In the summer, all of the kids went swimming.
We didn’t have video games or movies on demand. We had a bathing suit, a designated towel, a supervising adult and a destination.
For those of us who grew up in southwest Arkansas, northeast Texas or northwest Louisiana, that 1970s destination was often Crystal Springs Beach.
Crystal Springs, as most of us called it, was a large lake on Highway 67 near Maud. For decades, it was the inexpensive and fun way for moms to occupy a Buick full of children and for kids to make new friends and lifelong memories.
It was the perfect place for a kid. You could lounge on an actual sandy beach or practice your water skills by swimming out into the center of the lake and then back.
There was a zip line you could ride — if you had the guts. Most of us were around 12 or so before we mustered up the nerve to climb the zip line tower, grab the handles, and then take the gravity-driven experience to the end of the line. The key was not letting go too soon or too late.
The concession stand was the hub of Crystal Springs. You could order food or snacks, purchase needed items or ask for an overhead page for the other members of your party when it was time to leave.
The stand was also the central spot for the comings and goings of the lifeguards. Being a lifeguard at Crystal Springs appeared to be the best dream job ever. They got paid to hang out at the lake all day. Most of the rest of us had summer jobs that involved mowing yards or cleaning gutters. The lifeguards were envied by most of us.
There was a floating, wooden pier a short swim from the beach. From the top of the pier, you could practice your cannonball skills. In the air pocket underneath, you could privately sneak an innocent kiss.
Most kids thought that Crystal Springs was a modern place built just for them. But unbeknownst to most of us, it had been there for decades.
I’m not sure exactly when Crystal Springs opened, but based on photos posted in the Facebook group “Memories of Crystal Springs Beach Maud Texas,” people went there to swim as far back as the 1940s. My mom shared experiences of her days there in the 1950s.
With the sight of wet hair sticking to the sides of our heads and the sound of screaming girls being splashed by flirting guys, we were enjoying life.
We didn’t know it at the time, but we were also on our way to growing up.
When you were in the water at Crystal Springs, you weren’t judged by your clothes or your car. They were both in the parking lot.
Today, many people have their own swimming holes — pools in their back yard. Something that was almost unheard of when I was growing up. If someone had a pool, they were rich — like the Clampetts on The Beverly Hillbillies who had what they called a “cement pond.”
I believe something is lost when you swim in the back yard and not in a large place with other people. Lost is the opportunity to meet new folks, make new friends, learn about others and hear their stories.
There’s something about communal swimming that levels the playing field. Every kid, regardless of their family’s economic status, looks the same at a swimming hole.
Looking back, it’s hard to believe that there was ever a time in life when boredom was an issue. But for those of us who predate electronics and other modern distractions, we all had to find things to do to cash in the days we had earned for our summers. This swimming hole was the favored place to spend them.
Crystal Springs is closed now. I’m not sure exactly when or why it closed. The fact that this wonderful place of youth is now closed is a loss for this and future generations.
Swimming holes bring us together. Cell phones and game systems keep us apart. I don’t know who owns Crystal Springs Beach now, but if you’re reading this, I’m asking you to consider reopening this jewel of Maud, Texas. It’s a shame to waste this great place by leaving it boarded up and closed to the world.
Crystal Springs Beach is a place that every kid should have the chance to experience. Even if they have their own cement pond.