Monday, June 6, 2011

The Catasauqua WPA Projects


When funds became available to the Borough of Catasauqua they first changed the channel followed by the Catasauqua Creek and enclosed the creek bed with limestone walls. With the creek now flowing along the eastern edge of the playground, planners now had enough area (255 feet by 410 feet) to build an athletic field. Catasauqua resident L. James Boucher, plant manager of Atlas Cement Company brought crews from the cement company who surveyed and leveled the ground and they erected the chain link fence that surrounded the area.

On October 1, 1932 the field was dedicated as Thomas Field. The Catasauqua Drum and Bugle Corps led a procession of teachers, school directors and students from the High School to the field. The following resolution was read:

"The newly built athletic field of the Catasauqua Playground be known and distinguished as the Thomas Athletic Field in honor of William R. Thomas Jr. and in memory of Millie Milson Thomas in recognition of their distinguished service to the youth of our Borough in aiding the playground movement"

The second WPA playground project was the swimming pool and bathhouse. Depression unemployment relief contributed largely to the construction. The cost of labor (WPA workers, my grandfather was one) and materials was $75,000.00.

The area fenced in was 90 by 300 feet, the pool measured 60 by 220 feet and was from six inches to nine feet deep. It was constructed of concrete and could accomodate 1500 people. When filled it held 588,000 gallons of water.

The water was pumped from artesian wells by pumps in the brick pumphouse.

The bathhouse was of wood construction and the wood came from Oregon via the Panama Canal. (I thought this was cool).

The pool opened for swimming in 1935 but the official grand opening of the pool and bathhouse was July 11, 1936. Six life guards were on hand, Bud Winters, Jack Morgan (WHO was also a WPA worker and my good friend, Cathy Reiter's Dad!!) Sis Lynch, Ray Guzynski, Bill Mullins and Tony Imhof who handled the crowd of 1500 bathers!!! Entrance to the pool that day was free and the weather was perfect....however, a thunderstorm late in the day postponed a formal program which was to include aquatic skills, fancy swimming and diving.

In 1938 WPA workmen built four tennis courts and leveled and area for rollerskating in summer and ice skating in winter (that area is now the parking lot for the pool).

New playground equipment was also installed with WPA funds. These included a slide, two sets of swings for younger children, a small merry-go-round, a set of large swings for adults, two thirty foot chutes (?) and one ocean wave (ok, someone please tell me what that is?)

Generally, the playground provides an area for fun, play and relaxation and wow, what an area of history in Catty and that's.......Another day in Catasauqua.