Martin’s Dam Club


The spring of 1924 was a busy one for the five men who were then organizing Martin’s Dam Club. Meetings were of almost weekly occurrence, with many at the home of the treasurer, T. Magill Patterson, on Midland avenue, others being held at the home of the president, the late Humbert B. Powell, who then lived on Windermere avenue.

The first annual meeting, held in April 1925, took place in the office of the late Frederick H. Treat, on North Wayne avenue. By that time, other names had been added to the roster of board members, among them Louis S. Adams, of Radnor; Charles W. Bayliss and the late John H. Stone, of Wayne; and the late Murdock Kendrick, of Strafford.

This brought the total Board membership to ten, the number at which it was held for some years. Upon Mr. Kendrick’s death, Major Clifton Lisle, of Wayne, was elected to his place. Major Lisle’s place was later taken by N.C. Cregar, of Radnor, who still takes an active part in the management of the club. Other board members of those early days of the club were Charles H. Howson, Archie D. Swift and William P. Cochran, all of Wayne. Among those names and those of the original five it is easy to recognize the heads of so many of the large families of Wayne of the middle 1920’s.

The amount of the first payment due George R. Park on the lease of the Martin’s Dam property was met by an assessment made on the original five board members. Letters of invitation to join the club were soon in the mail, with membership at first restricted to residents of the Radnor-to-Strafford district. Mr. Powell, in his capacity of attorney, saw to the articles of incorporation and the by-laws of the club.

Mr. Adams, an architect, designed the gate at the Croton road entrance to the property. With Mr. Kelton, he also headed the property committee, which was to make such repairs to the pump house as were necessary to convert it into a bath house. These two men were also responsible for the purchase of new equipment.

The owner of a small refreshment stand which was on the Dam property was first requested to remove it, but later this order was rescinded. The small building also served every purpose, from a tool house to sleeping quarters for life guards, when it became necessary to maintain 24 hour protection of the property.

By the July 9 meeting of ther newly-formed club the membership committee, consisting of the Messrs. Treat, Patterson and Lewis, reported that the lists were closed for the season, according to the limits originally set. By this time two men had been employed for full time duty, Carl Malmesbury, as a life guard, and Howard E. Adams, as caretaker. Dr. Richard P. Lienhardt was beginning his sanitary inspection, not only of Martin’s Dam itself, but of the streams which fed it – a duty which was to be his for many years thereafter. A row boat had been purchased, and orders given for an additional dock, a diving board and a float.

Where there are now eight lifeguards at the club, there was but one in the first few years of its existence. Carl Malmesbury always held a unique place, both for his swimming prowess and his management of the small fry. Mr. Lewis recalls him as “a big web-footed swimmer… who obligingly gave lessons to members’ children as well as exhibitions of diving and swimming. One of his feats which particularly amused the children was being able to swim without the use of arms, simply by flapping his big feet in the manner of a duck”.

Howard Adams, who acted as special policeman and night watchman, was an elderly man who was well known to all the members because of the paternal interest he always seemed to take in the club. Since it proved very difficult, at first, to keep “itinerant visitors” off the club property and out of Martin’s Dam waters, his services were valuable at all times.

The bath houses, when the club was formed and for many years afterwards, Mr. Lewis describes as “patched up extensions of a building which had been erected for a pumping station… the main building was a brick structure with wooden additions at various levels, a few benches and nails on which to hang clothes. One of the early improvements was to build bath houses in the women’s quarters, which were in the brick building. Galvanized pails filled with water for washing feet were, along with the nails and benches, the only furnishings.”

Mrs. Y. Parran Dawkins, one of the original members of Martin’s Dam, recalls the first swimming meet held there, the picture of which she has lent as illustration for this article. One of the small figures in the foreground on the raft is that of her daughter, Susan, now Mrs. George S. Clayton, of Strafford. Although unidentified, others in the group might well include members of the Swift, Lewis, Howson, Kelton, Bayliss and Patterson families, in addition to other children of that generation. Many, like Mrs. Clayton, are now bringing their own small fry over to the Dam. Mrs. Clayton herself was the first woman life guard ever to be employed by the club.

Mrs. Dawkins was chairman of this first meet. Among those who assisted her were Carl Malmesbury. Jane Adams (daughter of Louis S. Adams) and C.C. Stewart, always one of the club’s most interested members and on the board of directors. Among the events were the quarter-mile swim, as marked off by Carl, and “the little 10-yard race”. Age limit for the latter was seven years, and contestants could get in the “Baby Pond” in any expedient fashion, even to falling in. With its first, second and third prizes this was always a favorite event with all, including the spectators. Mr. Stewart was the contributor of the “Improvement Cup”. At this first meet, Sue Dawkins headed the list and Mr. Stewart’s son came in second. Since it did not seem quite ethical for either to take it, a very astonished small boy who qualified as third received the cup.

Awards were also made at this time to the boys and girls who had completed the greatest number of turns on the quarter-mile swim during the summer. When the carefully kept records were compiled, it was found that all the children’s records had been eclipsed by that of an adult member of the Club, who was always prominent in the life of Wayne, Mrs. Vera Gugert. Amid rousing cheers she was awarded one of the coveted green felt frogs used as emblems on bathing suits. In addition, all the winning youngsters received their awards. More than any other members, Mrs. Dawkins and Mr. Stewart worked to develop basic interest in good swiming among the boys and girls of Martin’s Dam in the early days of ther club.

(To be concluded)