|From Adrian Despres: Pete and I grew up in Rock Lake Village and spent our summers working as
Life Guards and grounds keepers at Rock
Lake Pool for the Wilan brothers, Dave & Sam.
Working at Rock Lake was like a dream come true. Dave & Sam Wilan took good care of the kids that worked for them during the summer and we thought the world of them.
|From part of a newspaper article.....
"Its 400-by-200-foot dimensions qualified it as one of the largest concrete-bottom pools in the country. Businessmen C.A. French and George Caldwell carved the pool out of a former Spring Hill rock quarry. High rock walls on two sides hinted at the site's heritage.
Despite the opening splash it made, French and Caldwell sold the pool to a real estate company in 1942. Joe Wilan, who had been managing the property for the real estate agents, bought it four years later.
Wilan had operated a swimming hole on Coal River, Lower Falls Beach. Bad weather in the summer of Depression-era 1931 bankrupted the Lower Falls business.
But Joe and brothers Dave and Sam were to make much more out of Rock Lake.
Dick Reed of WCHS-TV broadcasted weekly "record hops" from the upstairs portion of the pool's sprawling clubhouse.
Rock Lake captivated the imagination, with its slides, spraying fountain, trapeze and miniature churning sternwheel. Folks used to travel from other states to swim there.
Swimmers jumped off a platform in the deep end, to be catapulted into the water from a tilted trampoline. You could swing out over the water to a height of 25 feet and execute acrobatic back flips and reverse twists before entering the water.
"They were just accidents waiting to happen," reflects Mike Haynes, who bought the pool property from Sam Wilan in 1992. "You couldn't do those kinds of things today."
The Wilans ran a tight, clean ship. Joe Wilan docked lifeguards' pay for each cigarette butt he found.
The Wilan brothers owned an assortment of business concerns in and near Charleston. A motel. A drive-in. A restaurant. Vending machines. Parking lots. Gasoline stations.
Though for years he owned the only large pool in town, Sam Wilan, 85, describes the profit as "lousy."
"You were working against the weather all the time." Still, Rock Lake used to pack them in. One day brought 4,000 people, Sam Wilan said. People knew better than to try to get in on July Fourth weekend."