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Jo Alice Wolfe beside Meadowbrook Park Swimming Pool - 1956

Meadowbrook Park: Once Entertainment Mecca in Arlington

This article was written by Historical Society member Beverly Reynolds. It appeared some years ago in the Star-Telegram.

During the 1930s and ‘40s, Arlington, unlike other small towns in the Metroplex, boasted a large municipal park with a nine hole golf course and a huge swimming pool. The park still exists, but is no longer the main summer entertainment area of Arlington.

In the 1930s, the Arlington Garden Club maintained a rose garden that was bounded by a rock wall along Willis Street on the west and Johnson Creek on the east. As a very small child I remember playing in the garden while my mother and Gertrude Johns weeded or cleared paths every so often. All pretense of keeping up the rose garden disappeared when WW II began. The women who did not go to work in the defense plants spent every spare minute folding bandages for the Red Cross or volunteering in other war-related activities. Weed and brambles once again claimed that edge of Johnson creek. The weeds remained until the Cooper House was moved to Willis Street to become first the Arlington Public library and then the Arlington Woman’s Club.

To enter the park, one crossed a heavy wooden bridge that spanned Johnson Creek. The circular road still curves around and through the park, only it is paved now.

Children having an Easter egg hunt in Meadowbrook Park - 1963

When I was small, there was a brown sandstone monkey house in the park. Often we took bits of fruit or bread to feed the monkeys and be entertained by their antics. Near the monkey cage someone had built a fine-packed clay croquet court. When my grandfather came to visit, he loved to go to the park and play croquet or sit on the sideline benches and watch others play.

The swimming pool lay at one end of the wooded parkland that was inside the circular gravel road. The two or three young men who were hired as summer lifeguards were admired by the girls and envied by the boys. The girls admired them for the usual carnal reasons; the boys envied them because being a lifeguard was more glamorous than sacking groceries or being a store helper. Few jobs were available for teens: soda jerk, grocery sacker, or a few other store helpers. A chosen few were soda jerks or ushers at The Texan Theater. Outside of babysitting, the job market for girls was practically nil.

The swimming pool opened June 1 and closed Labor Day weekend, which still seems sensible for Texas summers. Hours were from 10 a.m. until 9 or 10 p.m. Sometimes my family swam after supper while waiting for the house to cool enough to be bearable for sleeping.

Meadowbrook Park Recreation Center - 1963

Because of the park’s recreational facilities, church and company picnics were often held there. My friend Dabney Murph and I once casually wandered over from the swimming pool and enjoyed someone’s company picnic food. In the crowd, no one wondered where two more teens came from. Teens lucky enough to have the family car for an errand always circled the swimming pool to see what was going on and who was there. Mrs. Ott Cribbs kept an eagle eye on the girls’ dressing room and all that went on around the pool, so we were well chaperoned. In Meadowbrook Park, I got my worst sunburn, my worst case of poison ivy and my worst fall from a bag swing into Johnson Creek because of some bum advice from Bill Hughes.

Long gone are the monkey house, the croquet ground, the swimming pool, and two of the golf holes, but when circling the park last summer, I instinctively looked up to see who was on the high diving board.