Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Catasauqua WPA Projects - Catasauqua Pool and Playground

As promised this is the second blog I am reprinting in honor of the 100th Anniversary of the Playground. Originally blogged on June 3, 2011 -  My Grandfather, George Temos worked on the pool area when he worked for the WPA, along with my bff's  Judy CB and Cathy's fathers.  Let me just say this, I love Catty, it is rich in history and there is a story everywhere you look.  From the history to now.  Don't believe me - drive up Pine Street rich in history, but then look at Ben Ferenchak's house and see Tour de Fence - history in the making.  So - here you go -


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.

Monday, June 13, 2016

The Catasauqua Playground Celebrating 100 Years!!

Since this weekend was the 100th year celebration for the Catasauqua Playground I wanted to re-publish two blogs I wrote back in 2011 - I was laid off at the time and spent some time researching the history of Catasauqua.  On Friday night I was down at the park to hear the Large Flowerheads.  Deb Mellish did give a little of the park history - so it made me look back - please enjoy this blog from June 2, 2011 -


So, I just rediscovered a great place in Catasauqua and that is the Catasauqua Public Library. Got myself a new Library card, haven't seen my old one for over 25 years probably. But, I wanted to do research on the Catty Swimming Pool and couldn't find the information online so it was off to the Library. I must say I will be stopping in more often they have a lot of James Patterson books, who I love to read and since I am not working and I am almost through the books I had piled to read, it will be a great place to go.

Anyway, I found what I wanted and so much more. Here we go. John and Lesher Yeager sold 15.728 acres of land for $3,145.60 to the newly formed Catasauqua Park and Playground Association, with the stipulation that the area remain as a playground for 30 years. In 1921 the Association bought the area known as "the Dips". Bascom and Sieger Construction was hired in to do the work of building a playground and on July 3, 1916 the playground opened with 2 basketball courts, 4 tennis courts, 2 volley ball courts and a band shell.

A hand dug lake which was dammed below Bridge Street was built. The lake was 600 feet by 100 feet and was 5 to 6 feet deep.

During the post war years the park and playground where the hub of the community.

The only disappointment was the lake, the water was good for a couple of years, but then it began to drain. It became muddy after rains, it developed sink holes and eventually turned into a marsh, which kids loved to muck through.

There was a park curfew at 9:00 PM, the whistle from the water works would blow and it was time to go.

Improvement came to the Catasauqua playground in in the form of funds from the WPA Program (Works Projects Administration) and the Borough used these funds to develop the playground.

The Works Progress Administration (renamed during 1939 as the Work Projects AdministrationWPA) was the largest and most ambitious New Deal Agency, employing millions of unskilled workers to carry out public works projects, including the construction of public buildings and roads, and operated large arts, drama, media, and literacy projects. It fed children and redistributed food, clothing, and housing. Almost every community in the United States had a park, bridge or school constructed by the agency, which especially benefited rural and Western areas

There are TWO (we all know the pool was one, but what was the other?) great projects that were built by the WPA at the playground, and I will discuss them in my next blog and with that...... it's another day in Catasauqua.