The Beaches of Congamond

July 31st . . . “High Summer” on the Congamond Lakes in Southwick as I recall. Today I decided to take my camera and revisit the beaches of my youth. I was born in Westfield but moved to Southwick with my family in 1950. The house on Granville Road wasn’t finished so my folks rented a cottage on Bungalow Street for the summer. We would walk to the beach on the point off Point Grove Road (by The Anchor). Mom would watch as we cooled off in the shallows. The State Boat Ramp now occupies the point with a nice gazebo and fishing pier . . . but no beach.

pointgrovebeach1.2

After we moved into the new house Dad would drive the family to King’s Beach on North Pond. It was a wonderful place for a family with young children on a hot summer day. Today it’s a little bit of a hike through a wildlife management area to get there. The remnants of the blacktop access road can still be seen . . . but no beach.

kingsbeach2.2

As we grew, Mom and Dad decided it was time for swimming lessons. Now we headed to Gino’s Beach behind the Brass Rail (The Cove). We took swimming lessons from Huck Lamb at Gino’s. I also remember going to clambakes with my parents at the pavilion there. Today the pavilion still stands boarded up . . . but no beach.

ginosbeach1.2

Babb’s Beach was the happening place when we were teenagers. I remember the green clapboard concession stand and bright lights of the arcade, the steps down to the beach where there was a huge black rubber float and a slide. It was pretty quiet today. The restoration of the skating rink/dance hall is showing signs of progress . . . but no beach.

babbsbeach1.2

The lights and arcade music were dancing around in my head as I pulled out and headed south. Smith’s Beach on South Pond . . . surely there would be some action there! We were older when the family started going to Smith’s. We could swim out to “the raft” that had a raised platform for diving and jumping. Upon entering we would get a little piece of colored cloth tied around our wrist to show we had paid our 50 cents admission. Today, Smith’s Beach is the Southwick Town Beach. The white concrete wall is still there . . . and . . . a beach . . . but it was closed. Bacteria levels were too high.

smithsbeach1.2

July 31st . . . “High Summer” on the Congamond Lakes.

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14 thoughts on “The Beaches of Congamond

  1. Georgette Andersons says:

    You need to compile your beautiful photographs into a book and your commentaries are just eloquent. I see a best-seller in your future.
    .G.

    • mrcowles says:

      Georgette . . .
      I’ve actually been thinking of compiling photos from my 365 project into some kind of book when I’m done. . . Thanks for the encouragement.

  2. Elaine Markel says:

    Wow……….I loved this Dickie! I reminised about Smiths beach due to the fact that collecting the 50 cents and handing patrons the “colored cloth” was one of my very first “jobs” when I was 13 !!! What a tan I had that year! Ironically Alice Biardi’s picture was in paper just the other night celebrating her 100th birthday! Both she and her husband ran a successful “business” at that beach for so many years. Thanks for posting such a wonderful story and pictures of our youth when there actually were beautiful beaches throughout our town!

    • mrcowles says:

      Elaine . . .
      I remember those places as being so vibrant . . . not crowded but very active and alive. . . It was kind of sad driving around yesterday. I guess these days everyone uses their backyard pool. . . if they even leave their video games to go outside at all. We lived outdoors.

  3. Ryan says:

    Reblogged this on Ryan C. and commented:

    Feeling nostalgic. Thanks for sharing this, Dad.

  4. Tina Ronzoni says:

    I remember taking swimming lesson at the town beach which at the time was on middle pond, Berkshire Avenue. I have been gone from Southwick since 1980 but my mother still lives in the house I grew up in, three houses up from the old beach. It is sad to go home and see so many things have changed, but that is progress. Thank you for sharing your memories.

  5. mrcowles says:

    Thanks for the comment, Tina. Growing up we didn’t have a/c or a backyard pool . . . so the lakes were a big part of our summers.Times change but the memories remain.

  6. joluvshugs says:

    wow! i grew up a year behind polly, and you were dickie…the star of the basketball team~~~and i remember the transition being tough for the kids around my/our age when you came in as a teacher…from ‘dickie’ to mr. cowles was hard for some. i didn’t know you to speak to..was just a basketball fan..and our ages are really so close i think if i DID talk to you i would have had the same ‘tuff’ issues…

    like you, i remember all the same beaches and how sad it was when they all went to ruin and/or dis/mis-use (if i may create a word) i swam at all the same beaches, with the swimming lessons, and i was a regular at friday night babb’s skating~~~and none of us appreciated the idyllic little town we lived in…with all the lakes~~~ *sigh*

    ok…sorry…didn’t mean to leave a book!

  7. mrcowles says:

    Thanks for the kind words . . . We were, indeed, fortunate to grow up in Southwick. Lynne and I came back to raise our own kids here. They, too, have fond memories . . . they’re just different from ours.
    .

  8. Jeni Henry says:

    I enjoyed reading your blog about Congamond. My parents, Robert and Shirley Henry lived on South Pond just past the City Beach. I served with the Citizens Restoring Congamond for one season.

  9. Rose White says:

    Unlike most of the others commenting here I grew up in Enfield, CT in the 60’s. My father worked two jobs supporting our family of 7 so there weren’t many family vacations but I have many fond memories of a weekend day spent at the beach on the Congamond near the Anchor. I thought there was a name for this beach but can’t recall what it was called. Anyone else remember a name for that small beach?

  10. robert billieux says:

    The restoration of Babbs Beach is now complete.however fences were put up to keep vagrants out in evening hours that you can visit are on sign. CRC will have a swap meet I think Oct30th there is also a sign about it, The rink is usually open during events Bob B

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