Lagoon was featured as the cover story of the August 1961 issue of Ford Times – a monthly magazine by the Ford Motor Company that focused on travel and, of course, Ford automobiles. The article describes the hidden Utah treasure to outsiders and relates a bit of its history. In the 60 years since it was published, the state’s population has pretty much quadrupled and Lagoon is no longer on the outskirts of town. Many of the attractions have changed, but the park still offers a lot of the same qualities in different ways.
Ford Times was a nationally-circulated publication, but the author and the artist were both Salt Lake City natives. The author, Cristie Freed, was the wife of former park manager Peter Freed. The illustrator was well-known Utah artist V. Douglas Snow. But this wasn’t the only time their work was published in the magazine. Freed had written several other articles, at least as far back as 1958, and Snow had illustrated many other articles including one about the 1964 World’s Fair.
Here’s the original 1961 Ford Times article in its entirety.
LAGOON – UTAH’S UNEXPECTED PLEASURE
Here’s fresh-water swimming, an amusement park, and big-name dance bands for the cross-country motorist seeking family fun
By Cristie Freed . . . paintings by V. Douglas Snow
Back in the horse and buggy days, when travel was dirty, hot, and tiring, Simon Bamberger built a railroad connecting Utah’s two major cities, Ogden and Salt Lake City. Though he later became governor of the state, he is now more widely known for the amusement park he built at the halfway point of his line to refresh his passengers. He is no longer with us, but the amusement park, called Lagoon, is flourishing – a delightful bit of frivolity in a state better known for its natural wonders. The resort has become as much a part of the summer life of the people of Utah as their dance or drama festivals, their mountain picnics, or their national parks. More than three quarters of a million people visit Lagoon during its four-month season. The entire population of the state is only about 900,000.
Lagoon has become such an institution that schools, both public and private, bring their students from all over the state – and some come from Wyoming, Idaho, and Nevada – for special Lagoon Days.
Lagoon was built on the site of artesian wells – wells of pure water, unsalted. Since Great Salt Lake was the state’s most celebrated and popular body of water, Mr. Bamberger had a problem. He had to convince Utahans that it was as much fun to swim in water as to float on it, as at Saltair on Salt Lake.
So the slogan, “Swim in Water Fit to Drink,” and a copyrighted design of a bathing girl diving into a glass of pure water, were used to sell the idea of swimming in Lagoon’s fresh water. Utah is probably the only place in the world where such a sales pitch could be mandatory for success.
Lagoon still rivals Saltair, and the Lagoon slogan has become literal truth. On its most crowded days, the Lagoon pool tests show a purity equal to that of the state’s drinking water. Far from casting aspersion on the purity of Utah’s water, the truth of this statement derives from the fact that the pool is cleansed by the largest vacuum filter in the world.
Apart from its renowned cleanliness, pool addicts enjoy “the swim with a view.” As you do a back crawl, you get a breathtaking view of the Wasatch Mountains to the east. If you face westward, there, over the islands of Great Salt Lake, are the world’s most glorious sunsets.
Developed primarily as a family resort, Lagoon has always been operated on a policy that nothing objectionable to any member of the family shall be exhibited or performed. Long before Prohibition the sale of liquor, except beer, was discontinued. The entertainment through the years has included everything from early motion pictures through airplane stunt flights, bicycle races with the cyclists competing with the Bamberger railroad train and the passengers cheering them on, and so on up to a major circus in recent years.
Dancing has always been one of the topflight attractions. Name bands from all over the nation who find Farmington, Utah, on their itinerary, never need to ask, “Where on earth is that?” They know that at Lagoon, situated on the outskirts of this small town, they’ll perform for some of their largest and most enthusiastic audiences. That goes for Satchmo, Dave Brubeck, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, and other greats of jazz.
The joys of youth
But again, there is Lagoon for the children. When the producers of TV’s “Wide, Wide World” wanted to show their viewers all the delights of childhood fantasy, they selected Lagoon as their site and with a children’s dance group brought dreams to life in a program so enchanting that thousands of viewers responded.¹
To the thousands of tourists each year, as well as to the native population who now accept Lagoon as their birthright, its setting is almost unbelievably alluring. The country immediately surrounding the resort is lush farming acreage planted to the foothills of the great mountains. This abundance springs from an area that graduates to desert wasteland and the harsh, white, arid expanse of Great Salt Lake and the Bonneville Flats.
The resort itself is a swirl of happy images: pink cotton candy and the wafted scent of hot popping corn; the fun house and a mad merry-go-round of green horses and yellow elephants; whirl rides that make you green; and lush groves with thick lawn where you recover your normal color while listening to the gaiety of the midway.
Thanks to ample artesian well water Lagoon’s gardens are a major enticement. From the top of the Ferris wheel at one end of the midway, the brave passenger – if he dares open his eyes – surveys the intricate patterns in floral gardens covering thirty per cent of the resort’s area. In the children’s playground, midget motor cars follow a track through a delightsome melee of flowers and ferns designed to make children feel deliciously lost in a friendly jungle.
Six years ago, fire destroyed half of the old Lagoon. The management was at first uncertain what reconstruction should be undertaken, or whether there should be rebuilding at all. Then came phone calls and letters, some even containing money, pouring in from adults and children, all begging for immediate reconstruction of the burnt-out attractions.
A new and modern section grew; and, as pressure increased, a new fun house – and the children of Utah were filled with joy. After sixty-five years of continuous operation, it is safe to say that the childhood memories of three-quarters of Utah’s population include happy hours at Lagoon, “The Fun Spot of Utah.”
- The televised performance mentioned was broadcast on NBC in September 1956. A few more details are available in this article.