What was summer like growing up at Lay Village? Here, we follow up from our original post with more Lay villagers sharing fond memories of summers spent on Lay Lake.
Barbara Greene Petty
I was born in one of the wood-frame houses at Lay Dam on Aug. 2, 1935. In an outside corner of the house, Mary Lou and I had a playhouse and made mud pies. When Frank was old enough to be outside with us, he’d try to eat our mud pies.
In the summer, my father had a very large garden and we would have to work in it and help hoe the weeds. We played softball and baseball in front of the garages. Also enjoyed swimming in the pool and in the river. The tennis court was repaired and we enjoyed playing tennis. It didn’t take much to entertain the children. We loved to take the cardboard boxes and slide down hills covered with pine straw.
An annual barbecue was held each summer on the lawn of the superintendent’s home. Thurman Baker was in charge of cooking the many chickens and making the Brunswick stew. Everyone always enjoyed attending the barbecue.
Mr. Thurman Baker and Dad taught me and my brothers hunting and fishing skills and how to survive in the woods. Many times, Thurman would come by the house and cook on the grill anything that we had killed or caught. He taught me how to cook on the grill. He helped Dad build an outside grill that many a great meal was cooked on.
My dad, Elly, would buy our first boat soon after we moved to the village. He thought any family who lived on the water needed a boat. And so the first version of El Coosa was launched. This boat became popular with us village kids because we used it to pull a homemade “surfboard.” Many summer days were spent on the water skimming along behind the El Coosa.
Another favorite pastime on the river was created when the Coosa would flood from heavy rains. The rising water would lift boats from the banks upstream and bring the small boats to the back of the dam. The boys in the village would collect these boats and sometimes convert them into sailboats. We would cut saplings to make masts and jib arms. The sails were made from bedsheets. The boats in the photo were part of our fleet. I can’t recall if our mothers knew we were taking the sheets for our latest adventure, but I doubt it.
Downie O’Neal Nemec
As far as we knew, the village children were the first to ever water ski on the lake. Our father, Elly O’Neal, was known for his patience and was happy to teach anyone interested. He taught my brother, me, our cousin and many friends how to ski.
Doris Littleton James
At night when the wind was blowing, Bobby and I could hear the water sloshing up against the bank. What a wonderful sound. When the O’Neal family moved next door to us, we swam in the river every day. We had a swimming hole located on the left of the drive to the house. It was a wonderful time in my life. We would hear the bullfrogs making their sounds.
I will never forget my life at Lay Dam with my brother Bobby and for a while with my baby brother James. We truly did live in paradise. Not only were the grounds beautiful, but also the wonderful personalities of the people who lived there with us.