More Wayne baseball / Kelly’s Dam (Natatorium)

The last two articles in this series have been devoted to baseball in the Main Line League, and particularly as it was played by the Wayne team in its early days. Then, in the first part of the twenties, local interest lagged and Wayne withdrew from the League. It was not until 1946 that Wayne rejoined, this time under the managership of Tommy Arena, for many years a catcher for the Wayne I. A. C. team. At the close of the season Wayne was in fifth place in the league.

The next season, that of 1947, Wayne took the title after a most exciting series of games. With “Mickey” Gavin as manager, Wayne, in an 11-team league, won the western-half title, going on from there to gain the championship in a thrilling seven game series with Drexel Hill. A general riot marked the fifth game in this final play-off series when Ray Edelman bowled over Larry Aigeldinger, Drexel Hill shortstop, while sliding into second base. The riot was eventually quieted down, and Wayne not only won that game, but eventually took the series.

Although Wayne was not the final victor in the 1948 series, the team did get into the playoffs, defeating Narberth in the semi-finals, only to be defeated by Manoa in the final game of the seven game series. According to my informant, “Johnny Byrne starred on the mound in two of the games for Wayne. In the sixth game Wayne was losing 10-0 going into the last inning. They scored nine runs and left the bases loaded before the final out was made in the ninth inning.”

Last season Wayne beat their arch-rival, Narberth, in the seven-game final series, thus winning the championship. “In the fourth and fifth games”, to quote again one more versed in baseball ligno than this writer, “the locals lost by lop-sided scores, but in the final two games received great pitching from Jim Covello and Jim Morrissey.”

Paying tribute to some of the men who have brought the name of Wayne to the fore in the local baseball world since it rejoined the Main Line League, there is Mickey Gavin, under whose guidance our team has won two championships and has played in the finals the third year. During his term he has sent several players to the minor leagues, some of whom are still playing. Among them are George Brown and Norm Swigler of the 1947 team; Pete Caniglia, outfielder, and Andy Schultz, a fine young left-hander of 1948; Vince DiMagistris, who returned to Wayne in 1949; Ed Skladany, Temple University star of the ‘48 team and John Maiden and Walt Lownes, of the 1949 team.

Attendance at these games was probably at its best in 1947, when over 1000 fans were drawn to each of the first two Sunday games against Narberth. Television may be in part the cause of smaller attendance since then. Be that as it may, Manoa and Ardmore have withdrawn since the close of the ‘49 season, which was such a successful season for Wayne.
Just a year ago this month when this column was but a few weeks old, the writer devoted the major part of one article in the series to the story of Kelly’s Dam, a body of water down in the hollow near the railroad tracks in the general vicinity of what is now Willow avenue. In its beginnings it was just a good old “swimmin’ hole”. Then an interested group took over by renting the rights to Kelly’s Dam and installing equipment and building dressing rooms. A high wooden fence made for privacy for the swimmers. Wayne was one of the first localities in this section to have such an outdoor swimming pool.

Since first writing of Kelly’s Dam, some interesting additional data in regard to it has come the way of this writer. It was in May, 1895 that a charter was applied for by the Wayne Natatorium Association. The incorporators were John P. Wood, president; Richards H. Johnson, vice-president; Christopher Fallon, Esq., secretary and Julius A. Bailey, treasurer. Also among the incorporators were T. Stewart Wood, Herman Wendell and Frederick H. Treat. A charter was granted on June 10, 1895, by Acting Judge William B. Waddell. Kelley’s Lake was then little more than a muddy pond, ranging in depth from about eight inches to eight feet. Its water supply was from the creek which ran from Leaming’s Wood through North Wayne. The R. H. Johnson Company was awarded the contract for excavating and constructing a pool about 500 feet long with an average width of about 100 feet. A fine clubhouse was built, the first floor being used as a ladies’ dressing room and the second floor as living quarters for the manager. A men’s dressing room was built midway of the pool.

At the formal opening of the pool in July, 1895, a large crowd of amateur swimmers, representing the Philadelphia Swimming Association, the New York Athletic Club, the University of Pennsylvania and a number of other organizations was present. It was indeed a gala occasion! The first swimming instructor was Charles Holryd, a Yorkshireman “with an accent so thick one could cut it”. He was later succeeded by George Kistler, who at that time was the champion mile swimmer of the world. After leaving Wayne he became swimming instructor at Houston Hall at the University of Pennsylvania, and for many years coached Red and Blue championship teams.

Under the excellent training of these two men not only the youngsters but many of the oldsters of Wayne were taught to swim. In the winter the pool was used for skating, with many a carnival held under the bright lights with which the enclosure was illuminated.

For a number of years the Natatorium was a great success. Then the bicycling craze reached its height, and attendance dwindled while former patrons of the pool took off on long “hike” trips. Then at about the turn of the century a general drought made it necessary for the Wayne Water Works Company – a local concern, to sink a number of artesian wells to augment its supply. This dried up several large springs along the creek which fed the pool.

And so after several years of struggling against adverse conditions, Kelley’s Dam was sold, and on its site were built the houses on the South side of Willow avenue.