It was a 4-door car and there were six of us in it. We’d been dragging State Street that summer evening. Like a lot of summer evenings in a small town it was really boring. I was fifteen at the time and don’t remember who I was with. Whoever was driving headed out to Garvin Park and the Augusta City Lake. We went through the gate into the park and the driver jogged a little to the right and picked up the single lane road that ran across the top of the earthen dam.

It was a beautiful evening with a full moon and when we got about to the middle of the dam we stopped and everyone got out. There was a concrete structure out in the water that rose up from the bottom of the lake. It was possibly 8 feet by 8 feet or maybe even 10 by 10. I guess it contained pipes and valves and was the place that the lake water entered the municipal water system and started its journey to the water treatment plant. You couldn’t help but think that it sure would be fun to swim out to that thing and jump off it a few times.

Apparently, “great minds” were thinking in unison that night for we all started stripping off our clothes and jumping into the lake. We had a fantastic time for 20 or 30 minutes and then, the local police car pulls up behind us on the dam. Out, step two of our city’s policemen, Harold Edwards and Billy Joe Davis. As I recall, at this time, the Augusta police force had a police chief, 3 cops, a car for patrol, and a car for the chief.

The cops yelled and motioned for us to get in a group and then started lecturing us. “You can’t swim in there! That’s our drinking water! It’s against the law, etc.” We all knew that swimming in the lake wouldn’t hurt the quality of the drinking water for that water went straight from the lake to the treatment plant where it would be purified. The harangue lasted a few minutes and then they ordered us to get dressed, get in the car, and drive straight to the police station. There wasn’t any question of getting away. Harold and Billy Joe knew every one of us, our parents, and where we lived. We had no choice but to do as we were told. 

The Police Station was located in the City Building along with the Fire Department, the City Library, the Mayor’s office, and a few other things. I was familiar with the place because I grew up visiting the library at least once a week and made regular visits to the Fire Station to slide down the brass pole.

When we arrived at the station we were immediately escorted to the back and shoved into one of the two cells. Tom Irwin, the Justice of the Peace had been called at home and he arrived in just a few minutes. Like the cops, Tom knew all of us and our folks and said they were calling them down to the station. We didn’t have a phone, so I had to tell the Judge to call our neighbors, the Pennington’s, and they would go over and tell Mom or Dad to come to the phone. By this time, we were all starting to sweat a little. We didn’t really think the Judge would do anything to us but we didn’t want our folks to hear about it.

It probably took 30 minutes for all of our parents to get there and the Judge and the cops spent the time barking at us for swimming in the drinking water and probably peeing in it, too.

The cops started off by telling our assembled parents how rotten we were. We had trespassed on city property, swam in the municipal water supply, caused a disturbance, wasted the time of the city’s police force, and I forget what else they had dreamed up. The Judge took over then, and discussed the gravity of the situation and that being a scofflaw at this young age could lead to a life of crime later. By this time, we were all sick to death of the whole thing and were ready to promise anything if they would just shut up and leave us alone. They sent us home and we couldn’t have been more thankful. Our parents were smart enough to realize that the Judge and the cops had definitely done a good job of grinding us and we certainly wouldn’t be doing this one again so nobody got punished.

Dave Thomas

October 19, 2014


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