Hilsman Limesink

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The questions are … what was the date when the bottom of the Third Avenue Hilsman Limesink dropped out .... who was swimming in the lime-sink when the bottom dropped out ... and was it day or night?!!!!  Memories vary!!!

 

Here's one story!

 

HILSMAN'S LAKE

by Buster Wasden, Class of 1955

  

I lived on North Van Buren Drive, about 3 blocks away from the lime sink on Third Avenue. It seems that the city fathers thought it would be a wonderful idea to fill the lime sink (notice the words... lime sink) full of water, and develop a beautiful lake for the enjoyment of we who lived in that part of town.

 

We watched the city’s efforts for a long while with great anticipation as the water filled the endless hole. It took days for this to happen and then, suddenly, it was completed. 

 

Beautiful. 

 

The water glimmered and glistened like the ocean. It was the biggest pond in the state at that time.

 

They named it Hilsman's Lake. A stroke of genius.

 

My buddies, Don Braswell, Wayne Sheffield, Donald Lassiter, and Bernie Oliver were outside one summer's evening just hanging out when Bras spoke these magic words...

 

"Wonder what it would be like to swim in the new pond?"

 

That's all it took. We leaped on our bikes and proceeded to the newly constructed water park at Third Avenue.  It was around 10:00 at night and most respectable folk had gone inside for the evening.  Even so, we were very quiet as not to call attention to our presence there.

 

We skinned down to our undershorts and readied ourselves for the big plunge. We entered the water slowly and enjoyed the thought of having our own private pond to swim in. 

 

Wonderful!

 

The feeling was great. The water was, as I can remember, lukewarm. It covered us from head to toe and we loved the feeling.

 

After about an hour of quiet swimming I was standing by Wayne and I heard him ask a question to anyone who cared to respond.

 

"Hey y'all, can you feel the current?"

 

"Naw' Sheffield, there ain't no current in a pond" someone laughingly answered.

 

But there was...and it was strong...real strong.  We could feel the mighty pull as we entered a state of panic. Then Wayne yelled for all of us to swim to shore.

 

"The bottom's falling out...get out of here!"

 

We must have looked like an Olympic swimming team as we left our wake behind.

We all were able to get safely to the bank. Then we heard the water making a swishing and swirling sound.

 

Yep, there was current there!

 

It was pitch black dark and we couldn't see a thing, so we did the only thing we knew to do. We hopped on our bikes and headed home.  Leaving no evidence of our being there.

 

The next morning Wayne, Don, and I were walking to school. As we approached the 'pond' we saw and heard a lot of commotion. There were city vehicles, police cars, and as I recall a fire truck or two and probably a hundred men dressed in khaki shirts and pants just standing around looking bewildered. As we got a little closer I saw that something was different.

 

The water was gone!

 

We listened to all the official people surmise what could have happened.  We didn't say a word. We thought that maybe somehow we had something to do with the thing draining empty.

 

The water had disappeared; never to return again.

 

I pass that place often and I can still hear the swishing sound of the water flowing rapidly through the bottomless hole on the western side.  We were lucky. We could have been in that hole ourselves.

 

In any event we learned a valuable lesson as the result of all of this. Never, ever, trust a pond that a Georgia Tech graduate had anything to do with building! Who else would try to fill up a lime sink in South Georgia?

 

And now Hilsman's Lake is referred to as Hilsman's Leak. 

 

Go figure!!

***

And other Indians said ...

~  Carol Ann Wofford Parsons (’56) writes: Guess who one of the boys was?  PeeWee … (Parsons – ’55).  He is trying to think of the other three or four.  More later.

 

~ Proc Johnston (’54) writes: The boys swimming in the lime sink were Jimmy

Holloway (’55) & Proctor Johnston (’54)  I don't have the date, but we were playing and swimming in the lake the afternoon before it drained. We would drag our bikes to the top of the mound of dirt out in the middle and then ride them down into the water.

 

~ Lynne Garrison Johnson (‘82) writes:  If Buster was there, I'm sure he remembers who was with him better than I.

 

Living so close to the Limesink, I played there daily, heard the stories about the cave-in, etc.  It never really bothered me until I was coming home from school one day, and there was more water in the park than I had ever seen, due to a particularly hard rain.

 

Normally, I would splash around for a couple of hours and come home sopping wet with a cup full of tadpoles to be raised into frogs.  (My tadpole fetish reached such a height that, although we probably had fewer mosquitoes than most folk in Sowega, my dad (David Garrison - ’52) was fearful of mowing, lest he run over one of my "pets".) 

 

That particular day, with so much water in the park and knowing that it had caved in before, I went straight home (sans polliwogs).  I asked Mom (Nancy Castleberry Garrison – ’57) what would happen if I had been in the Limesink if it decided to cave in.  With her usual joviality and matter-of-fact manner, she said, "Oh, your body would eventually bubble up at the boil at Radium."

 

Quite obviously, that's not the case, since people were swimming there when it actually happened, and as far as I know, no bodies have ever surfaced in the boil.  But I never walked through the Limesink on rainy days again.

 

I hope you do find the true story of who was there and what it was like.

 

~ Don Braswell ('55) I don't remember being there.

 

Hilsman Lake Mystery Solved!

 ~ David Sherman, 1961

Huddy Hudgens (’63) kindly shared this information with me from his extensive personal files that contain several newspaper accounts and an editorial on this subject.

The question was asked in the latest issue as to what year the bottom dropped out of Hilsman Lake.  An article by Jimmy Robinson in the June 2, 1951 Albany Herald headlined "Hilsman Lake Pours Down Huge Limesink" stated that "The City's $14,000-odd investment in Hilsman Lake went pouring down a kingsized limesink in northwest Albany at 5 a.m. today."  Further excerpts from that article stated:  "When Albanians awoke today...all they saw was a mass of gooey mud and a hole in the lake's western bottom about half the length of a football field."   "The bottom dropped out of the municipality's most expensive venture yet into the field of recreation."  "...By daylight word of the cave-in had already spread throughout the city and dozens of citizens were gathering around the lake edge to inspect the yawning aperture.  The Police Department stationed patrolmen at the site to prevent too close a look which, for the venturesome, might result in sudden death down an apparently bottomless pit.  One wag at the lake this morning suggested the City recover its investment in the project over the weekend by charging admission for peeks into the gaping aperture."  "It sounded just like Niagara Falls," said Mrs. W. J. Collins, 722 Second Avenue, wife of Albany's former mayor who lives near the lake.  "I thought my house might fall in too."  "Other residents of the area ... expressed anxiety that the cave-in might extend to their adjoining property."  The article went on to state that because of continuing leaks the lake's bottom had already been patched and plastered unsuccessfully three separate times with Bentonite over a period of six months, a clay-like substance designed to seal leaky lake bottoms, and that only the night before the lake was beginning to fill and finally hold water before "the lake's rising waters dropped with a terrifying roar at dawn". 

 

 

 

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