Classic Tales of Old Dorp: Hot days sent boys diving into favorite swimming holes

Former Gazette columnist Larry Hart remembers how young people from the early 1900s beat the heat in

The Daily Gazette is reprinting excerpts of the late Larry Hart’s long-running column, “Tales of Old Dorp.” Swimming pools are open and kids will soon be out of school. Today, Hart remembers how young people from the early 1900s beat the heat. This column excerpt originally was published July 3, 1984.

Summertime in the old days meant plenty of splashes in favorite swimming holes to neighborhood boys.

We are talking about the early part of this century, before the first World War, and only boys took to the nearest water haunt, removed their clothes and went skinny-dipping.

Probably the most popular spots hereabouts were Baby Hole and Irish Hole in the Mohawk River near the New York Central bridge. Many a lad risked danger and the possibility of a split scalp for the pleasure of diving off the bridge. Naturally, it was forbidden by railroad and police authorities, but the boys rarely were chased away.

Naturally, Baby Hole was shallower than Irish Hole. The latter got its name from the Third Ward boys who frequented it.

There was a great deal of Irish population in the old Third Ward between Union Street and the river, especially around the locomotive works.

Cooling in the canal

Frog Alley boys, from the lower State Street and Washington Avenue vicinity, favored the Erie Canal for their swimming. They often clambered up the superstructure of the canal lift bridge near the Fuller Street car barn and, with a running start, dived out across the wires strung across the canal at that point.

They also swam in the canal down by the Washington Avenue bridge, diving from that humped span and paddling in the murky waters west of the bridge in the area of the present G.E. Building 36 parking lot.

The boys also gave canalers trouble by hitching rides on the passing boats, hanging onto tow ropes or any handy protuberance from the craft.

A number of ponds that existed in the area in those days also provided swimming places.

These included Poutre’s, Brandywine, Fuller’s, Veeder’s, Beckwith’s and Campbell ponds. Alplaus Creek out near the Aqueduct Creek was favored by some beginners. There was Fox’s Creek in Schoharie, Rudd’s Beach near Stanford Heights and French’s Hollow and Buster’s in Guilderland, which were frequented by whole families in those times of swimming holes.

Categories: Life and Arts

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