Skywater

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Co-Authors, Lamar Clifton ('46) and Morgan Murphy ('46 & '47)

Book Highlights History of Albany Landmark

By Elliott Minor, Associated Press Writer

ALBANY ~ Morgan Murphy (NOTE: now deceased) and Lamar Clifton have worked for years to save the Radium Springs Casino, once a glittering resort and ballroom that drew tourists and locals to one of Georgia’s seven natural wonders.

The Casino opened in the roaring ‘20s overlooking Radium Springs, which normally gushes sapphire-blue water from caverns linked to an aquifer far below. A long drought has left the pool surrounding the springs a murky brown these days, and the hulking white structure may be razed because it sits in a flood zone.

But even if the building is destroyed, Murphy and Clifton have preserved its memory in a 150 page book titled "Skywater" that highlights the history of Radium Springs.

"This place for years was the social center of this part of the country," said Murphy. The 72-year-old retired banker remembers riding his bicycle to Radium Springs to swim, jitterbug and listen to big bands.

"That’s where you went to see and be seen - girl watching, boy watching," said Murphy, the book’s publisher. "They’d have bands out there, the Auburn Knights, Smiling Ben Shorter from Cuthbert and other regional bands that played our kind of music, the Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey type of stuff. A lot of lasting relationships were made out there."

The Casino provided swimming, golfing and other recreational activities to generations of Southwest Georgia residents and to Northern tourists headed for Florida on old U.S. Route 19. The tourist business slowed down after traffic was rerouted on a four-lane several miles east of the Casino.

Groups hosted conventions, reunions, beauty pageants, proms and dances in its ballroom. An adjoining structure known as the Tree House had a jukebox for dancing.

Although rebuilt after a 1982 fire and renovated extensively after it was left muddy and in disarray by floods in 1994 and 1998, the fate of the Casino and the Tree House remain uncertain.

Manley rebuilt the Casino after the 1982 fire and a preservation group headed by Murphy refurbished it after the floods of 1994 and 1998.

Radium Springs is one of several "blue holes" along the Flint River’s bottom. They gush 68-degree water year around. Radium’s water flows into a pool directly in front of the Casino that feeds Skywater Creek, a tributary of the Flint.

Blue holes are significant because they provide habitat for Gulf striped bass, a large fish that has to huddle over the cool springs to escape the Flint’s summer temperatures. Biologists say the fish would not survive without blue holes.

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