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.
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.
“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.
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.
O. 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”