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Musings: Morton’s must reopen

The Sonoma Index-Tribune reported recently that Sean Wadsworth and Laurie Hobbs, the current owners of Morton’s Warm Springs, the Valley’s venerable swimming hole and picnic grounds for more than a century, is closed due to some serious maintenance issues related to their on-going efforts to restore and modernize the resort property.

Located halfway between Glen Ellen and Kenwood on tree-lined Warm Springs Road, one of the most picturesque country lanes in Sonoma Valley, the sprawling, 20-acre swimming, picnicking and recreation facility straddles a very pretty section of Sonoma Creek.

Before Ethyl and Harold Morton took it over in the 1940s, it was called Kenwood Warm Springs and it had been a summer retreat for Bay Area residents since 1889.

The Mortons made a lot of improvements during their tenure. They added to the huge lawn and barbecue area, expanded the pools and added other amenities, including a ball field on the west side of the creek near the parking areas. This encouraged school groups and others to plan big swimming parties there. It wasn’t unusual to see hundreds of kids swimming and playing on the lawn, while their parents set up lunches on the picnic tables and fired up the barbecues.

Morton’s wide expanse of lawn was perfect for playing ball, lounging and sunbathing. The pool was large and the deck around it spacious. In later years, the Morton family added a kiddie pool.

The Morton’s sold their resort in 1979. Since then, it has changed hands numerous times but remained a popular summer destination for locals and visitors.

Many generations of Sonoma Valley residents have fond memories of Morton’s. For decades it was the favorite choice for end-of-school-year swim parties and to celebrate graduation. In fact, in 1958 Sonoma Valley High School’s first-ever, all-night graduation party ended with a swim party and picnic at Morton’s the following day.

In an era when few local homes at their own swimming pools, Morton’s was the place you went during heat waves to cool down. It was where moms with kids out of school for the summer met up with other moms with their kids for picnic and swim play dates.

It was where we all went for family birthdays and anniversary parties. And many local businesses had their company summer picnics there (with ball games on the fields across the creek).

I’m sure every local old timer has special things that they remember about Morton’s. Mine include the many school-year-end parties in early June with my classmates celebrating the beginning of summer, and in following years when my teen friends and I would ride our bikes there to spend the day. More recently, it is where I brought my kids for summer swim days and picnics. Sadly, I haven’t been back since they’ve become adults and have kids of their own.

I hope its present owners can find a way to get it opened as soon as possible. I’d like to think there will always be a Morton’s in Sonoma Valley.

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