This is Living Stories, featuring voices from the collections of the Baylor University Institute for Oral History. I'm Kim Patterson.
Since its dedication in 1910, Waco's Cameron Park has grown from 125 to more than 400 acres, with land gifts from the Cameron family, and has provided children with countless hours of exercise and enjoyment.
Charlie Turner of Hewitt recalls playing in the park as a young boy in the 1950s and 60s:
"There were some little wading pools we would go play in, and then, of course, I would get in trouble every now and then because after I got in the wading pool, I'd get back in the dirt by the flowers but had a real good time. And, you know, it was just a great place to play because where I lived, there was no grass in the backyard. So going into a park like Cameron Park, it was like a kid's dream because there were all the trees down near the Pecan Bottoms. There were these big swings that I remember and this merry-go-round and the seesaws, and then there was a climbing ladder and then the monkey bars.
"Every now and then—I had an old Tonka truck. It was a moving van Tonka truck that I had a string on, and I'd take it with me once in a while and pull it around on the—on the street part that was paved. If I had a ball, I could throw it as hard as I wanted to and not get in trouble because it was in the neighbors' yard. I could play ball; I could hit the ball as hard as I could. Cameron Park was a paradise to me."
He describes the many adventures the park afforded him:
"There were these trees there, there was vines growing through the trees, and I remember moss down there—whether it was there or not. As a kid, I remember it. And I remember seeing pictures in books about these forests and all, and so when I'd get in Cameron Park I'd go looking. And here were these forest-like-looking areas that I remembered from reading the books. And I could be in England, or I could be in Germany, or I could just be in the Brazilian jungle, or—so Cameron Park took on a new personality each time. I was in the Amazon one time. I was in Nottingham Woods the next time, the Sheriff pursuing me, and then, trying to get away from the piranhas in the little wading pools and all, you know. I had a—well, we'll say I had a fertile imagination."
Frank Curre of Waco shares memories of Cameron Park from the 20s and 30s:
"Proctor Springs. Being able to go down there and get that cold water coming out of that hill and get in that little pool. And we could take watermelons down there in the summer and put them in that cold water and get them good and cool and break them open and eat. They had duck pens with exotic ducks in them for you to visit and a little pool for them to swim in. It was just great to be in the park."
Curre explains that some of his favorite activities involved the Brazos:
"Mama used to tell us, ‘You boys don't get into that water down—' talking about the river. And we'd spend hours in the water and come home in the afternoon, and our eyes are bloodshot. And she'd say, ‘Y'all been in that water?' ‘No, ma'am.' And your eyes are bloodshot. (laughter) But we had ropes tied off the trees hanging over the river, and we'd swing into the river. We'd swim from one side to the other. We just had a ball. We'd play piggy-wiggy or something: touch each other and try to swim away and all that stuff. But we had a great time. We loved fishing. We always kept throw lines in the river."
Today, Cameron Park remains mostly undeveloped and is one of the largest municipal parks in Texas. No matter what new technology and toys come along, nothing will replace exploring and playing in the great outdoors.
Living Stories is heard every Tuesday on 103 point 3 FM, Waco's NPR. For more information about this program or the Institute for Oral History, visit baylor.edu/livingstories.
Search our collection of full transcripts available online.