The Lookout

By Greg Smith

In 1936, J. W. Garrett and C. J. Barbier opened the Lookout. The 9 acres of land they purchased had previously been a peach orchard owned by John Wesley Love.

The pool was the first cement pool in East Texas and included underwater lighting. At the time of its opening, a day-long swim and bathing suit rental were available for ten cents.

Dub Gentry shared his memories of the Lookout in the 1930s. It was a very popular destination for students from Lon Morris College, where he was a student. The dance hall played popular music of the time. In particular, he remembered, "You are my sunshine" by Jimmie Davis. The music was usually played from a juke box, though occasionally there was a live group. As best as he could remember, the pool was open all week and the dance hall was open Friday and Saturday.

The Lookout was closed for 4 years during World War II. In 1945, it was re-opened by Garrett's son-in-law, Ernest Hendricks. Mr. Hendricks' friend, Van Buren, painted portraits of Dagwood and Blondie, Alley Oop and Daisy Mae on the bath-house wall. He would come by every two to three years to touch them up.

At one point, the Lookout included a small "amusement park" [time-period uncertain]. There was also a short-lived racecar track for adult amusement. It was located west of the pool, across the railroad tracks.

There was a large metal elephant chained to the bottom of the pool that you could "ride"–if you were able to get on top. Jerry Heilman says that mechanical bulls are much easier, and that this feature led to many broken arms and wrists, as well as many bumps on the head. There was also a high diving board, for the kids able to muster up enough courage.

Kay Moffeit enjoyed the various arcades. Her favorite was "Shoot the Bear." The game included a rifle and a mechanical bear with targets on it that would pass by. John Lang remembers another game with metal pistol grips that measured how much electrical shock you could take.

Shannon Smyrl recalls the Lookout in the 1950's. Around 1956, she and other classmates from East Side School, as part of the music program, square danced with the local adult square dance group.

By this time, she says, it was beginning to fall into disrepair. She took swimming lessons at the pool with her sister and every time she entered the dressing room and walked on the concrete floor, it just seemed filthy. Another resident of Jacksonville remembers the green slime growing on the floor. This, of course, was before the time of plastic flip-flops. According to Mrs. Smyrl, the Cherokee County Country Club built a pool with better, cleaner facilities and this attract many of the swimmers that had gone to the Lookout. She believes that this, combined with the polio scares of the time, was the beginning of the end for the Lookout.

Jerry Heilman, who also frequented the Lookout in the fifties, believes that the death of the Lookout had less to do with the Country Club, and more to do with Mr. Hendricks, the owner. He was an original "biker" and many parents didn't want their children going to the Lookout because of his "seedy appearance."

In the summer of 1972 or 73, Wayne Harp (who was 13 or 14 at the time) worked the concession stand. He said Mr. Hendricks always treated him nicely. He always made sure that he had a ride to work, and if he didn't he would go and pick him up himself. Wayne remembers going to the dance hall with his family on Friday and Saturday nights, where he says there was always a live country band to dance to.

David French, the late Dorothy Hendricks' financial advisor, says that the pool closed after the summer of 1976. John Lang believes that the reason Mr. Hendricks closed the pool was because of forced integration. Other parts of the Lookout continued to operate until Ernest's death in 1982.

A tornado in November of 1983 [I've been told it was actually on November 15, 1987] damaged many of the buildings. The remains of the buildings remained for many years until they were removed in [need date] for the construction of [need name of visitor's center].