Abner O. (Joe) Whiddon, already a third-generation Texan Whiddon, prominent land owner and farmer, founded Crystal Lake 1.0 in 1913 where his corn and crops had grown on the West side of Crystal Lake. The lake was fed by a spring-fed creek the Caddo indians called “Clear Branch”. Crystal Lake included very nice facilities for the day, night swimming and an indoor wooden floor skating rink. Sunday church services were held at the lake every week but the local church-goers frowned on “mixed-sex bathing”. To his dismay, a huge flood washed its ox-built dam away in the great flood of 1933. His son, Orren Whiddon “O. C.”, AKA “Sugarbear” , took up the dream in 1947, along with his wife, Cynthia Betty Cockrell, a school teacher and Masters graduate of SFA. O.C. being jack-of-all trades, could build or fix just about anything. O.C. rebuilt the dam larger and stronger and re-engineered the spillway area. The Crystal Lake 2.0 swimming area was relocated to the sandy East bank of the lake. Several iterations of bath house locations, piers, and swimming arrangements were attempted including night swimming, and two golf course locations.
Orren Whiddon had strict rules, though. After only a few years, glass bottles were totally out-lawed—and so was cussing. In fact, he preferred church groups and boy scout troops to reserve it in the daytime. A Catholic church held their services there every week. An all-denominational Sunrise Service was held on the hill overlooking the lake every Easter. I loved visiting my grandparents, Rev. and Mrs. R. O. Bazer, for Easter when they lived south of Shreveport. We’d come visit my great-grandparents, Wesley and Lula Cockrell (Cynthia Betty Cockrell’s mother), and go to that sunrise service. The Bazers retired to Joaquin in 1967. O.C. drained the lake every year after Christmas. He’d get on his tractor and clean it every January to pull sand back from the depths of the lake back to the beautiful sandy shores.
Orren kept it open from Memorial Day through Labor Day, on weekends only.
You could find anything you wanted at Crystal Lake: water slides, diving boards, a kiddie pool, platforms to rest on, a high trolley (triple zip-line for you youngsters) for thrills, slippery tops to twirl on, a putt-putt golf course, absolutely the best hamburger stand and snack bar, picnic tables, a bathhouse to change in, and even pool tables and a dance hall at night after the church bunch left!
The bathhouses were so wondrous to me as a child. There, you could rent anything: swimsuits, intertubes, paddle boats, towels. You had a box inside the building with a number on it for your possessions. You were given an elastic wrist band with a metal number on it to match, to claim your things.
O. C. Whiddon had to close the lake in 1980 when his health deteriorated, but he had already furnished a million memories for us. His son, Richard Abner Whiddon, re-opened and operated Crystal Lake from 1985-1988. Orren’s daughter, Coach Susan Whiddon, considered re-opening the lake in 1989. Due to changing public views toward outdoor family activities and an ever-growing trend toward frivolous lawsuits and needless litigiousness Crystal Lake has remained closed.
Current content from a memoir by Rose Deskin – Click here for full article.