A boomer and a beach


The Lake Storey Beach. It would be easy to give it up. In fact, very few people might even complain about the beach giving way to a marina and convenience store. Still, the beach has some interesting history, and a lot can be said for keeping it.

Not having grown up in Galesburg, I asked one of my friends, Ted Pogue, about the Lake Storey Beach, knowing he had been a lifeguard at the beach in the ‘sixties. Here are some of his recollections:

"Back in 1966, Russell Johnson was the Park Superintendent. As lifeguards, we would prepare the beach for opening day, which was Memorial Day. We would pull weeds and get the beach ready for new sand. There was always at least 6-8 inches of sand. There was plenty of sand so that kids could bury each other up to their neck. I remember the off duty lifeguards got into the act and built a sand castle with a sphinx and Aztec temple, in the summer of 1966.

"The beach was 'the place to be' during June, July, and August. It attracted people from as far away as Rock Island. The weekend usually saw as many as 100-150 people on the beach in a single day. In 1966, a new raft was put into place that had a 1 meter and 3 meter diving board. I remember dropping a wrench I was using to secure the raft in the water. I could see it at about 15 -18 ft below the surface. It was not a problem retrieving it. The water was that clear.

"Every night before going home, one of the two lifeguards had to ‘pick the beach.’ We carried a five gallon metal bucket and used what we called toad stickers. This was an old golf club shaft with a nail brazened in the end to stab the trash. The only day we got a reprieve was the Fourth of July. The park crew came in the next day and did it for us. The park department made sure that the beach area was kept clean and the trash was picked up daily.

"The beach also holds a bit of medical history. It was either in 1960 or '61 that one of the first uses of CPR was performed by a non-medical person. A city park department employee by the name of Jack Anders, who filled in as an extra lifeguard on the weekends, was on the beach with his family. I can remember a man coming from the west side of the swimming area and he was· carrying a boy in his arms and screaming for a lifeguard as his was headed for the lifeguard stand. When the lifeguards realized that they had a drowning victim, they yelled for Jack. As I watched, Jack began pumping on the boy's chest and water was splashing from his mouth. Jack bent down and blew into the boy's mouth and compressed his chest again and the boy started to cough. They had gotten him back. Years later, after I became a lifeguard, I learned that Jack Anders had read in Readers Digest an article about CPR the week before the drowning. He later that year received a Presidential Citation for being one of the first non-medical persons to perform CPR in the United States."

Ted has some fond memories of Lake Storey Beach and some scary ones. Of course, it was a different time. There were no computers, no video games, no Ipods or cell phones to occupy our time. We chose to play baseball in the back yard, ride our bikes countless miles for no other reason than to get somewhere else. And we went to the beach. Most every town had one. Galesburg's was a beauty. It was often a family affair. It was a time for relaxation. Our parents sat there, watching their kids playing, staring out into the water and wondering about the future. And lo and behold, almost fifth years later, here it is. The beach is barely used, there is hardly any sand, countless rocks, and slime washes up on the shore. It is time to make a decision. Is it worth keeping as a beach, or has time passed it by? I don't really know for sure. But I do know what the beach at Lake Storey meant to at least one boomer. Maybe that in itself is enough reason to keep it.