Transcript: The Blue Bubbling Water

July 11, 2012 |

The Blue Bubbling Water:

Remembering Sweet Springs with Pauline Baker, narrated by Roxy Todd

[the sound of bubbling spring water, music, “Take the A Train, by Duke Ellington”]

Pauline: I was born at Sweet Springs, June 29th, 1910. We used to go up to the ballroom, there’s a beautiful ballroom there. We’d go up there and watch them dance. The manager would let us come in. There was benches along the wall, we’d sit down there and watch them.

Roxy: Pauline Baker grew up a few miles from the Eastern Continental Divide, off Route 3 in Monroe County, WV, and she learned to swim in the pure, blue waters at Sweet Springs Resort. Though Sweet Springs is no longer open, the mineral waters are still running, still bubbling, and still naturally heated to a perfect 73 degrees.

Pauline: The first bathing suit that I can remember seeing the women down there wear, they looked like dresses. Like a skirt over them, you know? When I could first remember seeing that pool, there was a division between it. There were two sides, one for the women, one for the men. They didn’t swim together. And then in later years they tore that wall out between them, made it all one. I can remember my grandmother thought that was terrible. [laughs] The men and the women were swimming together.

[music, “Take the A Train”]

Roxy: For over a hundred years, the healing powers of the Sweet Springs mineral water attracted elite guests from all over the world who came to bathe in the glamorous waters and dine in the great Jeffersonian hall.

Pauline: I used to sell flowers to the guests. And I would meet the children that came down there. And some of them were really friendly, you know? And I made friends with them. I remember especially a girl from Philadelphia. She was there with her family, and she sent me a lot of books to read. I guess when you’re a kid you never meet a stranger.

[music: Duke Ellington, “Black and Tan Fantasy”]

Pauline: There was a lot of people down there then. There was large families; there were a lot of kids down there. Especially when the hotel was running.

Roxy: Pauline is the only living person who remembers Sweet Springs when it was still operating as a famous mineral springs resort. But she also remembers the time when the resort was closed, during the Great Depression, and it was left virtually abandoned. Pauline explains that since no one else was using it, the caretaker decided he might as well allow the children to swim at the old brick bathhouse, and Pauline remembers swimming in those warm, bubbling waters just about every day in the summertime.

Pauline: After the hotel closed down, and there was a family that lived on the grounds, took care of the property. Anyway, they had access to the pool and everything. And the local kids would go down to the pool and swim. That’s where I learned to swim was in that pool. Cause they’d take us down there, let us go in there and swim, after the hotel closed.

[the sound of bubbling spring water]

Roxy: As I recall my own fascination with Sweet Springs, and something inside me that calls me back, to drive through Gap Mills and the valleys below Peters Mountain, I feel certain that there is something unspeakably grand and charming about the old resort. Pauline Baker may be the only one living who actually saw the old resort when it was still operating, but she is not the only one who hopes for its restored future.

This has been a production of Allegheny Mountain Radio, with help from the West Virginia Humanities Council, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. For more stories like this one, visit Traveling



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