May's Photo of the Month is taken from our slide collection. We recently purchased an Ion Film2SD 35mm film and slide scanner to help process the slides and negatives in the History Center’s collection. This scanner allows us to convert slides to a digital format and then those digital files can be uploaded to our Past Perfect Online database. We’re excited to be able to share these previously hidden parts of our collection with our patrons!
We’ve selected this image (1997.031.046) as our photo of the month. The slide shows a young boy standing next to a sign for Lake Plain Dealing. The sign advertises boating and swimming. The lake was also used for fishing, water skiing, and picnicking. The beginnings of the lake, however, had nothing to do with recreation. Its primary goal was to prevent flooding.
The town of Plain Dealing dealt with flooding for generations until a plan in the mid-1950s to build three reservoir lakes took shape. Flash flooding was the main concern, as the town generally experienced three to five floods in the spring months. Floods in April of 1958 seriously damaged crops and twelve inches of rain in one week brought five overflows to the town. Residents tried to save their buildings by placing feeds sacks in doorways, but water crept into the Kelly Drug Store, Doles Insurance Agency, the Post Office, and the telephone exchange. Floods resulted in an estimated $41,000 of damage to Plain Dealing homes and stores annually.
In 1958, a delegation of six citizens, including M.R. Bolinger, John Doles, Jr., and Leon Sanders, attended an area meeting of the Soil Erosion group in Minden, LA. They planned to take advantage of the benefits of the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act passed by Congress in 1954. The program to dam three lakes gained support from both the Dorcheat Soil Conservation District and the Bossier Parish Police Jury. The Police Jury agreed to help with the maintenance of the dams and also constructed blacktopped roads to the lakes.
The whole community was involved in the project. The rights-of-way were mostly donated by citizens. S.H. Bolinger and Company donated work crews and equipment for clearing and leveling the shoreline and picnic grounds. Prisoners were used to clean underbrush and debris from the recreation area. Boy Scouts piled brush and planted grass. The Home Demonstration Club, Women’s Clubs, and the American Legion helped financially in projects around the lakes.
In 1961, the creation of the lakes was named national ”Watershed Project of the Year”, and several men integral to the project, including Plain Dealing Mayor Leon Sanders, and their wives traveled to Tucson, Arizona to receive the honor. Plain Dealing had taken a great step forward in flood control and also received the bonus of a wonderful water recreation area.