East Side History Madison’s Blog

By and for the East Side History Club, a project of the Goodman Community Center

Life’s a Beach at Hudson Park

Posted by eastsidehistorymadison on June 16, 2009

Bob Finley, who wrote about attending St. Bernard’s School in An East Side Album, has sent us a reminiscence about Hudson Park Beach. Thank you, Bob!

Here is an excerpt:

– – –

I was seven years old in April of 1937 when we moved to Madison’s East Side…little did I realize what a wonderful place we had moved to.  We lived only one half block from Hudson Park Beach. For the next ten years I would spend my summers virtually living at the beach.

Fortunately my grandfather, who was retired, lived with us and on warm days would usually agree to spend a couple of hours at the beach. Although there were no swimming classes, by the end of the summer, I learned to swim like a fish.

The beach was a wonderful place. The park itself was quite a bit higher than the beach. There were four courses of about two feet high cut sandstone blocks separating the park from the beach. These courses were about 50 feet long and each course was set back about two feet from the one below it so they formed kind of a huge stairway down to the beach. Every spring the city would bring two large dump trucks full of sand and dump it over the rocks and down onto the beach. It was a great place for building sand castles.

On the west end of the beach was a long swimming pier running from shore out about 50 feet into the lake. The water at the end of the pier was over my head, at least 5 feet deep. About another 100 feet out beyond the end of the pier, was a diving platform with a springboard on it. It was in about 8 feet of water.  It was the goal of every kid on the beach to make it out to the diving platform but my parents put it off limits for a couple of years until I could prove my swimming ability.  In the mid 1940’s the city quit putting up the long pier and diving platform…

The lifeguards were great. They ruled the beach in a very strict manner.  The only lifeguard names I can remember were Art Ensign, Gene Finley and Chully Steel.  Chully even pulled me out once when I was under water practicing holding my breath.

What a way to grow up — spending your summers at the beach!

By: Robert M. Finley


The East Side History Club has not yet been able to locate a picture of Hudson Park Beach. Do you have a photo in your family archives? Dig it out, and let us know!

-Sarah White


One Response to “Life’s a Beach at Hudson Park”

  1. eastsidehistorymadison said

    See blog post 8/3/09: Chuck Steele has come through with a photo and more info!

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