Lake Mary
Lake Mary

The Big Boom of 1963?


Let's Drain Lake Mary!

Story by Brian V. Brunner ('64)
Powder Springs, GA - June 2001

I have talked about this event before on the message board under the subject of "Lake Mary is Alive and Well."

Phil Potts '63 thinks this happened in the spring of 1963, but I think it was in 1962. Either way, I remember being down in the Tallapoosa Hall Science Lab when it happened. We were not in the lab itself, but at our desks in front of the blackboard. If it happened in 1962 I was in Marjorie Gilliand's Biology class. If it was in 1963 then I was in Capt. J. D. Killingsworth's Chemistry class. Either way, during that class we heard a loud, "KA-BOOM!" that made the windows behind us rattle. We all wondered, "What was that?"

Later in the day we found out what had happened. Col. Wesley P. Smith '47, then president of LWMA, wanted to drain Lake Mary and dredge it out to make it deeper. You see, Lake Lyman, the "New Lake", had a drainage and overflow system, but Lake Mary didn't. There was a small canal about 20 feet wide and 50 to 75 feet long that joined the two lakes. That canal kept the water in Lake Mary fresh as the stream that fed both lakes only flowed into Lake Lyman. A temporary dam was built in the middle of the canal to keep the water in Lake Lyman and Lake Mary's dam was dynamited.

That's what caused the big explosion we heard. It also blew large amounts of dirt out of the dam, some water out of the lake, and killed all the fish in Lake Mary. Too bad most of the water did not drain out! The big surprise was a solid concrete wall about six inches wide in the middle of the earthen dam about four feet under the roadway. Later a backhoe was brought in to break up the wall so the lake could really be drained. This concrete wall must have been the first stage when Dr. Ward* started having the dam built.

I always said those S.I.I. boys knew how to build things. Just look a Tallapoosa Hall, Ross Hall and the white building down by the front gate. I do not know if any student labor was used to build Howell Hall, but I will try to find out.

Remember that HISTORY is all around you on the LWMA campus.

*I assume Dr. Ward had the dam and Lake Mary created. Of course it could have been Mr. Kirkland for all I really know.

NOTE: To those who don't know: Lake Mary is the first lake you come to when you go downhill past the football stadium. Lake Lyman is now uphill and west of Lake Mary. I don't know exactly when Lake Mary was created. Lake Lyman was build when Major Eli Howell was president of the school in the early 1950's. I don't know the exact year, but Howell Hall was built in 1956, and I assume Lake Lyman was created during that same time frame. When this story took place both lakes were at the same level and there was just grass between them and on the dam. The short canal I described above really did connect both lakes then.

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