Let's Go Swimmin'
Sure, Emmitsburg now has a swimming pool but, in the 40's when I was growing up, there wasn't a pool any where around except at St. Joseph's Academy (Indoor) and Mt.
St. Mary's College (Outdoor). I remember going to the Mount pool a couple of times with George Greco and a couple of other friends. George's father, Dominic Greco, was a professor at the Mount and that is how we got in there.
So...., in the summer when it got hot and you and your friends wanted to cool off you went to one of the ol' swimmin' holes. Actually, there were several around that you could choose from but some were far enough away that you had to either bike it or hitch a ride.
The favorite of the North Seton Ave bunch; George "Tick" Ashbaugh, Bob "Shorby" Shorb and I when we were 6 to 12 years old, was Pete Long's which was about a mile out Irishtown Road. Pete's house is still standing, is lived in and looks very much as it did in 1940. When someone
said "Let's go swimmin'" you knew where he meant so you grabbed your BB gun (in case you saw any critters or bad guys), an old pair of shorts, and took off out Irishtown Road. It was a fairly long walk but we didn't care, we had plenty of time.
When we got to Pete's house you turned down an old lane into the woods. There was a large boulder at the entrance to the woods; usually we climbed over the boulder rather than walking around it. We had to watch our steps when entering the woods as sometimes we would be ambushed
by some of my older brothers and their friends. This could be a running BB gun battle and "it's a wonder we didn't shoot our eye out".
After passing the big boulder you continued into the woods for about a quarter mile until you reached the swimming hole. It certainly wasn't very big and it was really a hole; i.e. it was round and only deep in the center but there was a tree with roots growing over the water
so that you could jump in from there. At the other end there were several rocks which were good for sitting in the warmth of the sun.
Also, not far away, was Hollow Rock; good for exploring and watching for those critters. I remember one time when we peered into the cave formed by the rock and saw a box that looked like it had dynamite in it. It was one of those "A Christmas Story" (the movie) situations
where one of us said, "Go in there and see what it is"; "I'm not going, I dare you to go", and that chatter went back and forth until one of us (probably Shorby, the guttsy one) got up enough nerve to go into the hole and get the box. Turns out it was an advertisement for Mort's Tire Shop that was
made to look like dynamite. We never did find out who put it there but, obviously, Hollow Rock wasn't our own private property.
On the way back home from Pete's, there was a wild cherry tree half way down the hill. If it happened to be early July, we would stop and help our selves to the cherries – they tasted pretty good but sour.
Another favorite swimmin' hole was The Willows. That was located on Tom's Creek about 1/2 mile west of the bridge on old Rt 15 south. I didn't go there too often because it seemed like a terribly hot walk through the open fields with the sun blazing down.
And, probably the best place for actually swimming, was Kump's Dam. That, as far as I know, has been leased by the VFW or the American Legion for the past 30 or 40 years and is maintained by them. It is located located out Harney Road, on Middle Creek. I was told that, at one
time, there was a leather tanning facility located somewhere in the area and that is why the dam was built. I believe, in the years that we went there, it was owned by Dr. Cadle.
Kump's Dam was best for swimming because it was deep enough and wide enough to actually practice some swimming strokes, and, it had a diving board. Of course it was too far to
We sometimes went to Marsh Creek and swam near the bridge across Rt. 15 or went farther down stream and swam near the dam. Although it was a nice place to swim it was about 5 miles so it was a long, hot bike ride.
At St. Joseph's College/Academy, it was nice swimming in Tom's Creek near the cabin but that was by invitation only. That is, you might go there if there was a St. Euphemia's school picnic or a St. Joseph's
altar boy picnic. That is where I really learned to swim when my good friend, Bob Jordan, decided to dive off the side of the canoe we were in and, of course, it overturned. I did the doggy paddle to shore and got a feel about how hard it was to swim with all of your clothes on; and, I lost my shoes
on that occasion.
Then there was Winebrenner's on Middle Creek; out Rt. 15 to the bridge just below Hillside Inn. All of the Emmitsburg stores (I think by mutual agreement) would close on Thursday afternoon. On occasion, George Ashbaugh would load the North Seton Ave bunch into his car and we
would go to Winebrenner's to swim. I believe that George would also deliver groceries at the same time.
I remember that it was terribly rocky where we swam but it was a good time. One more place that had good, swift water (at least it used to) was Natural Dam. Again, we didn't go there too often because it was so far. It was on Marsh Creek downstream from the bridge on Rt. 15.
You went north on 15 to Fairplay then cut to the right onto Natural Dam Road. If I remember correctly, it was another 3 or 4 miles beyond Fairplay.
hope some of the Emmitsburg youth still use the ol' swimming holes but, with all of the concern about pollution, I doubt if the parents would allow it. In a way, that is too bad, seems that something good has been lost – it was a lot of fun and you couldn't beat it for
other Stories by Don Rodgers
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