submitted and written by Bob Canaday
I can still remember our swimming hole and all the fun we had. Someone called it “the falls” one time and the name stuck. It was back in the 40’s. We were always looking for a place to cool off in the hot part of summer. We swam in all the ditches around Erie. Big Ditch was a good place at First Trussel north of town. Coal Creek was another place, but most of the time it was either flooding or there was not enough water to even get wet. Dairy Lake was another place where we swam. It was out at the filter plant not too far from Town Lake. it was always nice to go to Lakeside to swim, or at Higenic in Boulder, or even Sunset in Longmont. But most of the time we didn’t have the money or a way to go. So we spent a lot of time in the ditches around Erie.
One day one of my friends said he had heard of a place south of town that was a good place to swim and asked if I would like to go find it. Well, we were always read y for an adventure, especially if it was a good place to swim.
We started walking south on the Burlington Railroad from Cheesman. We passed by Peewee Park on the right. In a block we passed what was left of the old stockyards and on until we got to The Depot where the Union Pacific Railroad crossed the Burlington.
From there on there was nothing but open fields for a long way. After a while we saw what was left of the old Garfield Mine. I guess we had walked close to a mile when my friend said we must cross over and get to County Line Road where Isabelle goes west.
Well, I wondered how could there be a good place to swim in all that dust and weeds. County Line Road was dirt and gravel; and when a car went by, it kicked up. plenty of dust. But he said it had to be here somewhere.
The closer we got to County Line, I could hear something like rushing water. All of a sudden, there it was–an irrigation ditch about two feet deep. There was a steel pipe that had been split open to make a spill-way. The water falling from the pipe had dug out a hole that was maybe thirty feet wide and ten feet deep. From the bank down to the water was about eight to ten feet.
What a place! We were excited and could hardly wait to get in the water. I went down to the water from the bank below and checked the place out before jumping from the bank. Before long, everyone was jumping into the boiling water below. What a thrill this was-the best yet.
The water was warm but cool enough for a hot summer day. I remember a time or two late in the summer when we went out to swim and the water had been shut off and only a trickle was dropping into our pool. The water was very warm and very nice· -just like a bath. But not as exciting as when a full head of water was falling.
After we got used to everything, we started diving from the banks. Junior Cardenas backed his dad’s ‘29 Model A Ford up to the edge, and we Would dive off of it. You can see me in my irrigation ditch form (picture). I did this many times, but one day I miscalculated and scraped my chest on the bank. That was the end Of my diving.
I went into the Army in ‘52. When I came out in ‘54, our swimming hole had been filled in with big chunks of concrete. You see, one of our friends drowned there. His name was Eddie Montano.
I went over the other day to take another picture, but The Falls were gone. The ditch had been put in a pipe and covered over. It’s a four-lane street they call Leon Wurl at County Line Road. I guess that ‘s progress.
I feel very lucky to have seen all the changes in and around Erie. When I came to Erie in 1937, I was just six years old. A Lot of the coal mines were still working mines like the Eagle, Columbine, State and Hiway mines. One by one they closed down because the market for coal was disappearing, and gas was the big thing.
My dad worked in the mines all his life. He started out when he was eight years old In Alabama. His dad took him out of school and into the mine to carry tools and help him load coal. The family moved to southern Illinois to work in the mines there. I came along in 1930 when things were very hard.
We moved to Erie, Colorado, in 1937. We moved around for a few years in places like Lafayette. Monarch Mine and Superior. we moved back to Erie. I lived there until 2004.
Erie will always be home to me. They can Change Erie all they want. but they can’t take away my good memories of Elzi’s Drug Store, or Mr. Winger’s hardware, and the taste of artesian water that was piped to many corners in town. And I surely won’t forget our Swimming hole.