Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Graver's Bathing Casino - Lehighton Gravers Post 3 of 4

Chester Mertz of Mertztown, Mahoning Valley still remembers the deer pen near Henry Graver’s property.  “Deer were rare in those days, nearly all gone from around here.”
In memory of Betty Mullen Brey: Weissport native, trained at Graver's Bathing Casino,
 and produced a wonderful family.  This post is a tribute to you and your being a beautiful person.
  Rest in Peace Betty (23 November 1931~21 March 2015.)

He remembers being a boy in the 1920s, driving up Gilbert’s Hill and being stopped by the hands of a Dutchman farmer who hissed a calm alert to a stop with, “Hirsch, Hirsch.”
An early picture of one of the "Graver's Bathing Casino" Swim and Dive Competition - Possibly August 11th, 1926 - Picture faces the Mahoning Mountain with Lehighton off frame left.  The remains of this pool basin can be seen today
in the garage area of "Snyder Tire."  (This photo, as well as most of the remaining photos in this post appear
courtesy of Graver family historian and great grandson of Henry Graver, Larry Graver.  This author is much
obliged for the patient help of Larry for this post.)

Here is a picture from the Lehighton Graver's in the 1920s.  Photo from Eckhart History of Carbon County.
Here is an overview of Graverville, complete with change house and pool at right.  The large center building
is the roller rink and the bungalows to the rear on the hillside along with the original brick home of
Henry Graver in the center collectively known for years as "Graverville."
It was the first time he had seen these animals, thinking until then, that they only existed in imagination and myth.  But there they were, graceful beasts, gliding through the field of rye, seeming to be on the fly.

“We’d climb around Henry Graver's property and William Ash's deer preserve, an all wooden seemed too high, much higher than any cow pen or horse corral we’d ever seen and we’d sit and wonder what those deer were like.”

~The beginning: The Recluse of Gnaden Hutten/Lewis Graver land
The deer were long gone from the pen by the time Chester saw those first deer in the early 1930s.  And even though people flocked from Delano, Mahanoy City, Hazleton, and the Lehigh Valley to swim in the “Graver’s Bathing Casino,” Chester himself never did.

Chester had only two places to cool off.  They’d swim in the Mahoning near Rehrig’s bungalow, where the Rehrigs kept paddle boats to maneuver the slack water of a small dam there.

“We’d also swim the deep hole on the Mahoning near Rudelitch’s, where the truck (New England Motor Freight) terminal is today.”

It was the Great Depression after all, and dimes for admission were hard to come by.
The chutes at Graver's Casino in the 1930s with the Mahoning Mountain right and the Lehighton 'Heights' left.
One can see how safety regulations have changed since this photo was taken.

The Graver’s were one of those early, enterprising families.  They were artisans, building many things with their hands.  Lewis Graver built canal boats with his brother Andrew.  He also timbered, tanned hides, made bricks, and farmed (click here for Post #2)

Lewis Graver’s twin daughters established themselves in the millinery business in downtown Lehighton (click here for Post #1).  And son Henry continued the brickworks until around 1910. 

Henry Graver continued to farm with livestock as well as keeping his domestic deer stock.  He also expanded his interests into one of the first peach orchards in the state as well as ice harvesting, ice manufacturing and the cold storage businesses.  
Graver's ice houses packed with twelve inch ice -
from 'Lehighton Press' February 1923 just two years
before the opening of the bathing casino.

But it was his twelve or so winters in Florida that led the family into the amusement business.  It was the ‘Roaring Twenties” and Henry was about to take a $15,000 chance.

Henry and his two sons portrayed their new resort as a destination, with plentiful Mahoning Mountain air, a place for city families to come and stay in bungalows among the pines that once were home to the Leni-Lenape hunters. 

The Burd Brothers Well 'Diggers' of Union Hill discovered
the remains of three human skulls along the Mahoning Creek
just below the Graver property.  This helped fuel the Indian
massacre mystique that the Gravers hoped would help to
attract tourists to their resort.  This article appeared in
the 'Lehighton Press' in April of 1915.

The Gravers also promoted the mystique of the Moravian “Gnaden Hutten” settlement and the subsequent massacre that took place there 175 years ago with the hope of drawing tourists and their dollars (click herefor the Gnaden Hutten story).

The centerpiece of course was the large cement pool.  The Graver’s Bathing Casino’s water was at first pumped from the Mahoning Creek.  They used a “Gould’s Centrifugal Pump” that had a 600,000 gallon output over ten hours time.

Later on, the water was filtered by a gravel and sand filter house with chlorine.

Still and all, this was a marked improvement and was a luxury that few people in those days had ever experienced.  Most at that time, like Chester Mertz, only had the local river or ponds or canal for swimming.

It had a shallow end of just inches of water for toddlers on up to nine feet for diving boards and “chutes” for “deep sea” sports.  It also had cement fountains in the shape of flowers the children found entertaining to jump from in the middle of the main wading section.  Some of the fondest memories of those youth was entering the cascading water shouting for the sensation of the sounds caught up in a sound proof barrier of water.

The stairs as they look today.  The set going right led to the
wading end.  The set going right led to the swimming and
diving end.  The wall between them went the width of the
pool to separate the less experienced swimmers from the
deep end.  These stairs and wall can be seen in the
pictures below.

This current day picture shows roughly the same orientation and angle
as the photo above.  Note the stairs along the far wall remain today
behind Snyder Tire.  The double stairs were separated by the wall
seen above that divided the wading end at right here from the
deeper, swimming and diving end at left.  A partition wall
at one time kept the areas separate and safe.

This picture was taken from the roof of the roller rink and looking toward Lehighton.  The old brick building to the left rear on Bridge Street was once the Penn Lace Mill and most recently was Ott's Beverage.  The building has been idle for some years now.  Notice the children standing on the diving wall and the double stairs at each end of the wall
leading to either side of the wall.  These same stairs can be seen in the two modern pictures of Snyder Tire today.
This 1960s photo is practically the same view as the shot above.  Note the dividing wall and newer refreshment stand
which was under construction for the photo below.
Construction of new refreshment stands along East Penn Street at Graver's Lehighton.
It had change houses that were said to rival those at ocean seaside resorts.  Two buildings, one 150 feet long and the other 200 feet, were for changing and locker rooms, complete with “porcelain fixtures and mirrors for the ladies.”  There was no mention of these amenities for the men. 

The roomy 100 by 150 foot pool not only provided a spot to soak away a hot day, but it also became a place to flex one’s natator prowess. 

The Graver’s, as well as other pool facilities, sponsored annual swim meets. Newspaper accounts would boast of up to 3,000 spectators and participants, all at a dime a piece admission.  

Locker rentals were fifteen cents.  The business also relied on the leasing of swimsuits, known then as “togs,” as well as concession sales of ice cream and “doggies.”

There were two rows of bleachers under roof along the west side.  It had a ten foot, chestnut planked boardwalk around the eastern and western sides.  The grounds were large enough to park 2,000 cars.  

The announcement in the paper said the entire operation from the excavation to the swimsuit stock represented a $15,000 investment by the Graver family.

This was to be Henry’s ‘swan song.”  The ‘Graver Brothers’ were the ones set to carry the bath houses into the future.

Henry and Cate (Hoats) Graver had three children: Ralph (born 1892), Stanley (1894), and Bertha (1898).  Henry ventured to Florida with his wooden jalopy: a home-made, early motor-home (See Post #2 for pictures) and soon was making West Palm Beach his winter home. 
Here is Ralph Graver at the Lehighton
pool in the 1950s.  He became
the 'senior' member of the Graver
brothers when his father died in
1926.  Ralph died in 1965.

Eldest son Ralph and his young family also wintered there.  Ralph worked for ten winter seasons at Gus Jordahn’s Swimming Casino where he developed the angles of the business. 

It spawned not just the Lehighton pool that opened in 1925, but a second one, identically built in Lebanon, PA, two years later. 

Ralph would be the “senior” member in charge of base operations and real estate development here in Lehighton while his younger brother, “junior” partner Stanley, oversaw the Lebanon Bathing Casino.
The Lebanon "Graver's Bathing Casino" was a carbon copy of the Lehighton prototype, replete with dives, "chutes" and "flower" fountains.  This picture looks to have been taken from the roof of the change house seen below.
Note the diving stand at the far corner here above, and the same stand in the near corner below.

This picture of the Graver's Lebanon Casino is looking in the opposite direction than the picture above.
Ralph married Pearl Klinger in 1911.  She was the daughter of Francis Klinger, a Lehigh Valley Railroad engineer stationed at Delano.  Ralph and Pearl had three sons: Reuben (born 1912), Francis (1913), and Ralph Junior (1915) more commonly known as “Jack.” 
Ralph and Pearl Graver's children:
Reuben "Rubie" left, Francis,
and Ralph Jr or "Jack" in front.

The Gravers had a knack for promotion, which was necessary, as they did have local competition. 

Lakewood Park, Barnesville:

The Lakewood Park in Barnesville had a full dance hall, a lake, a carousel and as well as a 150-foot cement pool like the Graver’s had.  Their grand opening was in 1917. 

Entertainment there over the years ranged from the Dorsey Brothers and Doris Day.  They also had the longest running ethnic festival: Lithuania Day, which ran from 1914 to 1984.  The Bavarian Beer Festival was also there in its later years.
This picture captures of immensity of Graver's skating rink with the "beach" area of the ice dam in the foreground, the
eastern side change house of the pool is visible on the right.  Notice the cupolas for drawing out stale summer air
as well as the now closed shutters that could be opened on cool summer nights.  The alcove with the Franz Kline
 paintings built for bands was at the far end nearest to East Penn Street.

The Gravers had a large roller rink for nighttime entertainment which they also hoped would carry them through the winter time.  The rink was at the south end of the pool and was equipped with a row of pot-belly stoves every twenty-five feet along the outer wall which paralleled Route 443.
Franz Kline as he appeared
near the end of his short,
but prolific life.  His works
 appear in most of the
major New York art museums.
  Kline had major setbacks in 
his youth: He arrived in 
Lehighton due to the suicide
of his father that sent him to live
at Girard College's home for
"fatherless boys."
More about his interesting 
life will be available soon in
Finsel's book
'Franz Kline in Coal Country -
Early Works, Life & Letters.'

The rink also had an alcove at the near end for bands to play.   Ralph Graver’s oldest son Reuben was a classmate of Franz Kline.  Kline became an artist of important renown in the 1950s and 60s. 

Sometime in the late 1920s, according to noted local Kline authority Rebecca Rabenold-Finsel, while Kline and Reuben were still attending Lehighton High, Kline painted some whimsical band members onto the wooden wainscoting of the Graver skating rink. 
An early drawing from the artist Franz Kline.  Painted
directly onto the wooden wainscot in the band alcove,
these approximately two foot by two foot band member
paintings were authenticated by Kline biographer
Rebecca Rabenold-Finsel and appear here courtesy
of her
(Look for her forthcoming book co-written with her son Joel Finsel, entitled Franz Kline in Coal Country - Early Works, Life & Letters.)

This 2 inch by 2 inch skating pass has seven
different names and addresses of people
stamped on the back including: Pittsburgh,
Philadelphia; Rockford & Morris, Illinois;
as well as New York and Ohio.
One date on the back is given
as "November 16, 1945" as well as "Herman
Horack of Weissport" dated June 1945 and the
words "No Good" written with it.  This was
purchased by the Graver family from a man
in Seattle, Washington about ten years ago.

One of the earliest swim meets to occur there was held on August 11, 1926.  Carl Hochberg was the lone Lehightonian to place at the 1926 competition.  He was twenty then and took second in the 50-yard swim and third in the two hundred.

The main medal winner, the “merman” as the paper reported, won all three of the men’s events including the diving competition.  Richard Johnson was living here while working on the Stroudsburg-Lehighton highway project (Route 209).  His hometown was Harrisburg.  

(The entire article appears at the end of this post.  It is undated, but based on Hochberg's medals, it appears to be from August 12, 1925.)

Competitors in the boys division were Clarence Kramer, son of a Hazleton police officer was seventeen, nineteen-year-old Harry Whitenight of Tamaqua, and a pair of fourteen year olds from Hazleton, Otto Hill and Elmer Fox.  Fox’s father was a blacksmith while Hill’s father Gottleib died the year before.

Carl Hochberg of Lehighton placed in many swim
in dive events over the years.  Not only did he compete
at his home pool, but he also traveled to Graver
Brothers in Lebanon as well as their competition
pool of Lakewood in Barnesville.  More of his medals
can be found at the bottom of this post.  The
second place medal from August 12, 1925
at right is the one used to date the newspaper
clipping that appears at the end of this post.
There was no separate competition class for young girls, so seventeen year old Irene Skakandy of Nesquehoning swam against the women.  Ninteen year old Virginia Mooney, “Vergie” as her family called her, of Palmerton took the silver in diving.

Also competing was seventeen-year old Isabel Armbruster, from a large railroad family in Packerton, took third in diving.  After recently speaking to Carlos Teets, it was learned that he never knew his mother competed in the water events at Gravers.  

He did know she placed at a beauty contest there once.  She took second, she was told by the judges, because she was chewing gum.  Isabel married Harry “Hack” Teets.

Isabel Armbruster Teets of Packerton -
She took third place is diving in 1925
and took second place in a beauty
contest at Graver's, year unknown.
She is the mother of Carlos Teets
of Lehighton.

One curious contestant with a lot of pluck was Eva Nicholson Fisher Straub.  The daughter of a Franklin blacksmith, Eva married another township native Lovin Fisher when she was twenty-three in 1905 and she was widowed by 1920.  
Here is the vivacious Eva Fisher Straub with her first husband Lovin Fisher.
She later married Oscar Straub of Weissport and entered a Graver Swim and
Dive contest when she was forty-four.

Eva married Oscar J. Straub, who ran “Strauby’s Mill,” the grain elevator in Weissport most recently known as “Sebelin’s Lumber,” sometime after his first wife Catherine died in November of 1925.

Even though she hadn’t placed in any of the water events at Graver’s the forty-four year old made enough of a splash with her note-worthy blue swim suit and her “trite” sayings to deserve her own article in the weekly newspaper’s “Owl Column.” 

This undated article was found with
the same article above announcing
the results of the swim and dive
contests.  It must be sometime after November 1925 as
that is when Oscar's first wife Catherine died.  Eva and Oscar
married sometime after that.

Eva Straub was quoted as saying, “Most women should dive more, so they would be compelled to keep their mouth shut.”  As a footnote here, both she and husband number two were buried with their first spouses on Union Hill.

Civic groups also staged their own festivals on the grounds.  The American Legion held a carnival there the week before, on August 4th 1926 in which Hochberg took first place in the swim event and third in diving.

One young swimmer got her start at Graver’s when she was just three.  Betty Mullen was the youngest and only daughter of Packerton Yardmaster Charles and Evadna Mullen of Weissport.  Her brothers all were athletic and with fewer opportunities for women in those days, Betty found herself an outlet in the water.

And though she belonged to the silver medal USA women’s relay team of the 1956 Melbourne Olympics and was a two-time world record holder in the butterfly, Betty first proved adept at diving. 
Weissport native and Olympic team
member, two time world-record holder in
the butterfly, Betty Mullen Brey, from
her "Graver's Bathing Casino" days.
 Betty remains active in the swimming
community and recently re-located to
Florida to be nearer to her son and daughter.

Her father’s role with the railroad led to many important connections.  He procured ice from the Graver family for the dining cars.  This relationship led to the agreement that Betty could have free use of the pool.

“There were Sunday afternoons when Charlie Franks would come home on leave from the Air Force, after the war...He'd practice his dives.  He could do all of them.  When he would leave, I’d imitate what I saw.  I was just fourteen or fifteen then.”

Charlie went on to place fourth in a men's diving competition at the Pan American Games sometime in the 1940s, representing our armed services.  Although strong and athletic, Charlie did not have the highest quality of life after the war.  At some point during his military career, he was accidentally exposed to a large dose of RADAR waves while doing maintenance near a sender.  The jolt knocked him off the scaffold he was working from.
Charlie Franks of Lehighton was Betty's
diving muse after the war.  

Charlie with his
siblings at Graver's Ice Dam with the
Mahoning Mountain in the background.
His sisters Margaret (back) and Virgil, 
his brother Paul with gun and Charlie.

Eventually, her father used his railroad pass for his daughter to attend open swims for women in Allentown on Wednesday afternoons and also into New York City. 
Betty Brey (top) practices tandem dives with high
school friend Delores Claus at Graver's pool.

These tandem dives of Betty Brey and her friend Delores Claus (of Eight
Street Lehighton) at Graver's (Betty is on top in both pictures.)  In this lower
picture you can see the Henry Graver brickhome at 105 East Penn Street which
still stands there unchanged today.  The skating rink is at left.  Photo taken
by future husband of Betty, Paul Brey when they were both about fourteen
in 1946.

Eventually, for her last two years of high school, she took the Black Diamond Express into NYC at 3:15 each Friday when she had weekend meets.  She would stay over night and sometimes babysit for the former New York State diving champ, Hazel (Muller) Barr.  

And when she had practices in the city during the week, she'd return home on the 12:15, arriving at the Lehighton station at 3:15.  Her future husband Paul Brey would sometimes meet her in the middle of the night to drive her home if he could sneak out with his father's car.  Otherwise she'd take a cab.

The late night's meant skipping morning classes her junior and senior year, which didn't make principal and teachers too happy.

She went on to swim at Purdue as well as for the U.S. Army as a physical therapist at Walter Reed.
Betty Brey's Family - Daughter Brenda with her Dad Paul (Son of Paul and
Pauline Brey of Cypress St Lehighton).  Back row, Mike Brey Notre Dame
Men's Basketball coach and Shane who is Assistant Athletic Director at
University of Central Florida.
Betty Brey (maiden name Mullen) sets one of her two world record
times in the butterfly seen here in this August of 1955 clipping 
from "The Bee" paper from Danville, Virginia.  She would marry 
her high school sweetheart
Paul Brey a short time later.

“But I owe my beginnings in the water to Graver’s pool in Lehighton,” Brey said recently.  Her father built a starting stand at Graver’s and that allowed her to practice nearly every day all summer long. 

She also did tandem jumps with another L.H.S. ’49 classmate, Delores Claus Bauchspies, currently of Bloomsburg. 

Betty married classmate Paul Brey who was a standout football player at Lehighton.  Their children have honed their athletic pedigree cultivated in her hometown. 

Their daughter Brenda swam competitively at LSU.  Youngest son Shane was a standout basketball player at Walter Johnson High School and is assistant athletic director at UCF.  Oldest son Mike is the longest tenured men’s head basketball coach at Notre Dame University.  He was also an assistant coach to Coach Mike Krzyzewski at Duke.
This metal, two foot long sign, once hung over the doorway at the Casino.

The End of the Casino:
This picture from the Times News shows Francis
Graver (son of Ralph) with hose and his son Larry
at right with broom preparing the pool in 1959.
A favorite teacher and coach from Lehighton, Al Domineco,
stands at center who was a longtime Graver summer employee.
Notice the diving platform in the corner here and in the
other photos.  East Penn Street is parallel to the refreshment
stand seen here.  Route 443 is perpendicular to the left.

The pool ceased operations at about the same time the borough finished it work on the municipal pool at Baer Memorial.  The Graver family was said to have offered their facility to the town at that time, but the borough chose to build the new one instead.

The ice manufacturing was also soon to be a thing of the past at Gravers.  The remaining business pursuits were reduced to the renting of the bungalows on the mountain side collectively known as “Graverville.”

Sometime in the 1990s, these rentals were offered for sale to their owners, calling an end to over 150 years of Graver ownership.  Francis Graver’s son Larry started his “Blue Mountain Machine” business with partner Phil Myers on the site for a time before moving operations over to Route 248 in Parryville. 

Reuben Graver’s son Stanley started “Graver’s Texaco” near the turnpike entrance in the 1960s.  Three of his sons continue to run it as the successful “Graver Brother’s” garage today.

Footnotes: An Early End to three of the “Graver’s Swimmers” –

Carl Hochberg remained in the Lehighton area working as a knitter at one of the local hosiery mills.  He married Helen Ashner sometime after 1930.  They had one son: Carl Junior.  By 1960 however, he developed a tumor on his right leg.  He died in July 1960 at the age of fifty-five.  Son Carl also had a son Carl Hochberg who lives in Lehighton to this day.

Harry Whitenight would later marry Beatrice Reed.  Together they had a son Ferris who graduated from Tamaqua High School in 1946.  Beatrice would die of uterine cancer in January 1939.  Harry was a construction worker in the new Pennyslvania Turnpike tunnel on the Northeast Extension.  On August 9, 1956, while inside the tunnel, Harry was caught unaware by a cement truck that was backing up.  It struck him, crushing his skull.  He was fifty.

Virginia “Vergie” Mooney Proud, daughter of justice of the peace Jacob and Sarah Mooney of Palmerton went onto nursing school in Erie Pennsylvania where she met her husband, Ralph Archer Proud.  They had three children and were living in Painesville, Ohio.  On November 2, 1954 the car she was driving was struck by a train.  She was forty-seven.
Few could argue that perhaps Virginia "Vergie"
Mooney Proud could have won the Graver
Casino beauty pageants.  Seen here in her
senior photo at Palmerton High.  She was killed
at the age of forty-seven in Ohio.

Lebanon Daily News -
April 1934

Lebanon Daily News - December 18

This paper valuables bag measures 8x10 inches.
More of Hochberg's medals, this time
from the competitor's resort:
Lakewood in Barnesville.

These Hochberg medals ate all from Graver's:
On left from August 11, 1926 and
on right from an American Legion
Carnival held there a week earlier.

Lebanon Daily News-
August 4, 1927

Lebanon Daily News - July 1931

Lebanon Daily News - June 1931

This appears to be a flyer/handbill printed by the Graver Brothers to announce their
grand opening.  The text, it says, first appeared in the "Lehighton Press" on May 8, 1925.
The article above is from June 1926 from Lebanon Daily News.  The bathing picture above appears courtesy
of Bob Fatzinger, grandson of Walter Hammel.  This picture also appeared in Ripkey and Ebbert's "Lehighton" book
which is still on sale at Lehighton Hardware and other merchants in town. 
Virginia "Vergie" Mooney of Palmerton married Ralph Archer Proud. 

Compared to Graver's, the newcomer on the block was LaRose's roller rink.  At one time, LaRose's was  known as a motorcycle hill climb destination.  Here in 1943, Betty Mullen with her childhood friend Tootie and Anna LaRose.

No comments:

Post a Comment