I grew up in the Oak Square section of Brighton in the ’40s and ’50s. On hot summer days, about six or seven of my friends and myself would decide to go swimming.

I grew up in the Oak Square section of Brighton in the ’40s and ’50s. On hot summer days, about six or seven of my friends and myself would decide to go swimming.


We would walk down Faneuil Street, left on Brooks Street, all the way to the end. Just before the end where the R.R. Bridge is, there was a building on the left next to the tracks which we called the “Donut Factory.” We would pool our change to see if we had 25 cents or 30 cents to buy a box of six doughnuts. Powdered sugar was our favorite and everyone got one or half of one. I believe the company was Gebotts Donuts or Gebotts Bakery. Then it was under the bridge onto Nonantum Road and to the left to a small beach on the river called Baby Beach. It was located between the present Daly Field and Newton Yacht Club and behind the Daly Skating Rink, all of which were not there at the time. It had a bathhouse, restrooms, lifeguards and a float, which you could swim to and jump and dive from. We spent many a summer afternoon there.


The big challenge was to see who could be the first one to swim across the river, but every time someone would try, the lifeguard would whistle and stop us. We were lucky he was there before something tragic happened. When you’re young, you do foolish things.


As we got our first bikes, we ventured to other places on the river, such as Forest Grove in Waltham. It also had a float and beyond the float was a tiny island which was about 200 to 300 feet from the shore and which we could swim to. This was a very nice beach set in a pine grove.


Another beach was in Watertown, whose name escapes me now, which was located behind the present MDC pool on Pleasant Street.


Another area was Norumbega Amusement Park in Auburndale, which did not have a swimming area, but had some secluded coves where you could sneak a swim after spending the day on the amusements.


We even swam in the river in Cambridge at Magazine Beach, which was also located behind the present MDC Pool on Memorial Drive. At this beach, we could watch the pleasure boats passing by.


Another place was Riverside Pool adjacent to the river in Auburndale, also known as “The Wreck.” It had a high diving tower and diving boards and a small sandy beach area. I believe the water was from the Charles.


But one of the nicest and most secluded areas on the river was a place called Hemlock Gorge in Newton Upper Falls. Again, no swimming was allowed, but many times we were the only people there and you guessed it, we went swimming. It had tall trees all around and even though it was next to Route 9, you could not see or hear the traffic. It was as if you were transplanted from the city to the wild. We would explore the whole area, including the falls above the gorge and the small falls below the gorge. There was a huge arched bridge of granite blocks and it carried an MDC water supply pipe to Boston. In the water, it had a long narrow float about 2 feet wide attached to the shore which you would walk on. It was only about 2 inches above the water and if more than two people were on it, the float would begin to sink. To us, it was like walking the plank on a pirate ship.


Then sometime, I believe, in the late ’40s all swimming was banned in the Charles River because of high pollution contamination. It was a sad day for us kids.


However, our sadness was short lived, because the MDC opened their new pools which were located alongside the river; the first one being in Brighton at the circle where North Beacon Street, Nonantum Road and Birmingham Parkway merged. It was great and it only cost 1 cent to get in. It was open until 9 p.m., and had underwater lights in the side-walls of the pool. We would swim in the afternoon, go home for supper and return at night. As kids, we had a blast and after a long night of fun, a large group of us would hike it back to Oak Square.


When it wasn’t warm enough for swimming, there were other activities which we did on the Charles such as fishing:


From the east in Brighton at an area just behind a racetrack on Soldiers Field Road was where they used to train “Sulkies.” Sometimes I watched them with my father. This track is long gone, but was located across the street from the WBZ-TV and Radio Station.


To the west along Quinobequin Road in Newton with stops along the way; such as the dock at the end of Brooks Street in Brighton; the dock in Watertown Square; below the falls behind Lewandos Laundry in Watertown Square when the herring run was on; in Waltham behind Grover Cronin’s. We caught everything from eels, sunfish, hornpout, carp and bass. It was always exciting to see what was on your line.


Another activity included renting canoes and paddleboats at Norumbega, and one of our favorite activities was renting speedboats from a small cove just around the bend from Forest Grove in Waltham. To enter the cove, you had to go under a bridge which I remember was an old wooden truss bridge.


These boats were small two-seaters about 6 feet long with six-horsepower motors that had governors on them to control the speed. We were always trying to remove the governors but never succeeded. We would cruise around and race each other all day and then return them when our time was up.


I have the best memories of the Charles and have lived in Watertown for the last 43 years and live within 500 yards of the river.