Updated: Jun 17, 2020
Beauty contests, dancing under the pavilion, a sandy beach and a muddy swimming pond. Where is this you ask? Itʼs our very own Paradise Country Club once called, “Paradise Park.”
Our beloved club opened in 1947 as a perk for A.C. Gilbertʼs 5,000 employees to relax and have company picnics. A.C. Gilbert, located in New Haven, made toys including Erector sets.
The club featured large athletic fields used for softball games. Partway up a sloping hill, west of the pond, was an open pavilion for dancing. There were swings for the kids and trails in the woods. There were two lakes, one with a few rowboats and canoes. The lower lake (our current pond pool) featured a raft and diving boards with a fine sandy beach.
According to member, Nancy Schmidt-Dower, who joined 70 years ago as a young 4th grader, the water in the swimming pond was the same as the boating pond and there were small changing cabanas where the bath house is located.
“My mother would pack up all 8 children in the car with strollers, playpens, coolers and towels. People talked all day to each other. We had parties, played on the ball field, rode
the boats, went swimming, played tennis and took long walks.”
Nancy described how Paradise was closed on Mondays. “This was the day mom did
laundry and cleaned,” says Nancy.
Connie Festa and her family joined in the 1940s when her family couldnʼt travel to the
beach due to gas rations in World World II. “My father finally agreed to join when the gas rations began. I loved swimming and we would go out to the raft in the middle of the pond.”
As the club grew, members discussed changing the pond to a pool. According to
Connie, this was a controversial idea.
“It really was a mud pond,” says Connie. “Your feet would squish through five feet of
mud before you could swim. Members said, why do we need a pool, we have our great
When the new pond pool was installed it had a black bottom. Jeannie Palmer-Hill, a member for more forty years says one of her favorite memories is of artwork that was painted on the bottom of the pool.
“During my teen years,” says Jeannie, “We had this cool couple (The Zappalorti Family)
who would paint huge sea animals on the bottom of the pond before it was filled with
water for the summer. It was really cool.”
The snack bar was located by the Pavilion where parents would drink their coffee and
kids would come to get their ice creams.
“We were never bored,” says Jeannie, “We loved being with our summer friends and
stalking the lifeguards. And I will admit, I spent a fair amount of time following Nate
Hill and his friends around.”
Years later Jeannie married Nate. Nate Hill has been Paradise Country Clubʼs Club
Director since then. The Hillʼs two children; Avery, 20 years old and Maren, 15 years old,
still come to the club every day.
Whatʼs your favorite PCC memory? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org this summer and we will share them on the website!