Close to a half century has passed since 1957 Fergus Falls High School graduate Joe Edlund finished his last of nine summers working as a lifeguard at Pebble Lake, 2 miles south of Fergus Falls. The year was 1972.
“I had two tours of duty at Pebble Lake,” Edlund said. “The first one was from 1962 to 1965. The second one was from 1968 to 1972.”
In between his lifeguard duties at Pebble Lake, in 1966 and 1967, Edlund was in Minocqua, Wisconsin, and worked as a waterfront counselor at a Jewish boys camp.
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 Fergus Falls Junior College (later becoming M State).
The waterfront at Pebble Lake was huge during the 1960s and early 1970s.
“Our swim area was contained by two massive 90-foot L-shaped docks,” Edlund said. “The one to the east began in front of the old bathhouse and the one to the west began where swimmers came over from the parking lot.”
Between the ends of the two docks were two water slides, one 15 feet tall and the other one shorter.
On the inside of the L-shape, on the east dock, Edlund and fellow lifeguards set up a water basketball court.
Sylvia Hoff, Loren Woolson and Dean Nelson were among the fellow lifeguards of Edlund in the early 1960s as was Melva Kimber who was head lifeguard at Pebble Lake in 1962 and 1963.
“Early in the summer of 1964 Dean and I drove up to Detroit Lakes to check their waterfront and see if they might have anything we didn’t have that we could add to our waterfront,” Edlund said. “We found that they had a very large log that rotated and was anchored to the lake bottom. It seemed to be a quite popular attraction.”
Where would they find a 10-foot log, 2-1/2 feet in diameter? And if they did, what could they do with it?
Solution: the city landfill.
In the early 1960s, Dutch elm disease had arrived in Fergus Falls. The city was removing elm and piling them at the landfill south of town.
“After going through all the city red tape we were allowed to go out there and cut what we needed, making sure all bark was removed” Edlund said.
A welded plate was bolted onto one end, a swamp anchor was turned into the lake bottom between the west dock and the diving tower, and a chain was attached from the plate to the anchor.
“Then we were in business with the rotating log,” Edlund said.
Deep-water diving towers at Pebble Lake
During the 1960s and 1970s, there were two diving towers at Pebble Lake, south of Fergus Falls. Each diving tower had two diving boards.
Lifeguards positioned themselves at the west and east docks. Another lifeguard was atop the lifeguard tower on shore, and a fourth lifeguard manned a rowboat between the raft and one of the two diving towers.
Former lifeguard Joe Edlund recalls the 1960s when the swim area was roped off with old wooden beer kegs anchored in the corners. The kegs came from the old Fergus Falls Brewery Company.
“Summer recreation director Oats LeGrand got them somewhere,” Edlund said, “and I believe he told me that they were discarded in a pit along the river by the old packing plant.”
LeGrand salvaged a few to use for the swim beach. By 1968 there wasn’t much life left in them. The kegs leaked and were covered with several coats of white paint.
“New plastic markers were purchased and the kegs were discarded,” Edlund said. “I took a couple of them and spent many hours restoring them, turning them into end tables.”
Tom Hintgen is a longtime Daily Journal columnist. His column appears Saturdays.