Then and Now: Crystal Lake

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On Memorial Day weekend, our thoughts begin to turn to summer and outdoor activities.

Some of us think about a place where we spent many summer days, either swimming in the pool or boating on the lake or fishing.  We had Sunday school picnics there, graduation parties, and birthday parties. We learned to swim at Crystal Lake, and measured our progress by how far into the deep areas we were allowed to venture.

Have you ever tried to describe Crystal Lake ?  It’s hard because it was such a unique place.  Even today, such a place does not exist, at least in this area.

Crystal Lake was mentioned recently in a post about a Davis family member (Josephine Davis Grogan, May 19th).

Here’s a brief history of Crystal Lake, and there are several photos.  Most of the photos are early in its history.  The swim suits may look a bit different over time, but the swimming pool, boating lake, fishing lake, and the pavilion or bath house, are the same.

An article in the Winston-Salem Journal announced in 1925 that “Beautiful Crystal Lake Opens Today.”  It was called “a swimming resort,” located at the home of Harry T. Davis on Reynolda Road, four miles from Winston-Salem.”  The pool was described as being “two hundred feet long and sixty-five feet wide, having a concrete bottom and sides.  It starts at knee deep and runs to seven feet in depth.  On each side is a sliding board both for adults and children, as well as the usual spring boards.  The water is as clear as a crystal, hence its name, Crystal Lake.  The water runs in one end from six springs and empties at the other end of the pool… .”

This was the public’s introduction to Crystal Lake, a recreation area that would be the site of entertainment for at least two generations of Winston-Salem residents.

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The water wheel was in the middle of the pool.  Some people may not remember it because it was later removed because the cost of  insurance made it too expensive for the pool.

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There were several levels of diving boards, including a platform on the very top.  Over the years, the platform was removed, and some of the diving boards were either removed or closed.  Now, this is really a “high dive.”  Note the bleachers seen in the second photo.  In later years, this area was cemented and opened to swimmers for sunbathing.

There was a road that circled the pool, and there were picnic tables spread throughout the pool and lake areas.

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The photo at left (or above) shows the water wheel and looks toward the shallow, or children’s, area.  There was a slide and a cover where parents could sit while children played.  This was the end of the pool, and there was a painting on the wall that gave the illusion of a bridge.  There were also two waterfalls that you could stand under and feel the water all around you.  They can be seen on the right side, near the upper corner of the photo.  One was in the children’s area, and one was just outside this area.  The different depths of water were divided by concrete walls that went to the ground.  There were spring boards on either side of the pool, as seen in the foreground on the right.  The photo at right (or the second photo) is taken from the opposite direction.

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The pavilion, or bath house, ran the width of the swimming pool.  The photo at left (or top) is the older version of the bath house, which was rebuilt about 1950.  The top portion of the pavilion could be entered by steps on the outside.  So, spectators could sit on the benches in the pavilion without paying and entering the pool area.  There was a juke box there, and dancing was allowed on the wooden floor.  Benches surrounded the area, and the back of the pavilion overlooked the fishing lake.

Swimmers entered the bottom area of the pavilion and paid the price of admission.  There was also a snack bar in this area.  Wire baskets were rented to swimmers for holding clothing and personal items.  A large safety pin was given to the swimmer that was engraved with a number that corresponded to the number on the basket.  You wore the pin on your bathing suit, and had to show the pin to retrieve your basket.  There were changing rooms in this area also.

At the very edge of the deep water section, a shallow “trough” ran the width of the pool.  This might have been to catch the run-over water from the pool.  The water was always very warm here because it was shallow, and swimmers liked to sit or lie in the warm water.

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A boating lake was located above the swimming pool, and canoes could be rented to paddle on the lake and around the island outfitted with a gazebo.  There was also a bridge to the gazebo.

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According to Davis family history, Crystal Lake was closed in 1975.  Hugh and Helen Davis retired, after managing the pool for about twenty-five years.  The Corners Apartments, on Reynolda Road, were built in the Crystal Lake location.  The boating lake, island, gazebo and bridge remain from the recreation area.  Some other remnants can be seen from Crystal Lake, such as some of the stone walls along the paths.

The above photos show the entrance to the Corners Apartments, and the Gazebo at the boating lake.

Send  your memories to share with readers and I’ll post them on the website.

Black and white photos courtesy of Forsyth County Public Library Photograph Collection.  Color photos by Molly Grogan Rawls.

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43 Responses

  1. Milton McNatt says:

    I have many fond memories of Crystal Lake from my childhood. Crystal Lake was within walking distance of our house on Ransom Road, and I spent a lot of time there. I loved the children’s slide and waterfall. I couldn’t wait to grow big enough to play on the water wheel, and I was very disappointed when they took it out before I was allowed to play on it. The one thing I DIDN’T like was the location of the “deep end”, which you had to pass by on your way to the “shallow end”. I was scared to death of the deep end before I learned to swim. I crept past the deep end very carefully on my way to the shallow end, staying as far away from the water’s edge as I could. I remember wondering who could have possibly thought it was a good idea to make you pass by the deep end to get to the shallow end!

  2. Laura says:

    Sounds like a modern day waterpark! Crystal Lake was way ahead of its time! Nice article about a local treasure.

    • Thanks so much for your comment. It was a unique place with special features that have gradually been removed from modern swimming pools. For many of us, it was where we learned to swim, dance, and socialize. The Davis family made sure it was a safe place for people of all ages to to swim and socialize.

      • David Roberson says:

        So true….what a special place. Thanks to the Davis family for making a wonderful place to spend our summers and for you rekindling some wonderful memories.

  3. sheri mack says:

    I have so many wonderful memories of Crystal Lake.my friends and I spent the summer of 1969 there. My Dad was deployed to Thailand for the Vietnam war and we moved back to WS (our hometown) while he was gone. Diving off the high dive was exhilarating being so close to the corner of the pool! I always had a fear of hitting that wall. Dancing upstairs in the pavilion, flirting with the boys was so much fun. I can still here certain songs
    from that summer and it immediately takes me back in time.

  4. Jeff Mackie says:

    At age 14 I began working in the “drink stand” where I sold Truades, nabs and Zero bars. My older brother Bill was a lifeguard. Each day I would pedal my bike from our home on Reynolda Road to work. We would wash down the paved areas around the pool with buckets of water. We were allowed to play our favorite songs on the jukebox as we worked before opening hours. During busy weekend days, Mr Davis would dispatch me to go upstairs to gather the empty drink bottles. The place would be packed with older kids dancing, smoking and listening to the music. This would be the highlight of my day. My aunt/uncle and maternal grandparents lived directly across the street from the entrance. My uncle told me of the legendary 32 foot diving platform. He told me it was removed when someone was killed but that may be only a story. When I worked there in the early 60s only the 24 and 16 platforms remained along with the 8 foot spring board. I never gathered the nerve to dive off the 24 but I did master the back flip off the 16. It is true to say that Crystal Lake is too difficult to describe to those who never went there because it was so unique.

  5. Alan Toy says:

    Sheri Mack, me too. I can’t hear the Turtles’ Happy Together without thinking of Crystal Lakez. Good times!

  6. Jean Bridge Craig says:

    I remember well my many summers at Crystal Lake! My parent’s bought season passes for my brothers and sisters because we could walk from our home on Old Town Rd. I remember the sign up on one of the buildings that said: No Twisting! Ha!

  7. melissa frye says:

    There will never be anywhere like Crystal Lake again. It was a great and wonderful dream that I’ll always treasure in my heart with my family and friends. Thank the Davis’ FOREVER

  8. Johnie Davis says:

    My mother “threw” me in the pool to “teach” me to swim. I think every cousin I had was taught the same way. We spent almost every summer day at Crystal. My earliest memories must have started around 4 or 5 years old. As a teenager I could finally spend time “upstairs” and that is where we began to fast dance……now the Shag. I couldn’t possibly have better memories. Some years ago there was a radio show called Sundays at Crystal Lake. Does anyone remember details about that?

  9. Diane Teague says:

    Crystal Lake is where I met my future husband 52 years ago on the road that circled the pool. . What fun times we had there from the age of 12 until we went away to college. Many great memories. Dancing in the pavilion to diving off the high, high dive (once).

  10. OMG, what a wonderful memory lane, grew up at Crystal Lake when the wheel was there and the hugely high diving platforms, remember taking my parents for a row in a row boat there on the pond. What a wonderful place it was…many memories. Still driving boats for a living and SCUBA diving, learned to snorkel at Crystal Lake!!

  11. Bob Transou says:

    In the early 60s I lived on Radford st. It runs behind Reynolda manor shopping center just a block from the pool. My route to the pool was walking down the driveway behind the shopping center across ransom road by a black berry patch through a path through a patch of pine trees that came out at the fishing lake. On the way I would pick a gallon of black berrys and Mrs. Davis would let me in all day. She made some great black berry pies. Then it would take about all day of playing in the pool to wash the stains off my hands. We always had compotisons by doing can openers off the 24 ft to see how far we could splash water on the roof of the pavilion and splash water on the people in the pavilion. I could go on and on. SWEET MEMORIES.

  12. OlgaMorris Karahalios says:

    I love the Lake. It was the only place my Mother felt I was safe without A sitter. I remember our class of 1941 from Reynolds High had a class day . We had a wonderful and rode the boat and enjoyed the juke box, Oh if only our children and grands could have a place like that again, Thank you Davis Family for all the good memories.

  13. Garrett says:

    I lived adjacent to Crystal Lake in the early 70s, on Reynolda Rd. When I was a kid, I climbed the barb wire fence at the rear of our yard, and explored the Christmas tree farm behind my house. Soon, I explored further, and discovered an amazing lake, bridge, and little island. There were canoes tied up there. This was wintertime, and no one was around. Going there became my secret adventure, and many times Mr. Davis would catch me and my friends, and run me off. A few times we actually got to swim in the pool, legitimately. I remember a vertical pipe, that squirted a well of water. And the amazingly deep end, with the tower diving board. Sneaking in there fostered my love of adventure, and I thank Mr. Davis for having the patience not to shoot us full of rock salt!

  14. Tammy Murray says:

    I haven’t thought about Crystal Lake in many years! My brother & I have fond memories of the occasional visit from VA when our grandparents took us there. They were friends of Jo Grogan and the Davis’ although at my young age, I didn’t realize that the Davis family owned the lake. Thanks for the walk down memory lane!

  15. Rosemary Knight Smith says:

    Fond memories of Crystal Lake…the music playing and visiting the snack bar for a zero bar and a sprite..the high diving board was really high..as a teenager I never got the courage to even jump off….I miss Crystal Lake …wish it was still there!!

  16. Cendy Mays says:

    Gosh, this makes me feel so old. Lord what I wouldn’t do to have these times back. I remember riding with my mom to take my big brother and drop him off just about everyday through the summer. We would pull into a parking lot that had a concrete drive that went down between a building and a big tall hedge. I remember getting mad cause I couldn’t be dropped off like my brother, but could only go when my mom could take me and either a friend or family members with us.

  17. Anne rigby says:

    It’s where I learned to swim.

  18. Leslie says:

    I learned to swim there too! I remember holding on to the divider between the kids section and the bigger kids area and kicking my feet. I wish I could go back in time and take my daughter to show her how awesome that place was. I remember my favorite song to play on the jukebox was The Rascals “It’s a Beautiful Morning”. I remember sitting in the “trough” to get warm in the warm water watching people jump off of the high boards. And laying out on the “hill” of concrete. Good memories. Puts a smile on my face.

  19. Bill Harpe says:

    I am so glad that you wrote this article on one of the places I recall from my childhood with great memories. I wasn’t sure exactly where it was other than on Reynolda Rd. I also remember the odd coloration of the water compared to other pools. In fact this past weekend I was trying to describe and explain it to someone else who grew up in W-S. To all my playmates there splashing in the clear water I wish you well.

  20. Susan Cook says:

    Oh my what wonderful memories this has returned to me. I didn’t live in Winston but my sister and best friend and I would drive from Stokes County just to go to Crystal lake. It was like going to the beach for us.
    It was the first time for bikinis and “Lemon go Lightly” to spray on your hair to make it blonde. I absolutely loved Crystal Lake. Music, Sun, Beautiful blue water, Food and Boys, it was the perfect clean place. I wasn’t afraid here. It was a haven of fun for that young girl. I can never hear “Sugar, Sugar” without remembering Crystal Lake. It was a beautiful safe place that will remain as happy memories in my heart. I recently moved off Reynolda Rd. almost in front of where Crystal Lake was and everytime I come out and stop at the end of the street my mind always returns to a sweeter and innocent time of fun and pleasure. Thank you for sharing this. It’s a great way to start my day with beautiful memories from the past…

  21. Lyn Heath says:

    OMG! I learned how to swim at Crystal Lake. I advanced through multiple levels of swimming skills and abilities with each class. I got a new card for each level. I became a life long swimmer.

  22. Rick Wells says:

    What a treat to see these photos!!! The big wheel in the middle was always a challenge. What I didn’t see was the fountain in the “shallow end”. It was fun to enter that. Remember wringing out my bathing suit in the changing area. Also, I loved the boats that you rowed around the island nearby. My sister was engaged to one of the lifeguards, Wallace Reese Griffin, who used to give me bicycle rides on the handelbars. I was trying to explain “nabs” to one of my grandchildren just last week. That was a staple diet back then!

    • Rick, Thanks for your comments. Look at one of the photos in the article showing the shallow end of the pool. Look toward the right of the photo and you will see both fountains. They are close to each other. The fountain at the left is in the shallow end. It’s far away and a little hard to see, but there are two fountains in the photo. Nabs are still a staple at my house and they travel with us everywhere. With the high prices of food on airplanes, they make an inexpensive snack, and they are compact.

    • Rick, I pulled the photo up again and the fountains are nearly on top of each other, but you can barely tell that they are separate.

  23. Joe McGee says:

    My brother Tim and I grew up in Boston but spent 3 summers at Chrystal lake in the early 70’s…great memories trying to “hit tin” with cannon balls from the 16′ board…If you’re out there Sonny, give me a shout!

  24. Tim Scott says:

    My mom used to drop me off in the morning and pick me up when she would get off work. I would swim and listen to music and admire the pretty girls sunbathing all day long. Would get a sandwich from the counter and they would heat it up in something like a toaster oven. When I first started going they had the 8, 16 and 24 foot boards but 2 years later they closed and took down the 24 foot board but sometimes we would sneak and jump off the platform anyway. We would do can-openers off the 16 foot board and see who could splash the highest up the roof. Could set in the “trough” or we would go down to the fountains to sit under and rest. Great times and my parents said it was the best sitter around. Thank you Davis family!

  25. D. Shaw says:

    I remember the deep end was a deep, dark color. I suppose the bottom and sides was painted a dark green. It was intimidating. Seems it would have complicated rescues, idk.

  26. monroe lewis says:

    was like a second home was always a nice place- monroe lewis mineral springs high school

  27. Milgo Floyd says:

    Nice history

  28. My brother Wayne and I spent a lot of time at the lake.

  29. Wilson Lamn says:

    I’m a Davis descendant and spent considerable time at The Lake. It was safe socially and Rock Around The Clock sounded great upstairs, but the “waterwheel” could never be insured these days! It’s a miracle no one fell off the top and cracked their head on the big iron supports! I never saw more than the 24′ board, but the top of the tower in the picture must be close to 50′! The deep end was 12′ deep, not much when coming off a high board. I too heard that someone was killed, but never heard how.

    There were some nice bass in both the boat lake and the storage lake , but they seemed well fed and would rarely bite.

    Nice memories!
    Good to hear from Molly too.

  30. Toni Cain says:

    I have many fond memories of Crystal Lake. I belief I took swimming lessons there. This was a very interesting article. I was not aware of many of these facts.

  31. Bruce Hester says:

    Mike Page and I were there every day. Great times.

  32. Wanda Moser says:

    I am 90 and remember Dad taking me to Crystal Lake to play in the water when I was a child. I remember the fountains!

  33. CHARLES PERRY says:

    Wonderful to see old photos of Crystal lake. I spent many days there swimming and dancing. I was the life guard there in the summers of 1951 and 1952. I got to know the Davis family very well. When Mr David Sr. gave up running the pool, his son Harry Davis took over from him. For information purposes the water had to filtered by a make shift filtration system built by Mr. davis. Once a month the pool had to be drained and the green slim had yo be scrapped off the bottom and sides of the pool. This all was done at night and then we reopened the next morning. I saved several people from drowning while life guarding. The wheel was great fun but was dangerous. We did have a few people injured but not seriously.

  34. Hilda LeVan Principe says:

    I learned to swim at Crystal Lake and can still smell the chlorine in the water and feel the joy of an afternoon of dunking friends, diving to the bottom for pennies and going upstairs to watch the teenagers flirt and dance. I watched carefully and went home to practice the dance steps with our refrigerator door!
    By the time I was a freshman at Northwest High School, I knew how to dance and loved the sock hops. What wonderful memories. Thank you Davis family for adding so much richness to the childhood memories of little farm kids. Then there were many happy afternoons at Crystal Lake with my boyfriend, Jimmy Ogburn after I entered high school.

  35. Bill Edwards says:

    Many memories of the great times we had there as a teenager. We all would gather to swim, boat ,play and dance. Had a lot of fun and wonderful times socializing with the group.

  36. Kelly Windsor says:

    Oh how I miss crystal lake I learned to swim in 1968 and was a lifeguard in 1969 I was 7 yrs old from 8 am til 12 noon I loved hanging out with the hippies what a great place loved every minute of it

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