Cary History: The Early Swimming Holes

Cary, NC — In this month’s look back into the history of Cary, we hear from four native Cary residents who recall their childhood swimming holes.

Billy Rogers

“We had to go to Pullen Park in Raleigh to go to a swimming pool. That was a long way. You’d take a picnic over there and go swimming on a Sunday afternoon.”

Esther Ivey

“We had a church picnic every year. Sometimes we would go to Pullen Park where, at that time, they had caged animals and they always had a merry-go-round. We used to go there to go swimming, and also down to Wilders Pond. We would have a picnic lunch there. Company pond had a grist mill.”

Robert Heater

“We had two swimming places. One of them was called “the washout.” It was a creek that had washed out at that spot, which meant you could do a little bit of swimming, but not much. That was in the lower, southern end of Urban Park. You could dog paddle, but that’s about all. That’s where we would go to get wet and cool off.

The better one was “the pothole” at the bottom of North Harrison Avenue. There was a right steep hill going down to the bottom on the other side of Arby’s. Back then that street used to stop where the water tank is and then you’d walk through the woods down to the pothole.

It was probably 12 to 14 feet down and was a place where water washed over a hard rock. That was one place where I got in trouble with my dad because you weren’t supposed to be there. We walked by the road, or ride bicycles if we had them.”

Fred Seeger

“Before I was old enough to have a motorcycle or a car, maybe five or six of us would ride out to Silver Lake. It was a half or three-quarter day trip out beyond Lake Wheeler Road. It wouldn’t be a formal outing or anything. We’d grab our bicycles and take off, maybe once a week to go swimming. We’d stop at Rhamkatte Trading Post on Rhamkatte Road and get us a moon pie and a Pepsi, coming and going, if we had enough money to buy them in both directions. No one cared if you went out there and went swimming. There was a platform about 30 or 40 feet from the shore directly out from the dam, and it was deep enough to dive off of. 

We would either go to Silver Lake or go to Billy Pierce’s farm out on Kildaire Farm Road, which was directly across from the Winn-Dixie shopping center. There were turtles in the pond and we didn’t like to swim in there. They wouldn’t bother you, but we knew they were there, so we didn’t have much to do with that pond. 

That was the majority of our swimming unless we wanted to go to Pullen Park, but that was too commercial. We didn’t go to Pullen Park to go swimming.”

Story by Peggy Van Scoyoc. Much of the Cary’s History column is taken from the book, Just a Horse-Stopping Place, an Oral History of Cary, North Carolina, published in August of 2006. The book is a collection of oral history interviews conducted between local citizens and Friends of the Page-Walker Hotel. The rest comes from later oral history interviews with local citizens. 

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