Ghosts of Dallas: White Rock Spillway, 1952, Ctd.

From the collections of the Texas/Dallas History and Archives Division, Dallas Public Library

After posting the first item in our Ghosts of Dallas series (there will be more in the coming weeks), I was contacted by a FrontBurnervian who’s a Woodrow Wilson High School alum and was curious about what became of the girls photographed cooling off in the White Rock Lake spillway 60 years ago.

Thanks to help from the Woodrow alumni association, I was able to speak to two of the women yesterday. They were apparently part of a close-knit group of high school friends whose lives have dispersed them across the country, with one in California, one in Georgia, one in a Connecticut. At least one is deceased. They all graduated from Woodrow in 1954.

Carolyn (Wadsworth) Guthrie is 75, lives in Arlington, and told me she spent more than 20 years working as a school teacher. She’d attended school with some of the other girls since their time at Robert E. Lee Elementary. The day of the photograph was the only time in her life she’d ever sat in the water of the spillway.

“I can’t remember the exact circumstances, but I believe it was the last day of school, and we picked up our report cards and decided to do that as a treat,” Guthrie said.

The other Carolyn in the photo, Carolyn (Roderick) Garrett, remembers a few other details. Though she wasn’t certain it was the last day of the school year, she thinks that might be possible. She recalls that they made the trip to White Rock because it was a warm day and one of their group had gotten access to the family car.

Garrett grew up in Lakewood, but that day was also the only time she’d ever bathed at the spillway. “I remember it was so slick with algae,” she said.

Before they knew what was happening, a Dallas Times Herald photographer was on the scene and taking the picture. The next day it was on the front page.  “We were all just floored,” she said.

Garrett now lives in Grapevine, and still works a little at the industrial scrubber and sweeper company, Wayne’s Industrial, that she founded with her late husband and is now run by their son.  She told me about some of the mischief she and the girls got up to in high school, including exploring an old farmhouse that was reputed to be haunted, on land belonging to the Motley family off Buckner Road about where Eastfield College is today.

Though their visit to the spillway was a one-time event, swimming in the lake was something they’d done often while growing up.

“But the water was so dirty, you had to shower just as soon as you got back to to the Bath House,” Garrett said.


  • JasonM

    Wow… back when white people went to public school in Dallas.

  • Emily

    Good lord, Jason. There are plenty of white children enrolled at Woodrow today. It’s a great school. Enjoy your suburban life :/

  • RJ

    Actually there have been noises that the Lakewood area schools are “too white”. I guess you aren’t up to speed on current events. Really though, that flap with Rod Dreher (who also didn’t know what he was writing) was in 2008 and there are more whites now. Most people don’t care about the racial breakdown, just that Woodrow and its feeders have nationally recognized AP and IB programs.

  • Jo Hauerwas Langawell

    I spent those years 1051-1054 in Woodrow and they were the best. Still have some of my friends from those times.