Pebble Beach was great in 1962 [UPDATED]Published 8:15am Monday, July 2, 2012 Updated 12:20pm Monday, July 2, 2012
Fifty years ago this summer, Pebble Lake’s waterfront south of Fergus Falls buzzed with activity during the morning hours. Swim classes, under the direction of summer recreation director Oats LeGrand, were held at 9, 10 and 11 a.m. There were two sessions in the summer of 1962.
The wave of baby boomers desiring swimming instruction topped 2,000. Those kids represented children born in the years following World War II, starting in 1946.
For Loren Woolson, it seems like just yesterday when he served as a lifeguard and swimming instructor for LeGrand. Woolson, a retired Fergus Falls High School teacher, worked at Pebble Lake beach from the mid 1950s to the early 1960s.
“Back then it oftentimes was a 12-hour day, from 9 in the morning for swimming classes until the beach closed at 9 p.m.,” said Woolson.
A half century ago the Pebble Lake beach was three times what it is today, and three times further into the lake itself. In 1962 there were two diving towers and one floating raft.
Lifeguards positioned themselves at the west and east docks. Another lifeguard was atop the lifeguard tower on shore, and a fourth lifeguard manned a row boat between the raft and one of the diving towers. As many as five lifeguards were on duty during the weekends.
Middle school and YMCA pools weren’t available in Fergus Falls until the early 1970s.
Many people remember those days at Pebble Lake a half century ago. Names of lifeguards and swimming instructors, in addition to Woolson, come to mind. They include Myron Johnson, Chuck Hyslop, Mary Rockwood, Beth Lightfoot, Dean Nelson, Gayle Beecher, Joe Edlund and others.
Edlund, a retiree who lives in Ely in northeastern Minnesota, has pleasant memories of his lifeguard and swimming instructor days in the 1960s.
“Those were some grand days, and I’m happy to know that people still enjoy swimming at Pebble Lake,” said Edlund on June 27. “Fergus Falls was, and still is, fortunate to have a public swimming beach only two miles south of town.”
Edlund is a 1961 graduate of Fergus Falls High School.
His love of swimming carried over to his adult life. Edlund was a high school swimming coach for 33 years and taught art at Ely for 30 years. His art mentor was Charles Beck, his instructor at M State – Fergus Falls in the early 1960s.
Myron Johnson, during the summer of 1955, worked at Pebble Lake beach before becoming a lifeguard. A half century ago, the concession stand was located adjacent to the changing rooms on the east side of the Pebble Lake waterfront. Today the changing rooms are located at the west end.
Johnson was stricken with polio in 1940 when he was only two years old. He was the only person in Fergus Falls who had polio at that time.
“I was fortunate,” said Johnson, who later graduated from Fergus Falls High School, in 1956. “I had corrective surgery at Mayo Clinic in Rochester. I wore a brace below my left knee before the surgeries and my left leg was 1-3/4 inches shorter when I was age 12.”
Johnson served four summers as a lifeguard and swimming instructor at Pebble Lake. He graduated from Concordia College in 1960 with majors in psychology and sociology.
In 1960 Johnson began work for the Minnesota Department of Corrections as a state probation/parole agent. He retired in 2000 and lives in the Twin Cities.
The former lifeguard and swimming instructor at Pebble Lake is proof that one can do a lot with a positive attitude while overcoming hurdles in life.
Tom Hintgen is a Fergus Falls resident.