First, in July, I celebrated my 16th birthday! Everything that this birthday meant to me, was safely tucked into my brand-new birthday wallet. Of course, it was my new Michigan driver's license!
Number two, I was the owner of a beautiful, customized, metallic- green 1950 Ford Pickup that was equipped with a hot little flat-head V8, and a stereo 8-track tape deck. Also, my 8-track tape holder was filled with Beach Boys, Dave Clark 5, Turtles, Beatles, and Righteous Brothers tapes! I was ready to roll!
But most importantly, I had the cutest little blond girlfriend! She lived at the top of D-Avenue's Alamo Hill, in central Kalamazoo County.
On this hot day in August, I down-shifted the little pickup and slowly pressed down on the gas peddle as we, (my truck and I), started up the steep incline of Alamo Hill. Even with the 95 degree temperature and very high humidity, the little V8 gave a crisp, powerful response and the dual glass-pack mufflers barked out a powerful throaty tone-- that of a perfectly tuned engine. With ease, the little pickup quickly tackled the long steep grade.
With the old truck's windows rolled down, and the cowl vent wide- open, the heat in the cab was still almost unbearable. I thought of how neat it would be to take a ride to Lake Michigan, just me and my gal!
The problem was, as nice as her mom was, there was no way she was going to let some 16 year old guy, with raging hormones, take her beautiful 15-year old daughter to the lake--- at least not alone. As I pulled into her driveway, I put my thoughts behind me and I never gave a trip to the big lake another thought.
My girlfriend's father was in the process of building a beautiful new home and he had much of it finished. During the construction, the family had been living in the walk-out basement, which was usually very cool and comfortable on a hot day. But, today it, too, seemed unbearable!
I hadn't been there for more than ten minutes, when one of my girlfriend's three younger sisters asked, "Mom, would you take us to Blocker's Pond?"
Her mom replied, "That sounds like a great idea!" Then she looked my way and asked, "Would you like to go for a cool dip?" Of course in the 60's us guys wore cut-off blue jeans almost everywhere-- I was ready for anything!
Within minutes we were all packed into the family's Ford sedan and on our way. Even with all the windows rolled down, the smell of sweaty bodies, musty beach towels, mingled with the smell of Coppertone lotion -- Well, to this day it sticks in my mind!
I had never heard of Blocker's Pond, so I had no idea how long it would take to get there. Also, this was the first time that I rode in a car driven by my girlfriend's mother. At one point, she slowed down and pulled off to the side of the road. I looked around for a gravel side-road or path for her to turn onto--- but there was none. I looked further, and in every direction, but I could see no sign of a lake or pond. I saw nothing but sun scorched fields, and heat waves rising from the road's surface.
I whispered to my girlfriend, "Why are we stopping?"
"Oh, Mom needs to light her cigarette. She never does that while the car is moving."
When we had finally reached our destination, and with the car parked, I still could not see the swimming hole. However, as we all crawled from the car, you could hear the sounds of laughter and splashing. These sounds were coming from nearby, and they sounded refreshing.
I followed everyone across the narrow road, then up a semi-steep path, beside an old concrete dam. This well-worn path was crisscrossed with large tree roots, which acted like natural stair-steps. The spillway from the dam formed a waterfall that dropped about eight feet into a catch basin the size of a large hot tub. As the water overflowed the basin, it wandered away as a gentle shallow stream.
When we reached the top of the trail, there it was! It was almost like the picture in a story book! The miniature man-made lake was just slightly bigger then perhaps two football fields. The constant movement of the water kept the pond very clean, despite the crowded conditions.
The shaded, tree-lined banks were perfect for just resting. Or, the water was just deep enough along the edges for the smaller children to safely make cannonball jumps, as they tried to make the biggest splash possible! Across the dam, and on the opposite side of the pond, someone bravely climbed out onto the limb of a giant oak tree, and there secured a heavy rope to create the perfect Tarzan swing! Nearby there was an equally impressive tire swing.
Even Walt Disney or the Hollywood engineers could not have created a more picture-perfect swimming hole! This dream-come-true was all new to me, but I learned from friends that their parents, grandparents and even great-grandparents all had swum there as children! In fact, that was indeed the problem.
State inspectors, who later examined the dam in the 1980's, decided it was showing dangerous signs of fatigue. To make the situation even more urgent, in the 1950's someone had built a small mobile- home park downstream from the dam, and the inspectors could only imagine the worse-- should the dam give out....
As a result, the State gave the small village a choice, either build a new dam, or permanently open the old one, thereby returning the stream to its original size.
This little village, like most of America in the mid 1980's, was going through tough times. As sad as it could be, their decision was a no-brainer. Wasn't there a poem called Paradise Lost? In a way, this is exactly what happened to Blocker's Pond. A favorite part of many people's childhood was to be lost-- leaving only a memory.
I'm certain many local folks of all ages mourned the loss of this beautiful site-- but it had to be. The little pond had been a friend during all seasons, and provided enjoyment to so many. Yes, it provided year around fun! Swimming, fishing, ice skating, now it was all over-- or was it? This little pond was to provide one last season of enjoyment for some folks, even after the plug had been pulled.
I had already been in detector sales for several years by this time. The detector sales was actually a sideline to my father's RV business. My detector sales had grown to the point where it was taking up too much of my workday. I could make more profit by selling one motor home, than I could by selling nearly 100 metal detectors. So a friend of mine, we call him "Junior," a veteran detectorist, started helping me sell the metal detectors.
Junior lived very near Blockers Pond, and he was the first one, (at least that I know of), to wander out onto the muddy, exposed, pond bed with a metal detector-- he felt as if he struck it rich! This first experience was early one morning, at sun-up, about 3 hours before he came into work.
When he showed up for work that day, he was so excited that he simply couldn't contain it!
At first, Jr. was very secretive about the whole thing. He whispered that he had something to show me, as he reached into his dirty nail apron with his cracked and calloused hands. He brought out a large assortment of varied treasures. There were old silver and copper coins, rings, bracelets, earrings, barrettes, key fobs, watch fobs-- I can tell you it was all very impressive!
The first few times we showed up at the pond, we started out hunting alone, but slowly and surely more treasure hunters started showing up. If you had any kind of metal detector, you could find pockets full of treasure! Coins, wedding rings, class rings, hundreds of silver charms, religious medallions, Sunday School pins, watch fobs, key fobs, tokens, track medals, Tootsie Toys, Cracker Jack items, tons of old marbles ---and coins, coins, coins!
I was working the area near the dam and my metal detector went crazy! Of course my first thought was that the concrete was reinforced with iron rods. I backed away from the structure then started slowly detecting my way back towards it.
I dug into the sand with my scoop every time the detector made any sound. Whenever I heard a target and scooped, instead of recovering one item, often times there would be a half dozen or more good finds in my scoop!
When I finally got close enough to again hear the re-bar with my detector, I knew just what had to be done! I decided it would be worth my time to scoop the sand away from next to the dam, then toss it out where I could scan it. Little did I know, my detector would soon be turned off for the remainder of the day!
I recovered hundreds of coins and other tiny treasures while scooping deeper and deeper at the side of the dam! It was just like hitting the jackpot! In fact! My doing this very thing was the image which reoccurred in my dreams for weeks to come!
As time went on, more and more detectorists showed up to hunt the old pond bed. At one point, it made me think that this must be Michigan's version of the California Gold Rush! It was getting harder to find a spot where you could "stake your claim," so to speak.
I started looking for any missed opportunities. The deeper area under the rope swing, where people would drop into the water, was still underwater and would always be so. This was because the area was actually a natural bend in the original stream. The whole area around it was very wet and muddy. Because of this, everyone seemed to avoid it.
I showed up the next morning with a plan of attack. I had my waders with me and a long handled scoop. My plan was to "stake my claim in this uncharted territory!" I figured that I would slowly work the area with a small 4-inch Garrett Sniper coil, attached to a hip-mounted Garrett ADS III. The small 4-inch coil permitted me to work down through about a foot of soupy mud.
results were amazing! In this one
area, I found about 100 or more coins and
trinkets! But, most surprisingly, I found
five different high school track-and-field
Throughout the entire pond area, we found valuable collectibles, which at the time we were not smart enough to recognize as valuable. Two groups of collectibles that were found in abundance, and often discarded, were toy premium rings and antique beverage bottles!
Eventually, just like the water-soaked mud, the treasure finds also started drying up. Finally you could hunt in your detector's 'all-metal' mode without getting a decent hit. Soon the wild grasses and weeds started to re-claim the land, and all those treasure hunters? They were now gone.
memory of finding abundant treasure
was still fresh in many minds--- not to
mention dreams. The story of the old
swimming hole's treasure was told and
re-told. One day an old-timer, who heard
the story, had some new interesting
information to add.
REPRESENTATION ONLY; OF A TYPICAL DAY'S WORK AT BLOCKER'S POND!
Back in the 1940's, just after the war, this gentleman made his living with a dump truck. Whether he was contracted by the village or if he did it on his own, we may never know-- but we learned from him that the pond had been drained so that he could haul several loads of sand in! Of course, this was done to improve the bottom for swimmers.
Word soon spread that the layer we had been detecting was not the old original bottom land! You guessed it! Treasure fever struck again and the hunting was resumed! This time the hunters were taking a completely different approach!
Once again, I climbed over the top of the path leading to the pond by the old dam. The first thing that caught my eye was several idle metal detectors propped along the old bank. When I looked out over the pond area, what I saw was shocking! There were several treasure hunters with regular, full-sized spades standing in trenches which they had dug.
The trenches zig-zagged around like a rat's maze with no logical pattern. At the side of the trenches were all manner of homemade sifters.
A couple of the guys were using wooden frames with wire-mesh screen material stretched across them. Some were using the grates from backyard grills and still others had the shelving out of their own refrigerators!
The guys with the fancy wood-framed sifters would use a special technique. The dirt would be tossed from a distance of 6 or more feet. That way when it hit the screen, the dirt would cleanly pass on through. With each toss, they would aim the shovel load toward the highest point on their screen, then, just as with their detector, they would listen for treasure!
As they tossed the shovel loads of soil though their sifting device, there would be a deep "swooshing" sound. When a coin, ring, or other trinket would hit the screen you could hear a 'tink,' then you would see their prize roll or slide down onto the bottom board. One of the guys had 2 or 3 old licence plates tacked onto the bottom board to enhance the sound, making it metal-to-metal.
I think it would be safe to say that less than 5% of the total overall finds were recovered from this bottom stratus, but these were some great items! One was rumored to be an early 1900's U.S. $10.00 gold piece! I never saw it, and never heard who found it, but it really wouldn't surprise me. The sifting method yielded hundreds of old plastic, bone and pearl buttons, clay and glass marbles, partial dentures, and even a glass eye!
Eventually the neighboring property owner discovered that he controlled most of the land up to the water's edge, and he pretty much had just about enough of the treasure hunting on his land! Soon the area was posted and the hunting simply came to an end.
Just before Christmas, I sold a detector to one of the locals who shared with me some of his boyhood memories of Blocker's Pond. He told me that on hot nights, he would sneak down to the pond and go skinny dipping with friends. One of their favorite pastimes was to dump a box of soap in the catch basin creating a bubble bath, then sit under the waterfall and drink beer.
One night, one of his friends hopped out of the water like he had seen a ghost! He insisted that something had bit him on his chest! The next day, the guys came back with a dive mask and made an interesting discovery. Some tiny bluegills had washed over the dam and then had grown up in the catch basin. The too-shallow stream provided no means of escape. I guess the soap made them go wild!
For years, he noticed that people enjoyed standing under the waterfall, so one day he decided to dig into the bottom of the catch basin to see if they had been losing things. He told me that he kept finding loads of coins and jewelry items as deep as two feet below the basin's bottom!
the old pond is gone. Now all you
can see is a small stream winding its way
through a thick forest of poplar trees. The
land is still posted, but even if it wasn't,
there isn't enough room to swing a
detector's coil. Yes, the old pond is just a
memory, but what a great memory!
What do you know about Blocker's Pond? I would be interested in showing any pictures of the old swimming hole . . . do you have any? I have been able to trace the pond back to 1912 --- but I am not positive - - - do you know when the dam was built? Please e-mail me with what you know
so that I can add it to this page - - - e-mail email@example.com