A great story from one of our Walkerville Times readers, Howard Pare, Windsor, Ontario.
I can’t believe that in my early teens, along with many others, I went swimming at the bathing beach located at the foot of Bridge Avenue at the Detroit River. We had dressing rooms and bathroom facilities and we even had our own life guard, Mr. Farmer. In those days the City of Windsor’s sewers emptied directly into the Detroit River. There was a sanitary sewer that emptied next to the beach, not downstream but upstream so that the flow went right through he beach area.
These were the early “Dirty Thirties” when the water was polluted, smelly and full of weeds but there was no other place to go. To swim in the deep part of the beach, one would wait for the water to clear, dive off the sewer dock, swim out into the deeper part of the river for about two hundred feet to the diving board and boardwalk at the western part of the beach.
I can’t believe I went swimming at the Bridge Avenue Bathing Beach.
Excerpts from the “Border Cities Star”:
July 21, 1923
“The beach is perfectly safe for children. Although the water is somewhat polluted due to the beach being below city sewers, nothing is to be feared unless the water is swallowed.” Dr. Fred Adams, Medical Officer of health says.
Aug. 4, 1923
A daily average of 536 persons took advantage of the Bridge Avenue Beach records for the 31 days from July 3 to August 2 show. A lifeguard is always on hand. It’s very safe nature makes it ideal for children.
July 3 , 1925
Because one case of typhoid fever has been traced to bathing in the sewer laden water at the foot of Bridge Avenue, Mayor Frank J. Mitchell and Dr. F. Adams, medical health officer, will ask Chief Constable Daniel Thompson to place an officer at the beach to prevent bathing.
July 26, 1927
Seven Lives Saved During Last Two Weeks. James Farmer Lifeguard Praised for Work at Beach. “the beach is perfectly safe,” the lifeguard explains, “As long as swimmers stay within the safety limits which are plainly marked.”
June 19, 1929
In the meantime the situation has not improved and although a lifeguard is on duty at the Bridge Avenue Beach, certain conditions there make it extremely dangerous for bathers, according to Chief Proctor. There is also a large Windsor sewer which has its outlet to the river at this point, and the chief contends the beach cannot be safe with such a condition existing.
This story and many more plus wonderful old photos of Windsor, Essex County and Detroit are found in Walkerville Publishing’s award winning book, “Best of The Times” (408 pages, hard cover, coffee table size $45) and their new book, “Windsor Then – a pictorial history of Windsor, Ontario’s glorious past” (128 pages, soft cover, $20) available on line at walkervilletimes.com or through firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 519-255-9527.