“Million memories” created at Crystal Lake in Shelby County, Texas

Crystal Lake, in Joaquin, Texas
Crystal Lake, in Joaquin, Texas

While dining a few months ago at a Logansport, Louisiana restaurant, I noticed a photograph mounted under the glass of one of the tables.  The vintage photograph (sixties or seventies, based on the “look” of the photo) depicted dozens of people having a whale of a time at a lake.

The lake, I learned, was named “Crystal” and it had quite a story behind it.

Photo from www.crystallaketexas.com
Photo from www.crystallaketexas.com

Crystal Lake is located in Joaquin, Texas, just across the Sabine River from Logansport, Louisiana.

For a few decades, Crystal Lake provided a safe, family fun place to enjoy hot Southern summers. Residents of Shelby County and DeSoto Parish, along with surrounding areas, flocked to this lake in droves during the summers.

Wanting to share some photos and details about the lake, I had searched the Internet about a year ago and found very little.  I found the photograph I had seen at the Logansport restaurant, and a few scattered things here and there.  Since that time, an entire website has been launched which is devoted to Crystal Lake and to sharing memories from this destination.

Photo from www.crystallaketexas.com
Photo from www.crystallaketexas.com

“The history of Crystal Lake is rich with unique and amazing memories and stories of those who enjoyed it over the years,” the website aptly states.

Crystallaketexas.com, which was posted online late last summer I’m guessing, is a user-friendly website with the specific purpose of keeping memories of Crystal Lake alive.   Looking at it made me wish for more websites like this… online sites which pay homage to times and places not so long ago which are both fond and familiar to hundreds of people.

Crystal Lake is a man-made lake, built by Joe Whiddon on crop land in 1913.  His son, O.C. Widden (and wife Cynthia) took up the lake project in 1947 (floods had washed the lake’s levy away in the 1930s).  The lake became a recreation destination.  In order to visit and enjoy the lake, there were rules… which were in place to ensure safe and clean fun for those who went.  No glass bottles were allowed.  Cussing was prohibited.  Whiddon preferred for church groups and boy scout groups to reserve the lake.  A Catholic church held its services at the lake every week.  Each Easter Sunday, an all-denominational Eater sunrise service was held on the hill overlooking the lake.

Photo from www.crystallaketexas.com
Photo from www.crystallaketexas.com

The lake was open each year from Memorial Day through Labor Day, on weekends only.  Each year after Christmas, Whiddon closed the lake and drained it, using a tractor to clean the lake bottom, thus ridding it of fish hooks, bottles, weeds, snakes, etc.

Crystal Lake flowed from a clear-spring fed creek, which is how it got its name.

At Crystal Lake, there were diving boards, a kiddie pool, platforms on which to sunbathe and rest, a high trolley zip line (called simply “The Trolley”), slippery tops for twirling, a putt-putt golf course, picnic tables, a bathhouse to change in, a hamburger stand and snack bar, and a dance hall at night.  Visitors could rent paddle boats, intertubes, swimsuits, towels.

Whiddon had to close the lake in 1980 due to his deteriorating health.  His son, Abner, reopened the lake in 1985 but closed it in ’88 due to low attendance.

imageO. C. Whiddon’s daughter, Coach Susan Whiddon, planned to re-open the lake in 1989, but the rapidly growing litigious climate of the ’80s made this unfeasible because of the high cost of liability insurance which would be required.

Today, Susan lives on the lake, but it is not open to the public.  The website, crystallaketexas.com, is operated with Susan’s blessings and she enjoys seeing the posts on it.

People are able to post memories, blog entries, and to share photos of the lake on the website.  The website dedicated to this “Piney Woods Paradise” as one poster refers to to it, takes visitors back to a time when youngsters enjoyed the simple things.

“We were all a little bit better after a Crystal Lake visit,” one fan of the lake’s wrote.  Another, “Kids today, don’t realize what it means to have such simple things in life make them happy.”

Another spoke of how she will treasure memories made at Crystal Lake “my entire life.”

Doug Rimmer wrote the following comment on the page, which caps up some Crystal Lake fun!  “Wow, the Crystal Lake pictures sure bring back so great old memories. My girlfriend’s family told us about the magical water-park just across the Texas border in Joaquin. That was in 1960 when we lived in Lynbrook Subdivision, a newer part of Cedar Grove in Southwest Shreveport.

“We didn’t have air conditioning back then, only an attic fan, and the cool waters and breezes offered a welcome respite from the sweltering summer heat. Our 6 Rimmer kids plus a few friends piled in our old Rambler station wagon and hoofed the hour plus drive thru Logansport with great expectation.

“Of course the Trolley zip lines were our favorite activity, but the springy diving boards, the high dive platform, the spinning water-tops, and the sandy shore beach were all tremendously enjoyed. All thru Junior High at Linwood and then each Senior Day at Woodlawn High we made numerous trips to the best destination park this side of 6 Flags Over Texas.

“I will always cherish the summer days, swimming and sunning, and the stolen kisses from childhood sweethearts that made growing up in the 1960’s extra-special at Crystal Lake.

“Oh yes, I married the beautiful black-haired girl I took there in 1965 when we were both 16. Now 50 years later Madge and I still reminisce fondly about the truly Good Old Days when life was simpler and so sublime! – Doug Rimmer WHS – Class of ’67”

Screen shot of website, www.crystallaketexas.com
Screen shot of website, www.crystallaketexas.com
Photo from www.crystallaketexas.com
Photo from www.crystallaketexas.com
Photo from www.crystallaketexas.com
Photo from www.crystallaketexas.com
Photo from www.crystallaketexas.com
Photo from www.crystallaketexas.com

 

Photo from www.crystallaketexas.com
Photo from www.crystallaketexas.com
Photo from www.crystallaketexas.com
Photo from www.crystallaketexas.com
Photo from www.crystallaketexas.com
Photo from www.crystallaketexas.com
Photo from www.crystallaketexas.com
Photo from www.crystallaketexas.com
From Google Earth
From Google Earth
From Google Earth
From Google Earth
From Google Earth
From Google Earth
From Google Earth
From Google Earth
From Google Earth
From Google Earth
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31 thoughts on ““Million memories” created at Crystal Lake in Shelby County, Texas”

  1. I was lake “whaaaa?!?!?” I grew up visiting my grandmother in Joaquin and she never took me to this amazing place? Then I see that it was closed by the time I was old enough to swim in the early 90s… which is a real shame because this area is rather boring and could really benefit from a family friendly place like this!!!

  2. Fond, fond memories of this place! I am so glad you stumbled across CrystalLakeTexas.com. Like you – I searched over the years and found very little on Crystal Lake and I thought it was a good way, with Coach Whiddon’s permission, to have a place to comment and post pics. Hoping to get some more pics and post them and hear lots more stories about this amazing place that allowed so many wonderful memories.

  3. I am 81, guess the first time I went there I was about 13, only had the zip line and the top, never a lot of people then . Loved the Family, My kids grew up to enjoy it.. my maiden name is Leflett

    1. Aunt Iris and Uncle Orville introduced this lake to us on one of our visits. Bobby Leflett was a real daredevil so we tried doing what he did. The best was the trolley! He also took us horseback riding down a river, and to a cemetery telling us it was an Indian burial ground. Another memory was waiting for a train to flatten the pennies we had laid on the track! Daddy was a workaholic so we didn’t make many visits there. But we enjoyed each time we did. Thanks for the memory boost!

  4. I have always loved Crystal Lake. While I was never able to see it during its most prosperous years, I went to visit many times during my childhood. I am a relative of Susan and my great-grandmother lived in the house right across from her. My mom and dad would take us fishing there and my dad would tell me how awesome it used to be. It is still, and always will be, a magical place.

  5. I grew up in Joaquin. Crystal Lake was the best place on earth during the Summer. My Dad was a lifeguard there. Then I lifeguarded there in the Summer of 1980. Susan taught me how to be a lifeguard. I made plenty of rescues because of the trolleys.

  6. Crystal Lake was the highlight of the summer. Lots of great memories during late 50’s and early 60’s!!

  7. I remember going to this lake many times when I was a child. My Moms side of the family lived in Logansport and we went down there almost every weekend?

  8. Thanks for reposting the photos and stories.

    I webmaster crystallaketexas.com now and am in the process of restoring the lake.

    -Rod Whiddon

  9. We took many trip there in the early 60’s…. A fun place, never any problems….. We need need many more places like Chrystal Lake…. Family values!

  10. I enjoyed this place very much as a teenager back in the 1950’s. I grew up less than two miles from this place. I have seen that place full of people from many miles away. Back then there weren’t many places to go swimming and hardly anyone had backyard pools. It was a great place to have good family fun.

  11. I loved this place!!! We went every weekend during the summer. I can remember seeing the sign and screaming because we had made it there!! Thanks for sharing. This brings back so many great family memories!!

  12. Our family had great times at Crystal Lake! Ribbons for the girls and leather anklets for the boys! I always wanted the anklet! Lol

  13. My first visit to the lake was in 1965…senior trip, and my first time to wear a bikini. We had such a great time…the “trolley” was the best. It was our redneck water park. Thanks to the Whiddons for providing a wonderful, family-oriented place to play.

    1. My sister-in-law and I took our children there a couple of times; had a great time picnic-ing and swimming. Our senior class of 1964 had our senior trip there. Like Vi, I had my first bikini which was not anything close to bikini today. The bottom was full coverage and the top was long and came up to my neck. LOL! I well remember the slide because that top almost came off when I popped up out of the water. I can only tell that now because I’m so old it’s just funny now. All embarrassment is gone!

  14. My first and only memory of almost drowning was at Crystal Lake somewhere around 1978 or 1979. It’s a memory that’s as clear in my mind today, even being so young, 2 or 3 years old at the most, as it was the day it occurred. Ironically, it’s one of my fondest memories from my childhood. Thanks Dad,,, for the trip to the lake and for saving my lil ass from 3 feet of water and certain death. I blame the life jackets for being too heavy. Lol.

  15. My oldest sister used to take me & my sister and our friends to Crystal Lake, we would have a blast on the tops, diving
    platforms, slides, and oh the trolley. We would climb the stairs to the lowest level and if you were brave enough, to the second & third level , the scariest part was reaching out to grab the handles , then off you. Would go. Great times !!

  16. My Father, Vernon Adams and I both were both born in Logansport. My Father in 1929 and me in 1952. My father’s family lived (and some are still there) in Logansport. My Mother’s parents (Buren and Leiler Dyess) lived in Joaquin and my Mother graduated from Joaquin High School. Whenever we went down to visit from Shreveport, we would beg and plead for someone to take us to Crystal Lake. And we always got our way. When I graduated from Woodlawn High School in 1970, the last day of school, a huge bunch of kids all went there to celebrate our freedom! It was the best time!

  17. As a child living in West Shreveport, my mother and aunt would wake us while it was still dark and journey to Crystal Lake. My older brother would head straight to the Trolley and I would stay on and near the slide. It was one of my best memories as a child. Around Christmas I passed by the lake, and it seems the trolley still stands. If there were still Crystal Lakes instead of video war games, I think the next generation would be better for that. I now live in Puerto Rico, and although it will probably never again open, be assured I would take the journey with all of my grandchildren to experience one more day of my childhood.

  18. Crystal Lake holds great memories for me. Grew up in Haslam,Tx.We always went to the lake on the last day of school and stayed all day. So much fun. And of course re-visited during the summer vacation time. Love looking at the old pictures.

  19. My first trip to Crystal Lake was probably in the early 70’s. I had just got out of the Army and wanted something to do one weekend. Really enjoyed going there. Was there a lot over the summer of 1972 before going back into the Army. I didn’t know that it was drained every year for cleaning. Met many young ladies there and had a great time.

  20. I’m from Mansfield, and we used to go to Crystal Lake a lot when I was little. To me it was like going to Disneyland! I loved the slides, tops, trolley–all of it! I remember one day I wandered into the room that had all the pool tables, and there were men stealing the money out of the machine. I didn’t realize what was going on at the time, but figured it out later. On our way to Crystal Lake we would see the “round house”. That’s how we knew we were getting close. Oh how I miss the old days!!

  21. My 1959 senior class from Byrd High School in Shreveport went to Crystal Lake on our Senior trip. It was a very popular place in those years.

  22. Went with a group of paper boys in 1954 and had a blast. I was 12 at the time and won the trip for extra subscribers to Shreveport Times and Journal

  23. Velma emanuel johnson. I got to go once or twice to crystal lake from cedar grove in Shreveport. Mom could not swim and was deathly afraid of the water. She was on an inner tub with all six kids hanging on as she walked out as far as she could and then she could not feel the bottom. She started screaming and panic was spreading to all of us until my older brother Alan swam out and pulled us back up close. I think we came back once and I remember going down a small zip line. I remember a very long zip line that my brother loved. He graduated from Woodlawn in the first graduating class.

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