The Sam Houston Memorial Museum, in conjunction with several Sam 136 classes, will dredge the historical “Duck Pond” next month in an effort to clean 70 years of pollution and perhaps even uncover secrets of the past.
The pond will be dredged by student volunteers who are enrolled in Sam
136. The course is a 3-hour elective freshmen seminar designed by the university to help students read, write and speak on experiences and challenges that first-year students are faced with on a daily basis. Part of the curriculum requires that students complete five hours of service to the community and for some students, these hours will be fulfilled by helping the museum dredge the pond.
“We organized three projects and split the [Sam 136] classes up,” said Dana Grant, who is Director of Residence Life and an official representative for various University committees. “One group is helping Rita B. Huff at the pet center. Another group is helping students register to vote. The last group, which consists four classes, is assisting the museum dredge the pond.”
The students in these classes will literally lend a helping hand at the Duck Pond because it can only be drained one way– by hand. The use of practical machinery is hindered by the way the pond edges were first constructed. The students will be lined up with buckets and scoop out the muck water into a galley. The last time the pond was cleaned was in 1936 and needs to be drained because of its lack of a natural filtration system and accumulation of 70 years of debris.
Although students and citizens of Huntsville commonly refer to the pond as the “Duck Pond”, most people do not know that the actual name is Lake Oolooteka, named after Sam Houston’s adoptive Native American father, Chief Oolooteka. According to the Director of the Sam Houston Memorial
Museum Director, Patrick Nolan, the pond was constructed during the 1930s by the Works Progress Administration under Roosevelt’s New Deal campaign.
The Texas-shaped pond was among several projects in Huntsville during the depression era.
Ever since the creation of the pond, rumors of love and heartbreak have been circulating about the site. Students agree that the pond is a popular location for both engagements and breakups. With the dredging next month, however, the secrets of the past may be uncovered when student volunteers remove the water and muck to reveal what lies beneath.
“Someone once said, if you dredge the pond, you would find a lot of diamond rings,” said Nolan. When the student volunteers start working, someone might stir up a diamond. Who knows, maybe they will get to keep it.”
The “Duck Pond” dredging next month will not just involve the digging up of mud and water, it will exhume the rich social and historical past of Huntsville that residents and students alike are living each day.