Charles “Bill” Cox Sr. (1926-1997), a longtime grocery store employee, and two of his uncles named Charles Cox and Harold Cox, decided to convert part of a large quarry into a public swimming area in 1963. The spring-fed quarry, with crystal clear water, was located on property that the Cox family owned in Pulaski Township, Lawrence County, Pennsylvania. The land, settled by Cox ancestors as early as 1829, was located just north of the intersection of Marr Road and Route 551 and the village of Frizzleburg.
The new Pine Hills Lake, operated by Bill Cox Sr. and his wife Pat, likely opened for business in June 1964. There was a beach area built on the southern part of the lake with a concession stand, pavilion, and bathhouse. A small admission fee was charged and before too long the park became a summer hangout for teenage kids, a place for family outings, and the popular location for company picnics. Over the years the Cox family continued to make various improvements to the park. Bill and Pat Cox also opened the Pine Hills Market, a grocery and meat market, near the park’s entrance in about 1972.
Peggy Cox and her brother William “Rick” Cox, the children of Bill and Pat Cox, practically grew up at the park. In March 2014, I asked Peggy, then residing near Columbus, Ohio, a series of questions about her memories of the park. When queried about why her dad and uncles decided to build the park she replied: “According to what I was told. My parents and some friends were looking for a place to swim one day. They decided to go there and when they arrived, they found that there were numerous people swimming there. The idea to make it a swimming area arose. It was more of an investment but also there was the fear that someone would be hurt there as it was unattended.” (EDITOR’S NOTE: Sadly, Peggy Cox passed away in May 2017 at the age of sixty-four.)
I followed up with a series of questions for Peggy and she had this to say: “My brother (Rick Cox) and I both worked at the lake. In the beginning (I was 11, he would have been about 13) we did all the scud work, i.e. clean the bath houses, outhouses, pick up trash from the beach, watch over the basket room, work in the concession stand, help at the front gate, and finally, the utopia was becoming a certified lifeguard. That was the best! There was a concession stand which grew larger over the years as business grew… The most famous item sold in the concession was the “frozen” Milkshake candy bar! My friends from the lake still to this day talk about it. We also had frozen Snickers and Milky Ways…
She went on to say, “There was also a bath house for changing and a “basket room” to hold belongings. Restrooms were outhouses. Later on as the business grew the grounds were enlarged and a huge volleyball court was added on a higher level. That was a HUGE draw for the kids. We drew in kids from Mohawk, New Wilmington, Union, New Castle, Neshannock and other county schools and even some from Lowellville, Ohio. During the summer everyone was friends; however, once school started back up, we all had our own loyalties. Also, the lake provided Red Cross certified swim teachers for swimming classes of all ages and also lifeguard classes as well. There was a pavilion outside the swimming area that could be reserved for large or small picnic events. We had a lot of family reunion type things and business picnics renting it out.”
Pine Hills Lake came under new management in 1977 when it was sold to local accountant Joe Goodge. The popularity of the swimming hole, like others around the region, slowly waned during late 1970’s and early 1980’s. The park ceased operations in about 1987 and the neighboring Pine Hills Market was also closed about 1995. Dr. Mohammad Ali, a pulmonary disease doctor affiliated with several area hospitals, acquired the property in 1995 and maintains it as a private retreat. The Pine Hills Lake property, remembered so fondly by many local residents, has returned to relative obscurity.
The entrance sign for Pine Hills Lake in Pulaski Township. (c1970) (Courtesy of Peggy Cox)
An early look at the lake before it was opened as a public swimming hole. (c1962) (Courtesy of Peggy Cox)
An early advertisement for Pine Hills Lake. (Jun 1964)
Pine Hills Lake was a popular spot for locals during the summer months. (c1971) (Courtesy of Peggy Cox)
The entrance area to the park. (c1971)
The waters of Pine Hills Lake were fed by springs and always seemed very clear. (c1972) (Courtesy of Peggy Cox)