As area swimming clubs begin the hazy, lazy, crazy days of summer, Chester Swimming Association, Beulah Swim Association and the YMCA’s Thunderbird pool are providing a cool splash and a social gathering place.
Association swim teams compete against each other and offer basketball hoops, tennis courts and the ubiquitous snack bar with towel clad kids line up for a hot dog. These are just a few of the things I remember as a tanned little kid at our local pool.
Americana Mobile Home Park surrounded, at least in later years, Moore’s cottages and the restaurant and tavern and until 2006 when the owner of the mobile home park (Trollingwood) was sold and then repossessed, the property has been left as a home for weeds, litter and ticks.
One of the businesses that new comers and younger folks may remember was Sylvester’s, a popular local watering hole, which was owned by Tommy Crump.
But what was the most wonderful and most remembered summertime activities, beginning in the 1930s and continuing until 1985, was Moore’s Lake. Tucked in the woods behind Moore’s Cottages was a wide open area containing three lakes. The center lake was the place to hang out in the summer.
Moore’s opened just after Memorial Day and the high dive, slide and the beach, where some began long term relationships, would fill up quick. The sandy beach littered with beach towels, the locker room, the snack bar and just park your butt on the rail of the high dive, are only a few of the memories the lake provided.
In our office hangs a panoramic photo of the lake in its heyday, and visitors try to identify those who are on the beach basking in the Virginia sun. Ah summer. Moore’s was once known as the premier swimming lake in Virginia.
Just recently I decided to find Moore’s Lake and see what it looked like, now almost 30 years later. There may have been a better way to find the lake, but being the Boy Scout that I am, ahem, I decided to find the lake from the original entrance.
Off I go, through the remains of Americana and the old dilapidated old sign that mark the place that sold the homes to the inhabitants. There still remains a labyrinth of decaying blacktop and speed bumps. I followed Castaway road as far east as I could until I stopped in a cul-de-sac. A four-wheeler trail continued into the woods and down a steep grade.
Why do I have a four-wheel drive SUV if I don’t go off road once in a while? I followed the trail, crossing a creek along the way and drove as far as I felt comfortable bouncing.
As I then embarked on foot, I saw the decayed and washed out blacktop that must have been the entrance to Moore’s Lake, the center of a trio of lakes.
The Village News and I have explored the story of Moore’s Lake more than once and have always gotten a story of the wonderful days there and jitterbugging and rocking at the dance hall perched above the swimming lake.
Thinking about the history that I had written in the past as I walked down the trail, I could not help but have some affinity for the place. I moved here just three years after the lake closed.
Tommy Crump was interviewed a few years ago about what he remembered of the lake, and I thought about what it must have been like in its years of splendid activity.
“Moore’s was the place to be and be seen,” Crump said. “My sister, Nancy, spent most of her time there, and as a teenager, she would drive the loop around the lake. She would drive my dad’s Jeep around the lake every hour just to be seen.”
“He was Chester back in those days,” Moore said of R.D. “We used to go to the lake quite a bit back in those days. I guess you might say it was first class. He ran a good ship. He ran a dance hall there and they had to be on their toes and on the Ps and Qs, as I call it. There was no foolin’ around.”
C.C. Moore (not related) refers to Polly Spinner, who later bought R.D. Moore’s Lake, as a “nice fellow, a self made man.” And of Mr. Crump, who later owned Moore’s cottages, he said: “They had to work for what they got back in those days.”
Moore sold to Polly Spinner, Spinner owned the lake when it closed.
As I walked down the narrow path looking west to spot the lake, I knew I was on the right track. Five or six white posts lined the downhill side of the here and there aged blacktop – part of an old time guard rail.
Jacob “Jake” Halder has very fond memories of Moore’s Lake. “I met my wife, Nancy, (who is now deceased), at Moore’s Lake, the premiere swimming lake in Chester.” He told the Village News a number of years ago.
I saw water through the trees and thought – is that it or one of the other lakes? I slide down the side of an embankment, stopping just short of the water’s edge. Could this be it? Ain’t much left of it, but the water lilies sure look nice. I climbed back to the road and continued to circle the lake, like Nancy Crump once did.
Eventually I found my way to what seemed to be the beach at one time. Concrete blocks ran along part the water’s edge, white paint still showing on its face. And, up the hill part of the dance hall foundation can still be seen. A portion of the beach sand is still in place beyond the block that held back the hillside on the western edge of the lake.
If you closed you eyes and thought about it for a moment you might be able to see teenagers flirting, kids sliding and young guys flipping off the high dive. As the summer dusk closed around the dancehall you can imagine the country, swing and maybe a rendition of “Stormy Weather” and dancers cheek to cheek and then the thump, thump, thump of penny loafers and saddle oxfords in rhythm on the dance floor.
Moore’s Lake, hardly good to fish yet swim and now just a fond memory.