Radium Memories

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Radium Then ...
Tom West

 

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NOTE: If you have memories you'd like to submit, please email to albanyhightimes@aol.com

Below are memories or questions submitted from graduates of Albany High, especially during the 50's, in response to an article published in The Albany Herald. Responses are arranged in reverse chronological order by date submitted - the newest appears at the top. If you have not read these before - please start at the bottom!

*** 10/22/09 ~ Eileen Edwards Wray ('68): I was searching for Albany High school photos of Paula Hiers Deen (of which there are none???) and came across this website. As a young child and into my teen years, my sisters and brother all spent days 100s of days at Radium Springs. It was the place to be! Everything that people have written about it on this website is true and are vivid pictures still in my mind. I can't describe it better.
I do remember that you had to be a teenager to go to the pavilion and dance to the jukebox. I remember Jerry Hollis and his sister, Paula, teaching everyone to do the shag. I loved the music and you could hear it away from the pavilion. I have home movies of my oldest sister Geralene going to her sixth grade dance there. We used to pack picnic lunches but we loved it when our Mom gave us money to buy one of the juicy hamburgers!! Yum!
One special day was when my younger sister, Michelle, and I met Little Joe and Hoss (Bonanza) while they were staying at the Casino. They were in town for a telethon. Anyone remember those?
Does anyone remember renting those huge inner tubes and soaping them up so you couldn't hold on as it was rocked furiously back and forth?
I bet one of my sisters probably still has some rocks or shells from the spring.
The kids of Radium Springs (the surrounding neighborhoods) loved that place! We were happy, safe, and exuberant. Many of us learned to swim there. The place was indeed magical. And where else could you go and spend all day swimming, playing, etc for 25 cents!!

*** 09/24/09 ~ Leslie ’Williams ('58): I was born in Albany in 1939 at Phoebe Putney hospital and didn't leave Albany until December 1958. We (mother and I) used to drive out to Radium every summer to swim and sometimes we had a family gathering there. Usually my dad was working as he was an engineer for the railroad. But sometimes he would be there or meet us there later.

My grandmother and grandad lived in the Putney estate home, in Putney Georgia, south of Radium and before you got to River bend skating and swimming pool. They would meet us at Radium for the gatherings.

We used to take watermelons and put them under the platform and leave them for hours until they got cold, then slice them open. YUM!!! (sometimes they were stolen!!). I would spend all day there from 9am to 6pm, dropped off by a parent when I got older (12 yrs old), and usually went with a friend and just had the best time. Then, when I got my driver’s license, I would go as often as I could during the summer.

We lived off Slappey drive on First Avenue, but during my Junior year,1958.we moved to Radium, about 4 blocks from the entrance. I loved that.

I remember going to the Jr/.Sr dance upstairs in the ballroom when I was a Senior. Our theme was "Deep Purple" as that was the popular song that year. I remember seeing the underwater lights in the "boil" and in the moss-draped trees, and the gentle breeze blowing it. What a wonderful memory.........one that I will cherish forever.

I will also remember the days (literally) spent there swimming, the music from the pavilion, the snack bar. I will also remember all my school friends that gathered there, just as they were back then.

We grew up in the BEST of times and the Best place to be … Radium Springs in Albany, GA.

 

*** 09/22/09 ~ Tommy Greenstone (’54): There isn't much on TV or XM on Sundays so I've had the fifties channel on today. They are not playing the usual redundant songs you hear over and over. Instead, I have been bombarded with memories.

I was reminded of a night, when I was home on leave from the Army. Ted Cahill ('55), Ponniehoochie (Ponny Manuel - '55), and I were out for an evening of Bacchanalian carousing. About 0300 in the morning, we decided to go skinny dipping at Radium. It was fall and the night was cool and rainy. Radium was probably closed, for the season, but the dance pavilion was still open. When we got ready to leave, we decided it wouldn't be any fun, if nobody knew we had been there. We decided to play a song, on the jukebox. I climbed the fence, back to the car, and returned with a coin for the jukebox. By this time, I was exhausted from climbing the fence three times. We had to take a vote on the song to play. We decided on When I See You , by Fats Domino. As we left, they gave me a head start, since I was tired. I got to the top of the fence when the music started and I laughed so hard I fell off the fence and got covered with red clay mud. Those were the good old days.

I*** 11/06/08 ~ Brian Kelly (’67): I grew up in Albany Ga. And my memories of the times I spent at Radium Springs growing up are some of the best memories I have of my whole life. For some reason that place was magical to both me and other members of my family. I will never forget going there.

I would have graduated from Albany High in 1967 but my family moved away when I was 13. We moved to Cincinnati, Ohio but I never forgot growing up in Albany. I had the best time there. We lived on Highland Ave. back in the days when that was still a dirt road. My father owned Russell Kelly’s Heating and Air Conditioning and before that they owned the laundromat on Slappey Drive and even before that they had an appliance store downtown but I barely remember that. My grandfather owned the drive in liqour store and bar on Slappey Drive. We often ate at a place called the Al-Joe’s and the Davis Bros. Cafeteria. I remember the neon sign of the guy fishing with the string tied around his toe. If not there then the Pig-n-Whistle. If we were real good or it was real hot then we could got to the Arctic Bear. For ice cream. My friends and I played at the hobo camp by the railroad tracks, climbed all over the concrete piping made on the other side of the tracks. We picked blackberry’s and pecans and sold what we didn’t eat to buy candy over at a place we called the Little Store on Magnolia. What a life for a kid.

*** 11/06/08 ~ Phyllis Lee Spier (’53): I have followed with interest the progress and completion of Jean Weiner's painting of Radium Springs. It has stirred a host of memories of elementary school picnics (St. Theresa's and the poor nuns in hot wool habits), high school summers and the Junior-Senior proms at the Casino and so much more.

There are family memories as well. My grandfather, William Edgar Hickey, bought the Springs in 1916 when my mother was about one year old. She was a beautiful swimmer, which she attributed to growing up at the Springs. She said that she was swimming by age four, and swam all over the Springs. The family owned a collie that ran along the shore watching her and her younger brother swim. One day he started barking fiercely as she approached the wooden steps to get out of the water. There was a water moccasin nearby and when they later chopped down the steps, there were many baby snakes underneath! My uncle "Brother" Hickey dived in the boil and caves as a boy. I think it must have been a wonderful way for the two of them to grow up.

My grandfather, William Edgar Hickey

My grandmother, Ethyl, ran the restaurant which I understand was quite successful. She was a wonderful cook and a brave, strong woman. Many nights she drove her staff into town alone in an open car after closing the restaurant. My grandfather was a large man (see attached photo) and I don't think he ever drove. Too uncomfortable behind the wheel. In 925 "Daddy Hickey" sold the springs and moved his family into town.

When I married my husband, Bill Spier, in 1958 our rehearsal dinner was held there as well as our wedding reception. His family and our out of town guests stayed there also. When our daughter, Fran, was born, she was introduced to Radium and she has fond memories of playing there with her cousins, Lamar, Scott and Lee Pritchard.

So many wonderful memories … Thanks again Jean!

Connie Thomas Pinkston ('50): It was great fun to read the memories of Albany High and Radium. Much of our time was spent in both places. Some yankees came through while our brother Jack (Thomas (’55) worked at Radium. They asked him how they got that moss on the trees. Bud, as we sisters (Joye Thomas Hadaritz (’54) called him), said " We hang them one strand at the time."

Lee English ('57): (This is) a copy of the email I sent to Jean Weimer. “Your painting has stirred memories of many good times when the casino and springs were at their peak. The last remodel of the casino was done by my uncles, Rushton Brothers Contractors, and adds to the treasure for me. I would like to reserve one of the Artist proofs. Thanks,

*** 11/01/08 ~ John Grissett ('44): Radium is of great interest to me and my family since my Grandfather, Mr. J.C. Hind, was the builder and strongly involved in the design of the resort.

*** 9/10/08 ~ Hello. My name is Chelsee Burke. I attend Citizens Christian Academy in Douglas, Georgia. I Am doing a project on Radium Springs. I found your site and was wondering if you had any NEAT facts or pictures you might could send or email me. Please let me know. Thanks.

A ~ Hi Chelsee - what a wonderful project! Let me look through the pages on the website - I am having problems with it right now. It has become too large and that causes mega problems. I saw that the buttons titles did not appear - and that the picture did not expand - I am going to try and fix that right now. In the meantime - you can navigate those buttons by putting your cursor over the button and then clicking - there are lots of pictures from when I was in high school (the 50's). It was the place we hung out! There was a pavilion with a juke box and we danced - lots of jitterbug and "close" dancing! There are also reports from a committee that tried to SAVE Radium ... to no avail ... and pictures and newspaper articles on the destruction. I think anything you would need would be there. So let me try to "fix" it. I am in the middle of putting together our high school newsletter - I'm going to add your letter - and your email address ... and I'll bet people will write to you ... RADIUM WAS VERY SPECIAL TO US!

Beverly Smith Herrington ('55)

*** 5/26/08 ~ Doug Dahlgren (1965): I actually graduated that year from Druid Hills High in Atlanta. But having spent my "real" high school years in Albany, I consider myself a member of that class.

I even managed an invite to the 30 year reunion, which was held at the place of which we speak, Radium Springs.
We shared that evening with the class of '64. You see, they had planned theirs the year prior but got flooded out, literally.
That evening could not have been better. Old friends, including the casino and the grounds, were all in good shape. It was great to see everyone again.
We wandered around, trying to explain to our wives about all the fun we had there as kids. We took pictures of each other at some of our favorite spots.
The beach, the pavilion ( where you had to keep one eye out for a fight between the military groups) the boil, the island and of course, the beach area.
Many a great, youthful, fun filled Saturday was spent there by our gang.
It's hard to believe it's gone.
Remember Radium Springs !

*** 2/27/08 ~ Tom West (1965): I graduated from Albany High in 1965. During the summer Radium Springs was the place to be during the 1960s. It was easy for me since I lived down the road in the Radium Springs SD. It was a magical place. The Casino area was great fun, but we spent untold hours, as well, swimming, snorkeling, skin diving, spear fishing and tubing in the creek which ran from the springs to the Flint River. The water was gin clear. At the Pavillion we would dance to the juke box, in the spring swimming area we would chase turtles, swim up under the arched platforms at the side of the pool area, slide down the island slide and buy treats at the concession stand. We walked up the staircase to the ballroom area in awed wonder at the wood paneled grace of it all. I went back a couple of years ago and it is all gone. The Casino, the pavillion, the water gushing up forming a bulge on the surface. There is no flow to the water now. The Emerald Eye of the "boil" was still there, and the huge carp were still there at the bottom. Where has the water flow gone? To manufacturing uses? Who knows? Without the water, I don't know what use a park would serve, unless there is some way to restore the flow. Tom West, class of 1965.

*** 12/08/07 ~ Lynne Garrison Johnson (1982): I may as well share my thoughts on Radium. We always hear from the people who grew up there in the 1950's, but here is a lone perspective from one who grew up there a little later.

I did not hitchhike out there with two golf clubs and a dime to call home, like my daddy (David Garrison - '52) did. Nor did I ever dive under the rock arches with a spear gun made from rubber bands and coat hangers or dance at the pavillion.
But I did go to a really wonderful AHS reunion when I was very small, probably Dad's 20th, which would make me 8. I remember fried chicken, good music, and thinking, "When I grow up, I'm going to buy this place and live here."
I can't say I fulfilled that particular dream, but I did go to a prom there with the owner's grandson and much later, had my wedding reception there.
When we learned that the buildings were to be demolished, the first thing I thought of was to put a botanical garden on the property. I called my mom (Nancy Castleberry Garrison '57) and she immediately got all the Albany garden clubs behind the idea. She's gone now, but hopefully the city leaders remember that there are people ready to help.
Radium will never be what it once was, but let's hope it can be much more. If we can turn it into a place that everyone can enjoy and appreciate, our job is done and the dream fulfilled.
I hope there are others like me that remember Radium in the same way or can see it the way it can be. ~ Lynne

*** 12/03/07 ~ Jay Beck (1962): Recently my mother sent me an article that they were tearing down Radium Springs. That the world could come to this! This was the main symbol which defined my home town for five generations, the closest thing we had to a European spa or a grand architectural gesture of any kind. This multi-tiered, gleaming white building rising from clear blue water into oaks streaming with moss, this incubator of dreams, was to become a bass hatchery.

And, owned by the state that did not need the ballrooms, the double stairway, the dining rooms glassed to overlook the water, or the expensive upkeep of it all through repeated flooding, was going to tear down the buildings and use the water to raise fish.
My mother remembers her girlhood visits in the 1920's to relatives in Tifton who would bundle up the kids with a picnic lunch and come to Radium Springs to jump into the boil. The boil, resulted from water escaping from underground rivers through openings in the limestone bubbling up at great pressure to the top of a circular deep pit which was the beginning of Radium, like the fountain dispatching water from its center sure to go up your nose.

From deep in the earth, this water rushed at thousands of gallons a second at 68 degrees in temperature, which in the 90-degree heat of South Georgia felt like freezing. Kids jumping from a swinging rope, high and low diving boards or the rock sides into the boil would sink into the pit only to be pushed up to the surface by the rushing water screaming in shock not from the jump but from the chilling effect of the cold. Everyone who first jumped into Radium dog paddled like hell to get to the nearest side to rush out into the sun and run for a towel.

My father has a picture of himself in high school sitting on the side of the wall above the boil in a kind of male beefcake pose in his bathing suit. Our picture books at home are littered with snap shots of Radium… in swimming, wading to the edge in a blow-up ducky inner-tube, at family reunions dining on the concrete tables and benches which spread forever back among the water oaks and pines which surrounded the swimming area and beach.

Coming into Radium from the front door of the Casino as a young kid, you walked past the ornate bar where there always seemed to be one or two people, cigarette drifting smoke from the ashtray quietly talking with the bartender. Across the lobby with seating groups of furniture and fresh flowers you came to the entrance to the swimming area. There you paid a dumpy old man, went through a swinging gate and door and began to descent a long flight of steps changing from wood to concrete during the descent.

On the wall of these steps were 8" x 10" black and white pictures of distinguished visitors who all seemed like movie stars. They lined the steep descent. Some had their names and an inscription and you had to be careful when looking to be aware of the wet steps. But almost from the top, the thing that defined Radium was its smell.

You came out that door to a temperature noticeably hotter and humid enough to start immediate perspiration, and were hit in the nose by the limestone water. No sleazy YMCA or high school locker room shower after a big game could have equaled the smell of lime. It was in the rocks, in the puddles of water in the leaky faucets and water fountains. It pulled you toward the light at the end of the steps that opened slowly from a concrete slab and railings to tree limbs and people and chairs and water then to the whole world of Radium Springs. Suddenly at the bottom of the stairs you were there, and could now look in every direction to see who you could and wave to and then look at who was jumping into the boil directly ahead.

There was the small town pecking order of who got to sit where and with whom. The cuffs were off for flirting. And even in the bathing suit designs of those days, there were few people reading a book.

With your parents, you went to the beach side partly around a small island from the boil to water that gently got deeper and places for groups to spread out blankets, towels and each other. On either side of the beach were turreted gazebos entered from the high side with more picnic tables and ledges like benches on its circular sides to over look the water below.

Once you adjusted to the water temperature, and with a facemask looked below, you could see all kinds of fish swimming near the rocky bottom. It was incredibly clear.

We went to Radium almost every week of every summer of my youth. It was the thing to do with visitors, with family reunions and cold fried chicken, potato salad, and gallons of ice tea. And there were the people we knew, saw in school, in church, at the downtown stores. We saw each other grow up on this common ground, this equalizer, this opportunity.

But, it is the memories of being there in those young teen years that mark Radium for me. The times when we were not yet cool. When the insecurity and awkwardness of being the youngest and least experienced teen of the group were most apparent. But, that did not stop us from going there. For those years the memories are of Radium at night. There was a pavilion on stilts with open sides and a tin roof. A jukebox contained the only lighted area in the space. A wooden dance floor was littered with sand.

There after dark the teens met to dance and look at each other and learn to talk to each other. There the older boys tried to become James Dean. The peg pants, duck-tail hair and rolled up short-sleeves accented the bearing, the walk, the non-chalice all to come together in a look, a stare at a particular girl smoldering enough to stop her still in mid flit.

And the girls in their tight peddle pushers, shirts with the bottoms tied about the waist, gum smacking, casting side-long glances and the mingled smells of sun tan lotion, sweat, beer and cigarettes were collectively enough to kick my insecurity into high gear, while awakening in me a longing like a magnet.

But sitting on the wooden benches, listening to beach music, watching couples in the dark corners sway back and forth, watching some walk hand and hand into the night I knew I wanted to be a part of it. I knew that there was a life out there I had not experienced. I knew past where the light flickered on the moss and beyond the tree limbs there awaited the sin my parents had warned me against, and I could not wait to find it.

And now, at and in a different age, the interest in Radium Springs has abated and the cost of maintaining the legacy has become too great a risk. It is to be raised, and except for the rock sides of the enclosure surrounding two thirds of its circumference, will be returned to something of its condition before the Casino. I wonder if people walking around those banks years from now will hear through the tree moss the sounds of Little Richard and Bill Haley and Ernie K-Doe as I still do.

*** 12/08/07 ~ Anna (Stephens) Arthur (1962): Is “Skywater” still available? If not, do you know where I can get a nice photograph of the original Radium Springs from the 50’s, early 60’s? My sister, brother and I all graduated from Albany High and I would really like to get them something special for Christmas from the “old days”. Isn't it funny as we get old(er) that we value those wonderful early years? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

*** 10/28/04 ~ Ben McKemie - Jerusalem: (http://arborvista.tripod.com): From an article of our neighbor's marriage, sent by Mom (Betty - Mrs. Frank McKemie) half a year ago and read only now in full, one click on a link sufficed, and Radium Springs suddenly loomed across all the screen. http://www.albanyhightimes.com/radium_springs.htm.

Dumbstruck at unexpected apparition of a showpiece of my mental landscape, reminiscences inundate an inner screen. Grandmother. Eve Bonser managed the 'casino' at some early stage, and years afterward we swam there many summer weekends and weekdays.

Picnics with grandparents, siblings, parents, friends, and neighbors contain memories almost forgotten. Although I surely dream them again and again, I now consciously recall whole scenes, conversations, and motions connected to the spot:

  • the round stone disk with upraised steel hook planted in the middle of the enormous swimming expanse
  • the soft music via large speakers perched in high trees
  • the high slide we casually climbed and zipped down
  • the stretch of yellow sand sloping to the water
  • the moss-draped woods extending behind

What fortune to have known that spot's exotic beauty, and to have dived from the showpiece board into chilling azure pool of gushing spring water.

How many times did adolescents rehash the incident of the trapped diver, and thrill to see other daring explorers descending to plumb caverns' depths, tanks aback and flippers propelling?

Though my children regularly dip in the Mediterranean, ascend the Temple Mount, and pass Ayalon Valley where Joshua fought Gibonites as sun stood still, and doting grandparents have taken them to Coke Intl., Six Flags, and Cyclorama on GA visits, what would I not give to return with them all, if for only one resplendent summer hour, to that indescribable haven!

*** 05/27/03 ~ Tonia Holland (1957) Helvik: I bought the beautiful book that Morgan Murphy and Lamar Clifton wrote. Wouldn't it be wonderful if someone would "step up to the plate," and save the Casino. Pete Lewis and I (and band) played for a lot of dances there in the 60's and Cary Barker and I played in the dining room in the 70's..

*** 03/29/03 ~ Bob Clanton (1954): When I attended Albany High I lived in Putney, about half way between River Bend and Radium Springs. Each day I rode past Radium on the school bus and never gave it a thought. It was there, always had been, always would be.

To the best of my recollections I was only inside twice, both times for our Junior Senior Prom. With so little connection why did my eyes fill with tears when I saw the pictures of it's destruction. Because it was a square in the quilt of my memory. It represented a carefree time, when the only thing I was in a rush to do was grow up. A time when I was in love for the first time. And now the fabric of my memories is coming apart, bit by bit.

I left Albany in Aug.1957 and have only returned briefly three times. Albany, and the friends and classmates I knew there are snapshots frozen in time. With only a few exceptions, all of you are just as you were when I left. That is as it should be. Because that is Home and Home is a safe and secure haven that you return to, even if only in your mind, when you need to recharge yourself.

I prefer to remember Albany and all of you as you were, even the ones that are no longer with us. Therefore I will retain the pictures of Radium as it was and will not save the ones of it's demise.

For all of you that worked to save Radium you have my heartfelt thanks. Remember any time you want to return there you can, Memories are forever. Take care.

*** 03/14/03 ~ Joye Thomas Hadarits (1954): I remember having lunch on the terrace at Radium Springs and they had a wonderful club sandwich and the best lemonade I have ever tasted. We would have special parties there and when my sister Connie was getting married she had her luncheon there for the bridesmaids and so did Jacque Walton. I have so many wonderful memories of Albany and my many wonderful friends growing up. I have a picture of a luncheon given by Delores Ann Taylor Yancey for Joan Jefferson and we are all in our bathing suits around the table and what fun that was. I am so glad to have my memories of home and even today when anyone asks where I am from I first say Albany even after all these years.

*** 02/06/03 ~ Pat Hancock Hamby (1952): Thank you Beverly for this web site. I enjoyed reading everyone's comments of experiences at Radium Springs. My family, cousins, siblings, my dad who was an avid swimmer and friends, Loretta Maxwell, Joann Dukes and I went to Radium with some very fine airmen we dated from Turner Air Force Base and Ohio, while students at AHS. For high school graduation, my parents honored me with a picnic there, with family members as guests.

During my days of nursing training at Riverside Hospital School of Nursing of Jacksonville, FL. Indiana University School of Nursing and Florida State Hospital, occasionally, classmates and I visited the springs.

My dad lived in the Radium Springs area long before he passed away and we went often during those days.

Radium Springs is a treasure to be cherished forever and I am so thankful for the efforts of Lamar Clifton and Morgan Murphy to save it, plus actually, the possibility of raising the Casino above the flood plain. The Casino will not be the same anywhere else.

The 1952 Class Reunion was great and so is the book Skywater.

Over the years, I have visited Radium Springs with my children and grandchildren, who marveled at the sight and coldness of it. Since closure, I dropped by once to reminisce and just have a positive faith that it will be saved and restored.

It is truly a wonderful place, a precious memory of our younger days and a gift to Albany from God and hopefully, we can all visit and enjoy Radium Springs again in the future. I vote to save it.


*** 02/03/03 ~
Jo Anne Johnston O'Quinn (1952): Please add my name to the people wanting to save Radium Springs. I have so many wonderful memories of Radium (dances, freezing in the water, the Cotton Ball, etc.) Hanging out there on Saturday with Barbara Lipsey England, trying to get Richard and Fred Bartlett to notice us and dancing on the outside pavilion. Also, I remember the only night I got to stay out most of the night was my graduation night. Anne Rouse Donovan and I (along with dates that we can't remember their names) ended up at Radium Springs and actually climbed the high slide, but couldn't get up the nerve to slide down into the cold water. We just backed down the ladder.

My youngest son, Scott, had his graduation dance there many years after my time. My memories of that night aren't all that great as he jumped into the "boil" on a dare from his friends. The part I didn't like was that he had on a brand new suit that I had purchased for his graduation.

As you can see, I do have tons of memories and would love to do anything I can to keep Radium so please add my name to the list.

*** 7/9/02 ~ Morgan Murphy (1947 - since deceased): Found your WebSite page ... good one on Radium.

Dougherty County now owns the Radium Casino. It was deeded to them by FEMA with the stipulation that the building be torn down by the end of this year. We are diligently working with Senators Max Cleland and Zell Miller, and Congressman Sanford Bishop to try and save the building from the wrecking ball. They are developing a bill to submit to Congress in order to save it. It is going to take congressional action to pull this off. The plan is to jack the building up eight feet. This would be out of the flood plain. I have found a company that is capable of accomplishing this feat. The Homeowners Association in Radium Springs would form a 501 (c) (3) non profit status. They, in turn, would manage the building, with maybe some rental offices on the second floor for cash flow. The downstairs could be rented out for reunions, weddings and all those good things. Our senators think they can find the money to do all of this. FEMA has told us they will fight the bill if it gets on the floor of Congress. That is where we are now. We are wishing for the best.

*** 7/27/02 ~ Buster Wasden (Class of 1955): I'll never forget spring and summers at Radium Springs. When I was a lowly freshman or sophomore at AHS I couldn't wait to get out to Radium to ... ready for this???? ... SWIM!!! It was the coldest water anywhere around (still is).
When I finally got to be a junior I discovered girls ... wow! Radium was a virtual hunting ground for young bucks like myself (and there were scads of them, i.e., Wayne Sheffield, Charlie Foster, Sammy Mansfield, Brinson Phillips, and I could go on and on ... we never caught anything but we loved the hunt!). But when I became a senior I found the real meaning of Radium .... Dancing at the Pavilion!!!!
Remember the hot, sticky nights at Radium? You would be so hot that your clothes (white t shirt and levis) literally stuck to your body ..... it was cool!!! And the feeling that you got when they announced over the speakers that it was time to go home ...!
I loved to watch DAP do her thing ... she was really good. And remember Sonny Westberry? He wasn't half bad himself. And of course, Wayne Kennedy .... Mr. COOL!!!
I drive by the old place now from time to time and am saddened to think that they may tear it down. There should be something we could do to help keep it as a "historic" site or something. If anyone has any ideas please let me know. I want to help the old girl survive.
Thanks for the memories, Buster

*** 7/09/02 ~ Susan Riffe O'Neal (Class of 1954): When I was a child the two most glamorous places in my life were Radium Springs and the New Albany Theater. As I commented recently to Rachel Greer Norras when she was here in Norfolk, when we went to the "picture show" in Albany I felt we were stepping into the movie world itself. The pavilion at Radium Springs also seemed like a terribly sophisticated place to me. Moreover, Radium Springs was the only place I was allowed to swim since my parents thought the waters there were healthy and suspected swimming pools of spreading or even causing dread infantile paralysis. I hope the activists are successful in thwarting FEMA.

*** 07/01/02 ~ Jon Crawford (1954): One of this country boy’s best (early on) thrills before AHS days was GOING TO RADIUM! I can’t remember my first time going – older brothers Holt, AHS ’41 and Gene, ’43 probably introduced me to that wonderful place. I do remember Gene getting somewhat disgusted and throwing me in to shorten the time to be spent on swimming lessons – very effective method. I’m sure we all had self imposed goals – diving from the board; getting to the bottom of the boil; climbing the rock columns to the ‘tower’ above the board, etc. Who will remember or admit how hard that was early on? Believe me, it was as hard for me to go off that ‘tower’ for the first time as it was to make my first jump in Airborne training at Benning a few years later.

I’d usually have to hitch hike (remember this was the 40’s) and on one or two occasions when I didn’t have the price of admission, there was always a soft spot to slither underneath the tall fence back towards the rear woods. Once inside, there was never enough time for all that Radium offered. Does anyone remember diving down to certain cracks and crevices in the rocks on the side walls of the boil and digging out the blue/gray clay? We’d make enough trips down to accumulate enough to smear it all over our skinny bodies, then dive in and swim leaving this blue/gray trail in the clear water. I wonder which genius figured that one out. And of course there was always the creek to explore – always good for frogs, snakes, eels and whatever else was good to delight the girls.

These things plus all sorts of games, races and just generally checking out the island, sandy bottom and everything in general, kept us from too much gawking (with our intelligent looking open mouth drools) at the beautiful girls. I remember going to what must have been a birthday party for Diane Gortatowsky, and there was a picture, but I can’t find it. Who remembers that?

Someone had the good taste to entertain us all with great background music – perhaps different songs take each of you back there – I cannot hear ALL THE THINGS YOU ARE without being there. Don’t want to get mushy in front of all of you but it was the promised kiss of springtime for me. Jon

*** 6/13/02 ~ Joye Thomas Hadarits (1954): I was able to view your wonderful page finally and I cannot begin to tell you of the pleasure it gave me. I was looking at some old albums the other day and I have a picture of myself sitting on the wall and I think Jackie Clark took the picture. I lived on Hibiscus Drive for several years and spent a lot of time at Radium Springs and Jack did as well. Thanks for the memories. Love Joye

*** 6/10/02 ~ Harriet Ort Cornelius (1955): I have enjoyed the memories of my "Albany Friends" so very much that I thought, I must think, think, think, and come up with something worthwhile to share on the subject of Radium. I was simply amazed at the memories Robert Gotsch came up with. He must have a photographic memory!

To start off the season every year, my mom would always pack a picnic lunch, invite a few friends and have a birthday party for me at Radium. A new bathing suit would be part of the celebration. At some point during the afternoon we would have a water ballet out in the big part of the water. We were sure that we looked just like Esther Williams.

DAP and I most definitely loved to dance and did teach a lot of boys to do the bop. Of course, the living room of homes was the training ground, then they would graduate to The Pavilion at Radium. It had a rough gray slate finish on the floor and I can remember on at least one occasion, we danced so much that I wore the skin off my feet. I do not know why we danced barefoot. Or maybe, it was just me that did, but my feet took a beating.

Then there were all those hunks that showed off their muscles and diving skills as they plunged into the deep blue water. Just before Lem McLendon passed away, I had an opportunity to tell him how I had admired him diving into the water from the high dive. He was one of those wonderful divers that hardly made a splash when he hit the water. I think I tried diving into the well once or twice and almost lost my bathing suit. So, from them on I decided that it must be a guy thing.

The beautiful water, the cypress trees covered with Spanish moss and friends all around us made this our Camelot.

*** 5/27/02 ~ Joan Kling (1955): Thanks so very much for the classmate updates, and the Radium Springs news .... My family moved to Albany just before the 1953-54 school term, our Junior year, so I don't remember very much about Radium Springs except our end of school picnics, and that it was a beautiful place, and the water was so freezing cold.

I'm glad I'm back in the loop and corresponding with some of my friends from way back when we were "a little" younger. Barbara A. Hoffman and I are reminiscing about when we worked together on our first office jobs. Thanks for getting us in touch with each other.

*** 5/24/02 ~ Barbara Lipsey (1952): Yes, it certainly was "our Camelot"... Most of those times were after me but I do remember many of them with love and affection. Wish we could go back sometimes ...

*** 5/23/02 ~ Mary Jean Cook (1955): The Radium emails are always so interesting and bring back so many good memories about Albany. I guess the older we get the more we like to think about the good old days when life seemed simple. It was also sad to read the article about Radium Springs in the Atlanta Journal yesterday. I wish there was something we could do about saving it but I don't know what it would be do you? Is there anybody we can write to? I enjoyed reading Bob Gotsch's article about AHS and all the things we did as teen-agers. Lou, our daughter and his daughter were sorority sisters at Auburn.

*** 5/23/02 ~ Robert (Bob) Gotsch (1953): Radium Springs Memories: the Clark Thread Sunday afternoon picnics behind the sandy beach in 1949 and 1950; the first time swimming in "water over my head" between the island and the platform; Ted Cahill diving off the island and landing on my mother who happened to be swimming around the island at the time, she never forgot that event; wrestling on the soapy raft with the other guys, and always ending up in the water early, Claude Boynton was the "king of the raft" that summer; listening to "Sundays Down South" over the PA at the "boil" being broadcast from WQXI in Atlanta and thinking how great is was listening to the "big city station" playing those "neat sounds"; checking out the "chicks" in their Jantzen's sitting on their towels by the wall next to the stairwell, and thinking as a 15 year old, next time I walk on by, I'll get the courage to stop and talk; noticing from about the years of 11 to 17, that the spot by the stairs always seemed to be occupied by the "really cute girls", but the group changed gradually each year, I wondered who set up the line of succession as a 15 year old;

How about hanging out at "The Pavilion" on Friday and Saturday nights after the movies at the Albany Theater with your dates; I learned to shag there, and those shag steps keep me in demand at weddings with the "ole girls" who remember how, greeting me with "I see you're a dancer", to which I reply, "Let's dance, mama". We always sit down when the wedding band plays the 20 minute rendition of "Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch" and all the girls over 35 get up and start dancing with each other; Yes, I still remember "DAP" Page leaning against a post at the Pavilion soloing on steps she learned at the "Hangout" in PC, which has since become a victim of the "hurricane urban renewal program";

How 'bout the rest of the group also thinking dancing with a post "was cool" and imitating her; I learned all of my shagging steps at the Pavilion, and as a result I got to meet some neat girls at the Tech fraternity parties and after graduation at those swinging Atlanta apartment parties in the early 60's; I always proudly stated "I learned this stuff at the Radium Pavilion; taking a break from the dance at the Casino, and walking around the pool in the moonlight with your date (Charlotte Curry or Mary Jean Cook or Sydnor Peacock), and thinking "does it get any better then this?" Reading about the Smith Family moving to Albany with Beverly and her sisters in the Albany Herald (with a picture) and residing across from Radium in those apartments; riding your bike to Radium during a hot summer day with a couple of buddies, and carefully balancing on the white line by the side of the road, to stay out of the cars way coming up behind you; stopping at five points to get a Top Cola (16 oz for the long ride to Radium), putting Planters Peanuts into the bottle, and "shooting torpedoes" with the peanuts.

Returning to Radium in the early nineties and realizing things had changed when three uniformed guards stopped and searched my bag for weapons and booze because they had some "incidents" between some of the groups on site recently. . . .I looked at the makeup of crowd, the Jantzen girls were gone from sitting against the wall by the staircase, Dap and BB where long gone from shagging against the posts at the Pavilion, Claude Boynton and the soapy raft were gone, but young black guys and their dates were in a corner by the Pavilion, the troops from the base were gathered on the grass in front of the gazebo, and the redneck guys and their dates were on blankets, scattered on the grass and the area behind the sandy beach. I understood why the armed guards were in place.

I walked around from the slide, to the restaurant deck, to the Pavilion, across the grass lawn, over to the sandy beach, and back. As I looked into the "boil", I remembered Howard Bedenbaugh and the perfect arc dive he could make off of the high dive and land with a minimum splash, and think "what a cool dive". I looked around again and noted how worn and tired Radium looked. I didn't know anyone there. The AHS gang was gone.

You can't go home again, but it was great while it lasted as "Our Camelot".

Below is an update on the line of succession protocol concerning "the wall" at Radium. Our contributor is my sister Linda, Class of '58.

Linda Gotsch (1958): I was one of those girls who sat at the wall at Radium. It happened your junior year if you were in and definitely your summer of the senior year. Baby oil and iodine was the sun tan oil of choice, plus making a big deal of mixing the stuff and rubbing it on your bod. You just sat there and looked good. Linda

*** 5/21/02 ~ Anne Ruffin (1956): Thanks for sending the Radium memories. I took a little jaunt down memory lane.

*** 4/26/02 ~ Barbara Amann (1955): Radium Springs! There will never be another place like it. I remember one of my first parties there -- if I remember correctly, I was with David Akridge (whom I looked for at the reunions - 1985 and 1995 but never did see). I did remind Jackie Clark, however, that he teased me unmercifully by spelling words and getting me to say them with my Yankee accent -- he didn't remember! Does anyone remember the parachute "chair" that was installed there one summer for Air Force survival training? I want you all to know that I had the courage (that only a sixteen-year-old would have) to actually jump from it as it was raised over the center! My sons would never believe it!

I'm so glad that the '95 reunion was held there; it brought back a lot of pleasant memories

***4/25/02 ~ Taylor Harrison (1954): I can remember that (judge) Bubba Stewart was "king of the raft" practically all summer in the early 50's. The raft was a gift from TAFB as well as I remembered.

Patsy Gregory (1955): Thanks so much for the updates on our "history" ------ each of us has memories of Radium Springs which would entertain everyone for hours. Keep the news coming and I will keep passing it along ..

***4/23/02 ~ Joe Ed Rossman (1955): Thought I'd add some of my thoughts to Cleme’s. Remember church picnics at Radium after Bible School in June or July. (That's from my pre-high school days). I am like Cleme because I also remember the so-called "Tree House" as The Pavilion. Diving from the board over the boil and from the tower where all the boys tried so hard to show off what "real Men" they were.

And don't forget eating at the Casino (never the gambling kind) on Sunday afternoons with Rosin baked potatoes to go with the roast beef.

And what about swimming over to the island and climbing up on the rock wall to walk around under the trees then diving back into that (seemingly) freezing water to swim to the raft. I remember diving off the raft one summer and going straight to the bottom and hitting my head on a rock. It still hurts! Maybe that's why I've always been such a nut.

Cleme is right. None of us were what you would call "Rich", but when it came to fun and good times together there was a richness to our lives that is somehow missing from what young people go through today. No drugs (except a few beers if you could get them) a lot of self respect and respect for other people, and most of all, lots of good fun just being together. There'll never be another "Radium."

***4/22/02 ~ Clementine Wiggins (1957 - now deceased): Oh, the wonderful memories that name provokes. Hot summer night’s air conditioned by the Springs. Listening to the jukebox and dancing. You're right about the name "Tree House" I don't remember calling it anything but the "Pavilion". Remember how cold it was when you first went in the water and how you stayed cool on a hot Sowega summer day a good half hour after you got out and Will or Wiley Smith climbing up in the tree to dive down into the boil. I remember one day a gray oak snake dropped into the water and emptied the area near by of all swimmers. The Senior picnic and of course the Jr. Sr. prom were held there. I really think the teenagers of today would envy us if they had one taste of what we had and I wouldn't trade it for anything they have today. I know that there are a lot more Radium memories out there and hope you will forward those to me.

Tommy Herrington (1956): Re: The Senior Picnic and the Jr. Sr. Prom at Radium. I remember that night pretty well. Maynard playing the trombone, and the fact that I had been given four flat tires by somebody ... (on my mother's old '41 Dodge with the Fluid Drive. Even had a running board!). I guess we will never forget our times growing up....

B.B. Rhodes (1952): I remember Cleme Wiggins and I bet she remembers B.B. as one of Motie's older friends. As we get older we wonder what happened to people - where are they - what are they doing, etc. I also remember Radium Springs, being a life guard, diving in the boil, our Jr. Sr. picnic and winning the swimming race, dancing and skinny dipping in the springs when no one was looking. I also remember gigging ells in the creek and selling them to blacks in Harlem.

***4/19/02 ~ B.B. Rhodes (1952): The Radium article was in the Albany Herald and was an interview with Morgan Murphy about the book Skywater that he and Lamar Clifton wrote. I have a copy of the book and it's really good. You can get a copy from Albany Bank and Trust. (A new bank in town / home owned). Take care B.B.

Taylor Harrison (1954): The latest is that the casino is to be torn down. Seems FEMA paid Manley for it & the next step calls for tearing it down. Hopefully, still in the air, but doesn't look good for the home team.

Beverly Smith (1955): When we first moved to Albany from Jacksonville, FL in November of '48, we lived in the Magnolia apartments straight east from Radium. There was a flood that fall/winter that prohibited going into McIntosh Elementary - you couldn't get across the Flint into town and though Radium was flooded too, I didn't have a clue what it was! But I certainly found out - for Radium was the "ground of bonding" for me. In the summer it was Mother's baby sitter - and every summer I went nearly every day. My closest group of girlfriends ... Sydnor Peacock, Sara Cordell, Mary Jane Cook and Roxana Speight ... were there most days with me! And I have pictures - black and white of course to prove it! We turned our little bodies brown as nuts with baby oil and iodine. And even though I had incredibly natural blonde hair at that time, in went the lemon juice to make it lighter! We wore Jantzen’s, Catalina’s, and Rose Marie's (or something like that) and we drank wonderful icy co-colas in little green bottles! We sun bathed in the little area just to the right of the grand stairway! And yes - dancing in the Pavilion was dancing the good way ... mostly jitterbug and the wonderful "close" dancing! I didn't like heights, so the high dive and the big slide were not for me! And I really was not crazy about the cold water either, but one December 31 at midnight some of us simply got crazy and jumped in the water from the concrete wall! I remember I forgot I was wearing a brand new watch! I rescued it with my hair dryer later that night!

A group of Juniors "sponsored" the Junior-Senior dances and I was dating Terry Coleman the year I was a sponsor - unfortunately he played drums in Ray Ragsdale's "Baron's" - frankly I wasn't impressed at all - especially with the fact that if he was my date, I would have no one to dance with!!! SO - we broke up and John Huie took me! HOW SHALLOW OF ME!!! But Terry did a beautiful thing ... Annie Jean Pridgen - did not have a date, but was also a sponsor, and she asked Terry if he would be her date so she could be listed in the newspaper as having an escort. HE DID THE BIG THING .... HE SAID YES!!!

I also remember the Senior picnic my senior year - especially the relays!!!! Somehow Suzy Whittaker and I ended up as the 2 girls on the same relay team - which was a big mistake for all the rest of the teams! We just happened to be the 2 fastest girl runners in the school - and our team was finished before the others got started good.

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