactory: the distinctive resin smell of pine trees in the humid summer air, the slightly fishy odor of the pond, charcoal-grilled meat, and lots of Coppertone suntan lotion.

    Michael Taylor

    24 Sep 10 at 12:19 am

  16. Does anyone know if there is still a free full sized golf course at Goodale State Park?


    24 Sep 10 at 5:04 pm

  17. It seems to me there is a public golf course on the other side of the road from Goodale. I drove by last week, but didn't really notice if it's still there..


    24 Sep 10 at 10:25 pm

  18. ted, do you mean "free", with no carts or paths, no clubhouse, no buildings at all?


    24 Sep 10 at 11:36 pm

  19. According to the SC state parks' website the only two parks with golf are Cheraw and Hickory Knob.

    White Pines Golf Course is public and right next to Goodale State Park.

    So why is it named Good Ale?


    24 Sep 10 at 11:43 pm

  20. Thanks. This has got to be the course that I hacked around on in the early 80s that had nothing more than greens and mowed fields for fairways. I remember it being part of the park. It may have been, because some websites have the gof club starting in 1985, while others have the course being built in 1974.


    25 Sep 10 at 12:07 am

  21. a guy said that they closed swiming because the water got dirty


    26 Sep 10 at 8:31 pm

  22. Interesting site and historic information. I found this while trying to find something about SIlver Lake where I used to swim as a kid. It was in Pine Ridge just outside of Cayce and was most fun in the day with swimming, diving, canoeing, fishing. It also had a pavillion with a juke box where people would dance and the best burgers I can remember. Anyone know what happened to Silver Lake or its present status? Its clearly visible on Google Earth and the old dive platforms and buildings are still there.

    brad benggio

    1 Jun 11 at 4:33 pm

  23. The Pickett Thomas golf course, just down the road from Goodale, was considered part of the state park and is now, unfortunately, closed and grown over. White Pines is also down the road (the other way) but is a private golf course.


    18 Jun 11 at 7:09 pm

  24. I took my swimming lessons at age 7 at Sesqui. The water was nasty, but not as bad as it is now because there were a lot of people swimming there! I'd dive off that high dive once a year on a dare...did a belly buster every time. I'd do fine on the low dive, but that high dive was a mental challenge. We used to swim under that dock. Now THAT was yucky! We'd also see how deep we could go and the slime near the bottom was really bad. We didn't do it often. Kids are nuts sometimes. I do remember the tale of the kid that dove into the nest of water moccasins. I never believed it, but I never went out of my comfort zone either for just that reason. LOL

    Miz T

    11 Aug 11 at 3:35 pm

  25. I used to like swimming at Sesqui, though not as often as at Bell Camp. Seems to me as long as you were in the swimming area, there were less snapping turtles and snakes than at Bell Camp (though on the other side, I wouldn't want to venture past that point). What I really liked were the pedal boats and canoes. I liked that you could go behind the little island, made it a liiitle more of an 'adventure'. I too heard the story that it was too hard to get lifeguards, is that really all it was?


    26 Aug 11 at 9:09 am

  26. Ahhhh, Sesqui! I remember the floating dock and diving boards too! But I was too youn to swim to them. I remember the bathrooms pictured above, and the strange musky smell. I got TORN UP by some fire ants there one year. Guess I was about 4 or 5. LOL


    27 Aug 11 at 9:09 am

  27. Thanks for the info, stacie.
    Sorry for highjacking the thread, ted.


    30 Aug 11 at 12:08 am

  28. Back in the late 70s I was a lifeguard at Rockbridge Country Club earning money during the summer between clollege years. One of my buddies was the head lifeguard at Sesqui and asked me to fill in during the 4th of July weekend due to a shortage of guards. I was working the diving dock and man was that lake packed! I watched a mom swim out from the shore and her young teen daughter start after her. As I watched the girl get out over her head I realized she couldn't really swim. On her second bob below the water I dove in and came up behind her. My training kicked in and I put her in a rescue hold. Swam her back to shore and got her up on the beach. The funny thing was, the lake was so crowded that no one saw a thing - no other guard, no swimmer, no on sitting on the shore. I looked around a few times, made sure she was OK and swam back out to my station.


    6 Feb 12 at 6:13 pm

  29. Any more information about the Pickett -Thomas Park appreciated. Dr. Thomas He was my great uncle. Im writing about their lives, thanks


    23 Feb 12 at 6:27 pm

  30. Tommy,

    I also worked there during the early '80s remember a lot of the things you mentioned. We may have worked together.

    Carl Redemann

    14 Jul 17 at 8:54 pm

  31. Carl, just in case you circle back to this site, I do not recall working with you. I guarded in '79, '80, and '81. In '81, I was the waterfront director (a totally thankless job). I was a maintenance worker in '77 and '78. I do remember the guard from Rockbridge Country Club helping us out on either the Fourth or Labor Day. He was right. Very tough guarding when it's super crowded. We relied on other eyes and prayer. Didn't lose anybody on my watch. Every week or so, we had to do a rescue. The three whistle blows got everyone moving and all our hearts stopping at the same time. It was a good experience overall and I was honored and blessed to work with some of the finest people I ever met. I still swim every day, but not missing the cloudy water of Sesqui (wondering to myself "how did I ever swim in that mess?").


    31 Jan 22 at 6:40 pm

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