In late June of 1950, after an unusually sweltering day 3 inches of rain fell on Marengo overnight.
The next day these two boys found a make-shift swimming hole in the Syndicate section (the avenues north of Rt. 176)
and jumped in for a swim. (Photo from Marengo Republican News)

In the past when the dog days of summer rolled in and the thick warm humid air shrouded one’s skin like a heavy wet blanket people headed to the local swimming hole for a refreshing dip in a cool pool of water. A swimming hole could be any natural body of water; a creek, a river, a farm pond, or a quarry filled with water that was of sufficient depth for a person to swim in. Although it seems like swimming holes are less popular these days; they’re still around. A quick internet search will yield links to articles about the best swimming holes near Chicago, in the United States, and even in North America.

Over the years Marengoans had their favorite swimming holes. Long-time Marengo historian Rudy Husfeldt in his writings mentioned the locations of two swimming holes in the Kishwaukee River that were popular in the 1920’s. One was referred to as the Dutch Hole and it was located about one mile northeast of town; the second was the Augustus Swager “pool” located about one and one-half miles northwest of Marengo. Another swimming hole on the Kishwaukee River was identified by E.J. Cady.

Cady wrote about this swimming hole in a letter to the Marengo Republican News that was published in the newspaper on May 7, 1931. This swimming hole was popular in the mid-1890’s, and according to Cady it was located one quarter mile west of the bridge on the Dr. Green farm. An 1892 map of Marengo Township shows that the J.W. Green farm was located on the west side of State St. where it crosses over the Kishwaukee River. In the letter Cady provided readers with a glimpse of the “happenings that occurred” at this particular swimming hole.” He recalled times of finding his “duds so full of knots” that he feared he would have to walk home in his bathing suit which consisted of “only [his] bare skin.”

I

in 1955 the Marengo area saw a significant upgrade to its old swimming holes. Bathers were no longer limited to the murky waters of the Kishwaukee River, some creek, or a farm pond. The May 26, 1955, edition of the Marengo Republican News announced the opening of a new attraction – Griebel’s Beach! Griebel’s Beach was located in a Riley Township gravel quarry on Route 23 about three miles south of Marengo. The article reported that Mr. and Mrs. Joe Welch obtained a long term lease on the swimming portion of the quarry and that the attraction would operate as Griebel’s Beach. The new facility boasted a bath house, showers, and a concession stand. Extensive landscape work was done to provide for a large sand beach, and a parking lot was installed. The adult swimming area was roped off as was an area of shallow water which was used as a wading and splashing pool by children nine years old and under.

The new beach provided a higher level of safety over the old swimming holes because there were always lifeguards on duty, and a set of rules was established that prohibited horse-play, rough-housing, intoxicating beverages, and visiting with the lifeguards.

One disadvantage of the new beach was that there was a cost associated with using it. One lure of the old swimming holes was that it was free whenever one wanted to take a dip. Over the years Griebel’s Beach prices varied. In 1965 a family pass cost $25.00 per season; by 1979 the cost for a family pass increased to $80.00 dollars per season. In 1973 daily admission cost $1.00, and 75 cents for children 9 and under, but on Tuesdays and Thursdays you could a great deal - after 6:00 p.m. the cost dropped to 60 cents.

I’ve never been a swimming hole type of a guy – I don’t care too much to step on who knows what at the bottom of a muddy river, nor do I care for seaweed wrapping around my leg in a farm pond, but I do have great memories of swimming at Griebel’s Beach. The water was fairly clear and always cold – even in the dog days of July and August. In the 1970’s it was a hopping place. We’d get dropped off for an afternoon on a hot and sweltering day and drink gallons of cold Cocoa Cola and eat pounds of frozen Snickers bars while the Night Chicago Died or Bad, Bad, Bad Leroy Brown blared over the speakers. Between dips in the cold water we’d lie on the hot sand and pass the day away. It was a great way to spend many days of summer vacation, and a great time to live in Marengo.

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