A Childhood DreamAn
one of my favorite childhood memories? Crystal Lake, of course!
Just about everyone within a sixty-mile radius of the lake could
say the same.
tells the story of how her granddad, A.O. (Joe) Whiddon, had
a dream. His dream was to fulfill others' dreams of a beautiful
lake to come swim in. This he did by damming up an eight-acre
valley in northeast Texas near Joaquin. It was nestled between
Shreveport, one hour to the east and Nacogdoches, one hour to
the west. Marshall, TX is about one hour north and Toledo Bend
is about that distance to the south. What a perfect location
built Crystal Lake in 1913 where his corn and crops had grown.
To his dismay, a huge flood washed its levee away in 1933. His
son, O. C. (Orren) Whiddon, took up the dream in 1947, along
with his wife, Cynthia, a school teacher. Jack-of-all trades,
he could build or fix just about anything.
had strict rules, though. After only a few years, glass bottles
were totally out-lawedand so was cussing. In fact, he
preferred church groups and boy scout troops to reserve it in
the daytime. A Catholic church held their services there every
week. An all-denominational Sunrise Service was held on the
hill overlooking the lake every Easter. I loved visiting my
grandparents, Rev. and Mrs. R. O. Bazer, for Easter when they
lived south of Shreveport. We'd come visit my great-grandparents,
Wesley and Lula Cockrell, and go to that sunrise service. The
Bazers retired to Joaquin in 1967.
closed the intake and drained the lake after Christmas. He'd
get on his tractor and clean it every January. That would rid
the lake bottom of any fishhooks, bottles, weeds and water moccasins.
Lake flowed from a clear, spring-fed creek. That's how it got
it's name. Orren kept it open from Memorial Day through Labor
Day, on weekends only.
You could find
anything you wanted at Crystal Lake: diving boards, a kiddie
pool, platforms to rest on, a high trolley for thrills, slippery
tops to twirl on, a putt-putt golf course, absolutely the best
hamburger stand and snack bar, picnic tables, a bathhouse to
change in, and even a dance hall at night after the church bunch
were so wondrous to me as a child. There, you could rent anything:
swimsuits, intertubes, paddle boats, towels. You had a box inside
the building with a number on it for your possessions. You were
given an elastic wrist band with a metal number on it to match,
to claim your things.
C. Whiddon had to let the lake close in 1980 when his health
deteriorated, but he had already furnished a million memories
for us. His son, Abner, re-opened Crystal Lake in 1985. He had
to close it in 1988 due to low attendance.
Coach Susan Whiddon, planned to re-open the lake in 1989. After
she and her brothers, Abner and Orren Jr. (a retired general)
conferred, it was decided that the liability insurance was too
I asked my cousin,
Susan Whiddon, what her best memories were. She said, "The
peopleI loved all the people that came."
Did she have
any words now to say to her friends, former customers, and students?
"Thanks for the memories."