THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
Tales from the old-timer
Issue Date: July 25, 2012
At a recent public hearing about the upcoming dredging of the Peshtigo River, a speaker noted that the dredging would restore swimming to the Peshtigo River. How quickly history fades in human memories! Back in the late 1930s the river was aswarm with swimmers. Downtown was a favored spot, just upstream from the bridge, and the city fathers had a large raft built, complete with a diving tower, and floating on large 55-gal. empty oil drums.
On warm summer days as many as a dozen or more boys would be swimming in the river, launching from the west bank, and sunning themselves on the raft. This was ended one day when a group of them swayed the tower back and forth far enough to capsize the entire structure, and that was the end of downtown swimming in the river.
After 1945 Jerry Boom, a favorite and easily accessible beach located on a big bend of the river, with a nice clean, sandy bottom, was the ideal swimming spot. The city fathers had a concrete diving board launch erected and even commissioned regular lifeguards to maintain order there. This was gradually becoming a favored launching beach for powerboats, however, and the operators were subject to no kind of rules or restraints, so swimming anywhere near became hazardous.
Finally the inevitable happened and a young man was killed as he rose in the water and his skull was gravely damaged by a boat propeller. He was too slow in getting out of the way, as the motto of the boat operators was Im a comin get out of the way.
After this tragedy, the city council ordered Jerry Boom fenced off, and it was no longer accessible by foot, bike, or automobile - the boats had it all to themselves.
The beach at Badger Park is set off with a floating barrier from deep water, so is really only a wading pool for youngsters. Swimming is no more in the City of Peshtigo. There is an oxbow in the Peshtigo River a mile or two downstream, and shallow water both above and below it keeps high powered boats at bay. Diving is out from the high bank, as the water is too shallow for diving. It is DNR property, so swimming should be legal and quite safe.