If you know much about White Rock Lake, perhaps you’ve heard of the Watermelon Kid. Stephen Butler is the man behind the popular Web site, www.watermelon-kid.com, that provides a detailed history of one of our neighborhood’s favorite recreation spots. Because Butler developed his affection for White Rock as a child in the 1950s and, as the third generation of his family to visit the lake, he wants to inspire our neighborhood with his sense of history.
The Watermelon Kid moniker originates with a photo of Butler as a boy. Taken at the lake, it shows a young Butler clutching a watermelon.
“I was looking for a memorable domain name,” he says, “and I came across this photo of me in a Boy Scout hat, hop-along-Cassidy shorts and boots. And the name just came to me.”
Butler established his Web site after renewing his interest in the lake.
“I played at White Rock Lake before I could walk – that was the late 1940s,” he says.
But when Butler brought his children to the lake, he realized he didn’t know a lot about the area. With a bachelor’s degree in history and experience as a junior high history teacher, he enlisted his experience in this area of academics to develop a thorough knowledge of the region.
On the Web site, Butler describes the many changes White Rock Lake has undergone over this century. From the old bathing beach to the motor boat races, the lake was a popular gathering place through the 1950s, until neighborhood pools and other entertainment options became available. But a resurgence of interest has developed in the past few years, spurred on by the grassroots efforts of the For the Love of the Lake organization.
“I am a web developer by vocation and a historian by avocation,” Butler says. “This Web site allows me to combine both interests. And it seems to have really taken off.”
The Web site has established the Watermelon Kid as the local expert on White Rock Lake history. For the Love of the Lake developed a link from its Web site to Butler’s, and his name appears as a reference in many local publications about the lake. His site statistics confirm its popularity: It consistently draws visitors, boasting 1,300 hits in September.
“I get e-mails from people all over the world,” Butler says. “Every week or so, I get a note from someone who is originally from Dallas, who enjoys the site.”
He recently published his White Rock Lake history in the journal, Legacy.
In addition to his day job and his White Rock interests, Butler finds time to maintain a genealogy Web site featuring his own family tree, as well as pursue his doctorate in history from the University of Texas-Arlington. He will become a history professor this spring as he begins teaching courses at Richland College.
“The Web site allows me to indulge and share my love for the lake with others who might not know as much about it.”