Have you heard of Soupy’s Lakeside Pool in Fresno? For fun, depending on your age… ask your parents or grandparents if they have.
Did you know that before Target was built at Blackstone and Bullard, there stood a Montgomery Wards department store? Before that, there was a big public pool and summer hang out that attracted thousands of Fresno residents every summer. Yup, It’s true! Soupy’s Lakeside Pool (which also featured archery and golf) was an institution for those growing up in my parents’ era in Fresno.
History, Quotes and Memories
Owned and operated in the 1960s by, Soupy and Vernice Holmes (the land itself was owned and leased to the Holmes by the Funch family). Lakeside provided many young people with some of their fondest summertime memories. My mother, Debby Perry said, “To me and my sisters, cousins, and friends, it was paradise. Soupy was a teacher and later became a principal; his wife Vernice was the manager of Fresno State’s Bookstore; so they were both in education the other nine months of the year. Through visiting their park-like place on Bullard just east of Blackstone, I took my first swimming lessons.” The Holmes’ were known for being thoroughly dedicated to teaching children how to swim. “Their place was a safe haven, and they saw to it that kids minded their manners, and had a great time. The Holmes family became like family to ours, and we ended up taking many fun vacations with them.”
My mother’s memories are not the only ones that linger fondly in the minds of Fresnans. On my recent dive for more info about Lakeside, Fresnan David Cannon shared, “I lived directly across the street from Lakeside on Bullard. My parents brought season passes for us every summer. I practically lived there as a kid. I could just walk across the street anytime they were open. My one regret is that I didn’t think to take photos of it because somehow I thought it would be there forever. I’ll never forgive (Montgomery) Wards for building over it.”
Fellow Fresnan Dan Waterhouse reminisced, “Soupy taught me how to swim at Lakeside, and my mom ran it for him between 1965 and 1969.” He describes it as wild at points, during a time in which there were feuds between people from Clovis and others from Pinedale, and he remembers the Pinedale kids backing his mom up while she made sure order was kept! “I also remember when I won 300 games on the baseball pinball machine.”
Pictures are scarce but the memories are plentiful
Contributors to the Lost Fresno online forum (which celebrates Fresno’s historical landmarks, events and people) tell stories of fishing and rafting on the Lakeside “lake” (which was a former race track, later filled in with water in the center), swimming in the lesson pool, or jumping off the high dive into the big pool. On Sundays, rumor has it that Soupy would throw coins into the pool for the kids to dive for and keep.
Though many fond memories of Lakeside linger, sadly, it seems to find photos of it is near impossible. There was rumored to be one, an aerial view, that hung in the living room of the Holmes house – though recent conversations have yet to yield any other leads on photos. Perhaps many thought like Cannon and believed it would be there forever. Nonetheless, it remains a special glimmer in Fresno’s history, fondly remembered by many.
Do you have memories of swimming or spending your summers at Soupy’s Lakeside pool or at other places many new Fresnans may not know about? We’d love to hear more! Leave us a comment!
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