LITTLE BALKANS CHRONICLES — Playter's Lake and Lakeside Park

J.T. Knoll
Playter's Lake, 1913.

Like thousands of others over the past century, Terry Bartlow has year ‘round, fond memories of Lakeside Park, which was originally part of the farm of Franklin Playter, Pittsburg’s founder.

A slate dump from a former mine on his property had created an eyesore for Mr. Playter, so he used it to form a dam across a large swale, creating a 3 ½ acre body of water that he allowed people to use for recreational purposes.

After being purchased by some prominent citizens in 1920, it was named Lakeside Park due to its adjacency to Lakeside School, which had opened in 1903, and the lake was named Playter's Lake. I’m sharing a picture of an old postcard of the park dating back to 1913. To see more, go to and click on “Scenes of Pittsburg.” – J.T.K.

Lakeside Lake, located in the midst of Lakeside Park, was a good place to be no matter what time of the year it was.

This fairly large body of water was at one time known as Playter’s Lake, and in the first half of the 1900s, the lake was not only used for fishing and boating, but also as a swimming hole.

As my friends and I were all born in the mid-1900s, we never got to use the lake as a swimming spot, but we did find ways to use the park and lake a lot in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The park was just across the street from Lakeside grade school and junior high, and most of us lived in the neighborhood.

It was a very special place for a young boy in the warmer seasons. The banks were flat and free of brush, and perfect for fishing with a long cane pole. No rods and reels for us. Just a long pole with some line, a small hook, a cork bobber, and a good supply of worms, bologna or bacon fat to use for bait. Hopefully a perch, bluegill or even a bass might be hungry. Four or five of us would meet in the morning at the lake and spend an entire day sitting under one of the large weeping willows while fishing, talking about baseball, and even girls occasionally.

All this took place while munching on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and candy from the nearby PX Store. Swimming was no longer allowed, but that water sure looked tempting on some of those hot and humid summer days.

Ice skating anyone? My classmates and I could not wait for winter, (I know! I know! Kids always want summer to never end) and the extreme cold, for the lake to freeze over. Once the city officials drilled through the ice and declared it thick enough to be safe, ice skating parties were the norm. Sometimes we had them on weeknights after supper, but always had them on weekends; weather permitting.

Fifteen to twenty of us boys and girls, or sometimes even more, would meet at the lake and ice skate for hours. These numbers also included kids from the other elementary and junior highs. Partner skating was popular if you had a special friend, or we’d form long lines of skaters who held hands and played “crack the whip”! There were always arguments about who got to be at the end of the line as that was the fastest and most exciting spot to be in. If you lost your grip or someone let you go on purpose, you could end up almost anywhere.

The city provided wind shelters and bonfire pits in the winter months, and some thoughtful mothers would either bring over hot chocolate for one and all, or even invite us all to their nearby house for treats. RJ Taylor was a frequent inviter of skaters into her home as it was just across the street from the park. And it always seemed like there were ample supplies of marshmallows to cinderize over the fire.

Gosh what fun those ice skate parties were, and some of us even found the time and a dark spot to sneak a kiss from our girl or boyfriend.

The park and lake are still there today, and are just as nice as they were fifty years ago. But you don’t see as many kids fishing there anymore (they are all too busy on their computers or cell phones), and no one ice skates at all as the city banned skating because of all the liabilities involved in these modern times.

I dearly wish that all the elementary and middle school kids today could go back to my time of youth, and see what they are missing. They might even say, ”Wow! This fishing and skating in the fresh air with friends is just too cool for words. In fact it’s groovy!”

— Terry Bartlow