Nude swimming banned, 1921

Springfield Park District officials resorted to a police guard and at least one arrest to keep boys from swimming nude in a Lincoln Park pond in 1921.

Officials warned the pond would be closed and drained if swimmers didn’t wear bathing costumes and refrain from profane language.

The exact location of the pond in the park is unclear. A May 29, 1921, Illinois State Journal story described it as “east of Lincoln Park and near the Catholic cemetery.” Calvary Cemetery, however, is west of the park.

Park board members said the problem was “an old fault,” the story reported.

“Bathers have been doing the same thing for years. … (The pond’s) location, it was explained, is such that it cannot be kept under surveillance.

Park board members had received “a number of complaints,” the Journal reported. “(G)rown men and boys were bathing in the pond without clothing and using profane language to the dismay of persons who had to visit in the vicinity when they came to the cemetery.”

Two “stalwart” park police officers were detailed to the pond, one from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and the other from 4 p.m. to midnight, to enforce the ban on nude swimming.

“The bathers jump in and jump out as the policemen come and go,” the newspaper added. “A rough element has taken advantage of the swimming hole this year, which has added to the trouble, it is said.”

The lack of further newspaper coverage suggests the police presence was effective and that the pond remained open for swimming

However, there was one tragic footnote only a week after the park board took action. Thirteen-year-old Harold Ritter broke his neck and died while diving in a shallow part of the pond on June 3, 1921.

Perhaps incidentally, or perhaps not, the Journal’s story on Ritter’s death noted that he was wearing a blue bathing suit. schs logo (2)

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