The Way We Were: Allen Park

Sunday, July 20, 2014 7:22 PM
Last updated Sunday, Aug 24, 2014 8:23 PM
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Many growing up in Augusta in the 1940s and 1950s remember summers at Allen Park, the city’s recreational wonderland of water pools, baseball fields and tennis courts.

The former Allen Park area, with the Frog Hollow community nearby, was where many local residents growing up spent most of their summers.  FILE/STAFF
FILE/STAFF
The former Allen Park area, with the Frog Hollow community nearby, was where many local residents growing up spent most of their summers.

Begun as a recreational project near the Augusta Canal and 15th Street in 1906, the park evolved into a summertime retreat for youngsters of all ages. It even included Jennings Stadium, the home baseball field for Augusta professional teams, usually called the Tigers.

As the 1950s waned, however, the city built parks and facilities elsewhere. Jennings Stadium began to crumble.

Its walls began to crumble, once during a sudden storm when such a collapse killed three people.

The Sears & Roebuck chain successfully sought property for a new store on the corner of the large lot.

By the mid-1960s, shoppers had replaced baseball fans and the “Frog Hollow” community across Walton Way was leveled for the new University Hospital building.

DO YOU REMEMBER? What do you remember about Allen Park? Send an e-mail to bill.kirby@augustachronicle.com. Here are a few sent in last week.

ALLEN PARK MEMORIES

ATTENDING GAMES

I remember going to Jennings Stadium in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s with my father Clint Hadden, of Louisville, and his quail hunting friend Henry Matthews, of Augusta, to watch Roger Repoz and Pete Mikkelsen play for Augusta – memories that I cherish.

Dean Hadden, Wrens, Ga.

HOME OF BASEBALL

When my family moved to Augusta in 1954 for jobs at the Savannah River Plant, 15th Street, Walton Way and the Augusta Canal essentially were the boundaries of Allen Park, the center of the City of Augusta Recreation Department led by Kermit Radford.

It included a swimming pool but its real drawing card was baseball. Allen Park was the home of Augusta baseball. The Little League field was covered by the morning shadows of Jennings Stadium, home of the Augusta Tigers. In addition, there were fields used for Pony League, American Legion, and City League baseball. Baseball was there six days a week, with City League games under the lights. In those days, the older players always had time for the younger with many of the coaches for the younger coming from the City League.

I played on the Little League Field until there was an additional field built on Merry Street. Even then, league playoffs and all-star games were played at Allen. Probably about 1955/56, Sears, Roebuck & Co approached the city to purchase a rarely used corner of the park for a new Augusta store. A “Save Allen Park” campaign ensued. As a 12 year old, I spoke on behalf of the sale to local television audiences ... the money being offered was substantial and would fund rec dept. activities for several years. The City Council approved the sale.

By the time I graduated to Pony League, the field was located as the current site of the Augusta Boys & Girls Club, at Eve and Division Streets, I think. Playoffs and all-star games were played at Jennings, since the Tigers were long gone. Jennings became the home of American Legion and was the home field for Richmond Academy baseball led by legendary Coach A.L. (Al) Williams. Every aspiring baseball player in town wanted to play for Coach Williams. All who made his teams were forever “his boys.”

During my seven years in local league baseball, Allen Park gradually changed into what we see there today. As a college student, I spent one summer on a construction crew building the Peabody Apartments on a portion of the Allen Park property. Baseball faded and moved west.

Cone S. Underwood

SUMMERTIME FUN

In the early ‘50s the area where Jennings Stadium stood, the home of the Augusta Tigers, was known as Allen Park – my home away from home during the summer. Living near the intersection of Eve and Starnes streets, it was within walking distance of my home … There were a couple of ball diamonds in the park along with the normal “playground” … I attended many baseball games at Jennings Stadium which was located in the area where Peabody Apartments now stand … All-night gospel singings were also held in the stadium … I practiced Pony League Baseball at Allen Park … The games were played at May Park … I did not know at the time that our team coach, Kermit Radford, was the director of the Parks and Recreation Department … Our team was sponsored by the Skyview Drive In Theater. … I am still in contact with some of my teammates … There was a public swimming pool in the area where the Fire Station is now and I was in the pool just about every day.

Bill Wood, Hephzibah

REMEMBERING DAYS BEFORE SEARS

Long before the Sears building came and back in the day of Jennings Stadium, most of that lot was occupied by Allen Park. There was a pond with an ornate bridge across it plus a baseball diamond where American Legion baseball teams played. The park was heavily used by residents of that area, which included Frog Hollow.

After the park was demolished, the pond was drained. I dug a few old pop bottles and a few ceramic whiskey jugs from the silt.

Bill Baab, Augusta

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JENNPAT
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JENNPAT 07/21/14 - 12:46 pm
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Baseball

when i was small my uncle Walter Dobbins would take his daughter and i to the baseball games i don;t think there was many he miss and i still remember the swimming pool there and Frog Hollow those were the good old days i wish the children now could have some of these memories they don't what they are missing out on good clean fun and our parents didn't have too worry about us like they do now when i sit and my Grandchildren about all of this they love to listen

Magda1129
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Magda1129 08/18/14 - 12:35 am
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Memories of Allen Park

When I was a child in the late 1940s/early 1950s, I remember Allen Park as being the largest public park near our house in Harrisburg. I remember going there to a white park building, a place where groups could rent space for events, for the Christ Episcopal Church annual bazaar. One of the events at the bazaar was a doll show where people could show their dolls, especially unusual ones, and judges gave ribbons to the top entries in various categories. I had several handmade dolls that had been made for me by family friends, so my mother entered 2-3 of them on a couple of occasions. At least one of them received a blue ribbon. Everything about my dolls was handmade by the same person, from the doll itself to its clothes.

I also remember when the public pool was built in Allen Park and looking forward to spending many wonderful hours cooling off there with my best friend every summer. We put our street clothes into wire baskets and gave them to the clerk who gave each of us a safety pin-type device with the basket number on it, to pin to our swimsuits. Before leaving the locker room, we had to walk through a black rubber "tray" filled with bleach, I think, to kill anything like Athlete's Foot, which might be spread in the pool. The chlorine was so heavy that I had to wash my hair when I got home because, if it dried and I tried to comb it, it was like combing through dried styling gel and left a green goo between the teeth of the comb! There were also bleachers under the shady trees on the west side of the pool where adult family members could sit and watch their children in the pool. A life guard sat on a tall chair along the west side of the pool, so he could see the whole pool, which was very large.

The last memory of Allen Park I will mention is the fact that Lawton B. Evans School was located at the end of the park on the east side of Jennings Stadium along Walton Way. The school faced west instead of facing Walton Way. Because the school was located in a somewhat central location in Augusta at that time and had a really nice auditorium, many fine arts events were held there, as the Bell Auditorium or its Music Hall would have been too large. I remember attending Augusta Players productions, including plays for children, and concerts by the Augusta Symphony Orchestra and the Augusta Choral Society.

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