ALMOST a century ago, in 1918, the most popular place to swim and cool off in the summer was Jones’ Grove, at the back of Lorin Farr Park.
“Believe me your swimming pool in Ogden River is a pleasure and a joy after completing the dusty trip across the desert from California,” William E. Smith, a tourist, wrote in a letter to the editor in the Aug. 16, 1918 Standard-Examiner.
Smith’s letter continued: “It felt like the first oasis after a long trek and the whole family wallowed in it for an hour or more. Ogden knows how to extend the good hand of welcome to its vagabond auto visitors, and will be known all along the road for this practical hospitality.”
Smith’s only suggestion was that Ogden City add showers to its bath houses there. Later, in the spring of 1919, that feat was accomplished with a contract of $810.
However, not all was picture perfect for Jones’ Grove. “Hoodlums among women at swimming pool” was a June 28, 1919 Standard headline.”The complaints state that large boys have been using profanity in the vicinity of the pools and making threats to keep tourists away from the water,” the story stated.
The Ogden Publicity Bureau was already providing complimentary bathing suits for tourists in the auto camping park. Now, the police were instructed to rid the park of such hoodlums.
The Standard of July 22, 1919 reported that Ogden City had constructed a $4,650 children’s swimming pool on the grounds of Washington Park, which adjoined the playground of South Washington School.
So popular was this pool, that firm hours of use were immediately established: boys could swim from 1-4 p.m.; girls from 4-7 p.m.; and adults from 7-10 p.m.
-“’Ol swimmin’ hole made by youngsters near Ogden River Bridge always full” was a July 23, 1922 Standard headline.
Despite some artificial, cement pools in Weber County, some kids – especially those on the north side of town -- preferred the closer, open waters. They created a dam and made a 5-foot-deep water hole. There was a shallow are for young kids.
However, swimming attire was limited. The Standard story reported most swam in underwear and that one kid had improvised a swimming suit out of a gunny sack.
“At most any time a visitor my see a water circus. The kids have diving and swimming contests and stunt work and then divide off for a wild splash battle which lasts until one side gives up and the defeated members crawl to the banks to recuperate. The kids of the north end wouldn’t trade their pool for the best of the artificial kind. They made it themselves and are proud of it,” The Standard reported.
-Five years later, there was a problem with swimming in the Weber River. “Nude bathers given lecture. Sheriff’s Office makes roundups at old swimmin’ hole,” the Standard of July 11, 1927 reported.
“Small boys who caper in the waters of an old swimming pool in the Weber River, near the viaduct, but scorn to be handicapped by suits, were given attention today by the Sheriff’s Department,” the story stated.
Motorists over the viaduct had been complaining of the nudity. The boys were given a stiff lecture and promised to wear swimming attire in the future.
-There were also occasional accidents in the swimming river holes. A 17-year-old boy from Idaho drowned in the Weber River, near west 28th Street, on Aug. 10, 1919, in 10 feet of water. There were an estimated nearly 100 deaths in this “Caving Bank” portion of the Weber River, from 1879-1919, because of a strong undercurrent. Three or four deaths happened some summers there.
A Standard editorial asked for lowering the depth of the water there.
(-Originally published on-line and in print in the Ogden Standard-Examiner on Aug. 6-7, 2015, by Lynn Arave.)
-NOTE: The author, Lynn Arave, is available to speak to groups, clubs, classes or other organizations about Utah history at no charge. He can be contacted by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org