Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Getzen's Pond

Well, we're deep into the gritty, nefarious world of swimming holes, so we'll hit another one. The oldest record of Getzen's Pond dates back to 1815, when the property was owned by Robert Butler. Butler used the pond to power his mill and, also, probably swam in it. Butler's daughter inherited the pond and she married Judge Henry Getzen. It was Getzen's idea to turn the place into a full-fledged swimming hole.

As you can see, Getzen's was a pretty swinging place. At first, only males could use the pond, which was soon known for it's clear, cold, spring-fed water. Initially, everyone just swam nude, since this was back in the days before people had clinical body-image problems. By the time of this photo in 1924, the boys had put their bathing suits back on and the girls were allowed in. I can only assume those events happened in that order, but you never know. This photo (and most of the info) was swiped from that History of N. Augusta book I mentioned last time.

The pond was rented to one "Possum" Lott during WWI, but "Possum" got drafted and Dr. H. G. Mealing took over. This is when Getzen's Pond really became popular, with folks walking in from all over N. Augusta and coming across the bridge from Augusta for all-day outings. Incidentally, there is supposedly a beech tree beside the pond with the initials "H.C." carved in it. The initials are said to refer to Kentuckian Henry Clay, who we all know as a famous senator, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Secretary of State under John Quincy Adams, and bitter enemy of Andrew Jackson. He died in 1852 though, so he would've had to have stopped by the pond pretty early. I haven't really canvassed the pond to look for the tree because, uh, there's a lot of trees. But beeches can live to be 300-400 years old, so it might still be there.

Eventually Dr. Mealing's mother took over management of Getzen's Pond. Some cabins were built near the pond and some families stayed throughout the summer months. It's possible that this is one of those original cabins.

When the doctor's mother died, Katherine Mealing took over, offering Red Cross lifesaving lessons, but eventually closed the pond when it got too expensive. She still swam there herself though, and snuck a few of her friends in. There's no mention of who owned it after the Mealing's, but they forgot their car.

At some point a trailer was moved next to the lake. There's not much left of it at this point. It wasn't safe to actually go into the thing, but you didn't have to. This picture was taken through a massive hole in one side. Now, Getzen's Pond abuts a golf course on one side and a busy road on the other. It sits in a large parcel of woodland, however, so it might take the developer's awhile to get to it. In the meantime, the citizens of N. Augusta swim there no more. I think next time we'll visit the scariest abandoned building I've ever been to. Good fun.

2006 UPDATE: Below are some great old shots of Getzen's Pond in all its glory. The first picture was taken in the early 1950's, possibly 1952. The second photo is from 1943, when it would appear the pond was fairly well built-up. The last photo is undated but shows a diving board and what is possibly a lifeguard stand. Looking at the recent shots it's hard to believe it was once a major swimming hole, but here's more proof. These photos are courtesy of Clarence and Ann Sikes and I thank them for letting me post them. Please see the comments section to read the Sikes family's recollections of Getzen's Pond in its prime.

2009 UPDATE: I was recently sent two great photos by JC Young of Augusta. The first is the only shot I've seen featuring the intact Getzen's outbuilding with signage and everything. The photograph is of Gary and JC Young, dated around 1943. The second photo is of JC, Gary and Barbara Young, taken about 1944, after a dip in the pond. I thank JC Young for letting me publish them here. I'm really pleased to present such excellent documentation of Getzen's Pond. Please keep the photos and stories coming!

2012 UPDATE: Over the years I've been asked about the fate of Getzen Pond's neighbor, Panic Pond. Until recently, I didn't know a thing about the place. Now, in addition to having learned that it was named for the stock market "panic" that preceded the Great Depression, I can also report that it is under a couple tennis courts by the North Augusta police station. Some of it might be under a Publix, too. It was spring fed and sounded like a nice place for a dip. If you want to read a somewhat bittersweet recollection by Dan Smith of summer days spent at Panic Pond, you can do so HERE. Thanks to Tina M. and her dad for the info.


Anonymous said...

What John didn't mention was the first attempt to get to Gretzen's Pond, which turned into one of the worst times we've ever had trying to get through thick underbrush. I'd been looking at topo maps of the area, and I noticed a road leading from Buena Vista Ave. to where I thought Gretzen's pond must be. Even though we'd already seen the pond from another vantage point, it seemed like it'd be tough to get to the pond from that point, so we were just going to ride our bicycles around to the entrance on Buena Vista and just ride the old road to the pond.

The first warning that this might not be all that easy was that the old road to the pond had trees down across it every 6 or 7 feet. Trees big enough to make riding the bikes harder than carrying the bikes. Soon the road disappeared and we were left to try to guess the direction to the pond. There's no going back on these voyages, you just have to keep going. And that's what we did. Pushing our mountain bikes through dense secondary undergrowth that's full of bugs and stickers, we tried to make it to the pond, which we saw at several points, but couldn't get close enough to due to either the thickness of the undergrowth or impassible stinky black mud you'd sink two or three feet into. Finally, after what seemed like several hours, we pushed our way out onto the access road to the golf course. It was then that we noticed that there was another entrance which only entailed about a 10-foot walk through some light undergrowth to get to the pond. Oh, we laughed.

Another strange thing about this area was the first time we were looking at the ruins around the pond from a vantage point on a nearby hill, we both thought that the ruins were much more massive than they turned out to be. I can't figger it out, I'd have sworn at that time that I saw a two-story concrete building, which turned out to be the wreckage of that mobile home. And the wreckage of a house that had fallen partly into the pond looked like a long swimming and fishing dock.

Great Site!

Anonymous said...

Love your blog! Why not get a GPS and mark those spots?

Jmhouse said...

Below is a message I received from Mr. Clarence Sikes, who met his wife at Getzen's Pond. I thought his words and memories were well worth including in City of Dust.

"I'm Clarence Sikes. I'm 80 years old and live in Norwalk, CT and Jupiter FL. I met my wife of 47 1/2 yrs at Getzen’s Pond when I was 15 years old. Unfortunately, cancer took this wonderful lady, Ceil Stulb Sikes, mother of 11, in 1992. Ceil's brother, George, was a lifeguard and his kids are my kids cousins and they all grew up there.

I was also a lifeguard at Getzen's Pond, in 1941 & '42, before entering the Navy in '43. I have fond memories of "The Pond," as we called it, and Katherine Getzen Mealing ran it then. Even a picture of the dilapidated lifeguard shack we enjoyed living in for the summer was posted on your site. Actually, Buddy Mealing, who is Dr. Henry Mealing Jr., still lives in N. Augusta and was the last owner of the pond that I know of. He could be most helpful to whomever is interested in the history. My kids also enjoyed the pond when we returned to Augusta for summer visits. A life-long buddy of mine, Mickey Turner, who was also a lifeguard there, and I found the back entrance and visited in 1993. It was in terrible shape then. Anyway, thanks for the memories."

If anyone reading this knows Mr. Clarence Sikes and would like to get in touch, please contact him at: CSSIKES@SBCGLOBAL.NET

Jmhouse said...

As an addendum to Mr. Sikes comments on Getzen's Pond (see above), here are a few thoughts from his son, Peter Sikes, who also spent time at the pond:

"I thought your account of Getzen's was pretty accurate. I remember Katherine Getzen Mealing. On nice days, she used to come and hang out at the main building. She'd give pointers on swimming, and occasionally would take a dip herself. That old trailer was set there by Buddy Mealing, who later inherited the pond from Katherine. Buddy was Dr. Henry Mealing's son (Katherine's nephew). His real name is Henry Jr. (also a doctor), and Dad thinks he still lives in N. Augusta somewhere. Buddy has a sister, Ditty (real name Katherine), who's daughter, Terri, is married to my cousin, Charlie Stulb, and now residing in Houston. Dad and his boyhood friends were lifeguards at the pond during the heyday. Katherine was their teacher/mentor, according to Dad.

As kids we rarely swam out to the far dock, which was in a severe state of disrepair even then. It wasn't that it was too far, it was just that you'd occasionally see the telltale trails of water moccasins swimming by at the edge of the pond. The only way we'd go out to that end of the pond was if we were on a raft, armed with a big stick.

My Uncle George, who at one point rebuilt the docks with the help of my cousins, and my Aunt Eleanor used to return to Getzen’s by themselves, after their five kids had flown the coop, and long after the general public had stopped going there. The pond is spring-fed, which made the swimming so refreshing. I think the spring was somewhere past that old trailer."

Many thanks to the Sikes family for their reminiscences.

Anonymous said...

I too am one of the Sikes clan who was born in Augusta and now live in CT. My father was Clarence’s brother, Walter Sikes. I was born in Augusta and we lived with my grandparents in Augusta the year my father did an internship at University Hospital in Augusta.

What I remember about Getzen’s Pond was that we used to have our annul family reunions there. I remember that we parked outside the bath house and we then through it to get to the pond. There was a hallway that you had to walk through to get out to pond that had a shallow concreted wading pond that would wash your feet of sand. I hated having to go through it going out but going back through it was OK.

I also remember an area where they keep small boats tied up to that we would use to paddle out to the other end of the pond. As Peter said we were afraid of the snakes so we were careful not to get too close to the banks. I loved going out to that part of the pond because it was fed by clear springs. You could look down and see the water coming out of the ground. It was better than going to the glass bottom boats in FL.

As we all got older we moved away from Augusta but each time we go back a trip to Getzen’s is in order. Our family no longer lives in that area but I can say that most of us feel Getzen’s is part of our family. Even our second cousins remember the Sikes family reunions there because they were apparently held there starting when my uncle was young.

In an era before air conditioners that pond drew people during the summers. I am sure that spring fed pond was a recreation area for people who lived in that area for years before we were all born. Maybe even the Indians before us.

Ann Sikes

Anonymous said...

When I got the pictures of getzen's from my cousin Peter I couldn't believe how badly the pond had deteriorated. I feel like the pond is where I grew up. My father is Peter's Uncle George that he referred to. Our family (0f 6 children not 5) lived in one of the cottages for a while after we moved back to North Augusta after my dad retired from the Navy. We never get together without stories of the pond being a major part of the conversation.Like Peter said,even after the crowds stopped going to the pond, my mom and dad would go down and take a "dip" in the afternoon.
There are memories of the pond that will always be with us and that bond together the families who spent their summers there. There were games like dibble-dabble that only pond people know about.Anyone who ever took swim lessons at the pond remembers Betty Markwalter telling them to "gliiide!"
Picnics at the pond always included a watermelon that was put in the water when we first got there in the morning and was icy cold when lunch rolled around. No refrigerator needed. And of course we can't forget having to fill up the bucket of water and carry it to the bathroom to flush the toilet.
Those were the days! No matter how run down the pond is now, It will live forever in the hearts and minds of anyone who was blessed enough to spend their summer days swimming at the pond.
My sister in law is Terri Thompson Stulb and her mother Didi, is a Mealing and as far as I know, her Uncle Buddy still owns the pond. I'm going to pass this site on to her and see if she has any info to share.

Jmhouse said...

Mr. Clarence Sikes has offered his recollection on Henry Clay having carved his initials in a beech tree. Even if a former Secretary of State didn't leave his mark, it's comforting to know that many others apparently did.

"I forgot to answer your question about Henry Clay & the initials carved. No memory of that but young lovers did carve initials in the trees with an initial on top & a "+" with another initial below the "+." Also, the cabins as I remember were looking from the office/bathhouse overlooking the pond. Katherine's cabin was to the left & there was a life guard cabin just above that. Then, looking to the right at the beach and pavilion, up on top of the hill was a path leading to the rear entrance road to the pond. There were 3 cabins (I think) which people would rent for a week or so in the summer. Lots of girls (6 maybe) would get together with a chaperone and rent one for a week. Your picture looking out at the pond shows a high dive, a slide, and the beach (small but with sand).

Thank you so much for the time spent to bring us these wonderful memories."

Anonymous said...

Just talked to Mickey Turner Pond lifeguard 1943.He said that Pop Mealing(Drew Katherine's Dad) told him that Henry Clay did visit the Pond where there was a picnic in his honor.He showed Mickey the initial carvings of HC which was on a tree by the main spring where we obtained drinking water. This spring was just before Katherine's cabin and anyone familiar with the Pond will remember drinking water there as it was the only place to obtain drinking water. Long before today's bottle water take over.Hope this will help solve the HC initals carving.Clarence Sikes

Anonymous said...

I failed to say Pop Mealing said the main spring was named Henry Clay springs and Henry Clay carved the HC in the Beech tree. Boy how we missed the water market as we should have bottled Getzens spring water in honor of Henry Clay and made a fortune.

Anonymous said...

I live in NA, just a few houses away from Crystal Lake - do any of y'all have any stories of that swimmin' hole? It seemed like quite the place when there was a Natatorium there.

And, soon to be in the middle of much development - go check out for the details on the new building going on across the old tracks from the pond.

Jmhouse said...

Here are some more reminiscences from Getzen's Pond. Thanks to Mr. Myers for letting me post them.

"Thank you for the grand memories of my past. Getzens Pond was a great place to grow up! George Stulb's Sister-In-Law was my mother, Marion Knuck Myers. My Aunt Eleanor and Mother spent many an afternoon watching their children (11 all together) swimming in what could be only described as the coldest water on earth. Thank you so much for your work. Charles Myers"

Anonymous said...

We have an old friend now in her 80's, a school teacher in Augusta for many years and who remembers Getzen's Pond. But my son and I have been there too, recently. You can get to the pond without too much trouble from the G&F railroad tracks. It certainly looked like an easier way than the road from above, which certainly looked very scrubby and brambly. The spring water is still flowing. All it would take for some dippin' would be a little dredging, and fixing the cut in the dam.

Anonymous said...

Ditty (real name Katherine) is wrong information. It's Diddy, real name Mary, who's daughter, Terri, is married to my cousin, Charlie Stulb, who is now residing in Houston with two children of their own.

Jmhouse said...

Thanks for straightening that out. Boy, a real history of Getzen's Pond and some of the folks that used to frequent it has developed here. Great! Keep it coming...

Anonymous said...

Whadda ya know about "Panic Pond"?

Jmhouse said...

I don't know anything about Panic Pond! I've never even heard of it. Please tell me what you know!

And thanks for your comments!

Dorothy Colley Zieburtz said...

Wow! I stumbled here and am so surprised. I took all of the swimming lessons at Getzen's from Fred Flintstone to Sr Life Saving. My dad Ed Colley was a life guard at the pond and my mom Marie May was a frequent visitor with her high school friends in the 40's. The Infamous Betty Markwalter was my godmother. This place was my summer as a child. The memories are so fond and so warm.

Dorothy Colley Zieburtz

If anyone wants to contact me:

Anonymous said...

I remember Panic Pond. As a elementary child, I swam in that pond all summer, etc. We use to meet our friends there. It has a big raft in middle and a diving board at one side. It brings back a lot of good memories. I tell my children about all the good times we had there.

Betty O'Hara
St. Petersburg, Fl

Anonymous said...

I went to Getzens Pond in 1991 and all the buildings were still standing and in fairly good shape, went back in 1999 and they had fallen in. As for Kathrine Mealing she was my 8th grade health teacher at Tubman Jr High School
(1961 - 1962) what a wonderful lady she was very much liked by all students. I remember going to Getzens in the early 50's were my cousin was a lifeguard.



Jmhouse said...

Mr. JC Young has sent me the photo referred to above. It's a very good one indeed, from a vantage point showing the Getzen's sign over the old building. I'll try to post it and an additional one he passed along when I can.

Thanks, Mr. Young!

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading all the comments recorded here, and also seeeing the pictures. Charlie Markwalter tipped me off about this on Facebook. I posted a few pictures on that site...I grew up swimming at Getzen's,as did several generations of Schweers before me. How blessed we are to have such happy memories!
Eileen Schweers Ray

Anonymous said...

Do you know anything about a pond called "Willow Springs"? My Mother took us there when we were small children. I think it is in the Belvedere area, near or beyond the Elementary school. I am 47 now and moved from that area 35 years ago. I remember it had white beaches and many slides and docks. Is it still there?

jmhouse said...

Thanks for your comment! I personally don't know anything about Willow Springs, but I asked around and it's being looked into. If I find anything out I'll post it here in the comments section, so check back every now and then. Likewise, if you get any info, please let us know.



jmhouse said...

Still no information on any pond in the Belvedere area known as Willow Springs. I guess it will remain a mystery...for now.

Anonymous said...

am adding my grandmothers memories of her time growing up in Augusta, GA. She is 95 years old and has fond memories of Getzens Pond.
Here name is Ruth May Ritzel (Fielden)

Getzens Pond had a big hill with sand, like at a beach and they had an office and lockers with changing area.

Getzens Pond is where I learned to swim and took my Red Cross training.
My friends and I went swimming alot and skating.
We did roller skating in the park and at the rink.
They would have marathon dances at the swimming hole (getzens pond) and entertainment.
I would sing sometimes. We would go to a place afterwards sometimes like Kentucky Fried Chicken, and they
would bring little buckets of water to put on the tables to rinse your fingers in.
"Every Friday night we would have hot dogs and roll up the rugs and have a dance party. One time it would be at my house and then another time
at someone elses.
I had a great childhood!"

jmhouse said...

Thanks so much for your recollections, Ruth! I'm proud to have them posted here.

Warmest Regards,


jmhouse said...

Below is a message I received from a Midwestern Getzen wondering if the Getzen's from the Central Savannah River Area might be related to Getzen's now living in Michigan. If anyone has any information about Michigan Getzen's you can contact Debbie Patterson-Getzen at:


She'd love to hear from you.

Thanks! JM

"My name is Debbie Getzen and I grew up in Michigan. Do you know if you are related to any Getzen's in Michigan? I have been reading about the city of dust and The Getzen's swimming hole. It sounded like alot of fun back then.

Any information would be appreciated.


Debbie Getzen"

Anonymous said...

Where is this pond located? Is it north of the golf course? If it is the one I am thinking of, it appears to have dried up.

jmhouse said...

Yup, it's just north of the golf course, right across the railroad tracks and back in the woods. I guess I wouldn't be surprised if it had dried up, although I'd be interested to know if the spring was still producing water.

Thanks for the update!


George Hoshell said...

I am 62 and remember Panic Pond since I swam there as a young child. I believe it closed just after a childhood friend drowned there- Larry Dore.



jmhouse said...

Thanks, George. Rather sad to hear about your friend, but it does fill in some background. Incidentally, there is a detailed description of a drowning at Panic Pond in THIS PIECE, but the author has the pond re-opening afterward, at least for awhile. Best, JM

Errunsbyvicky said...

My family and I spent our summers at Getzen's during the late 1940's and early 50's. Our mother's played bridge and we played ping pong, swam and had picnics in the screened in room at the top of the hill. I got my life saving certificates there. My brother Ferris Dorr and his friends were life guards. It was my other brother, Larry, who was drowned at Panic Pond. He was on an outing with the cub scouts and dove off the board and hit his head. The pond closed shortly after. I remember the sand pits also up over the hill and down by Buena Vista. I love my memories and think about the ponds when I cross the 13th Street bridge and go down Buena Vista. Vicky Dorr Barnett

jmhouse said...

Thanks for your wonderful recollections, Mrs. Dorr Barnett. I always love to hear from people that frequented Getzen's. Of course, I was stunned to read that it was your brother who was drowned at Panic Pond. Having read some accounts of that event, it is quite something to get a message from you. I am very sorry for your loss.

I don't know if you have seen it already, but last week Bill Kirby did a short video about Getzen's Pond. You can find it HERE. I think you'd enjoy it.

Thanks again! JM

Doug Sterling said...

I've been trying to locate Getzen's Pond on the map (I think I can see some water where I've pinpointed it, but it's hard to tell), and came across this recent article about the pond's history. The information is nothing new, but I was pleased to see it getting some interest.

jmhouse said...

Did you see this video, Doug?

It's done by the same guy that wrote the piece you referenced. It's well worth a look.


Doug Sterling said...

Ah, it came up in my search but I didn't initially watch it. That's the second time I've done that, now. It would seem I prefer reading text over watching videos...

I did like the video, though. For some odd reason (I'm only 21), it made me feel extremely old... But in a good way. Childhood seems like it was so long ago. It's crazy how much things change in so little time.

jmhouse said...

Yes, Doug, time does indeed go by quickly! And things change fast. That's not a bad lesson, but one that's good to learn early on. That way you don't take anything for granted.