As I was walking the other morning, talking with a friend who now lives in central Ohio, she was telling me about the community park she was walking in. She mentioned that it looked like the pool was holding classes, since everyone was all lined up and seemed to be listening to the leader. This made me think about the summer days in Lebanon Indiana, where I spent my elementary and junior high school days.
We lived in Lebanon, the second time, from late 1953 (as I remember it was right around Christmas and I was in first grade) through the summer of 1962. It was the second time because the company my father worked for had transferred him from Lebanon to Decatur Illinois and then back again a few years later. So my older sister and I started school in Decatur.
Lebanon got very hot and sticky in the summer, and my memory is that the entire summer would be that way. There was no air-conditioning most places in those days, including at home. (The movie theater downtown had air-conditioning I think, but we never went. As a big treat my parents would take us to the drive in, maybe once a summer.) The only break in the weather I remember in the summertime was the occasional thunderstorms that would come up, darkening the sky and then pouring rain down on us like a bucket was being emptied on your head. We would stand on the porch and watch the lightening.
Pool at Memorial Park
There was (and still is) a community pool in the park, that a family could join for the season (about Memorial Day to Labor Day). I remember using this pool from the time I was about 7. We took Red Cross swimming lessons in the morning for several years, progressing from Beginners to Junior Life Saving. The lessons were early in the summer, from about the first of June for about a month, and first thing in the morning. It was sometimes actually cold to get wet and then stand on the side, listening to your teacher or waiting your turn.
Once we were a little older, and had passed the required swimming test, we could go to the park and spend all afternoon at the pool with friends. My memory is that this happened around 6th grade. We rode our bikes to the park, pumping hard up the hill at the entrance to the park that was the last obstacle. We parked our bikes out front of the bathhouse, and went into the changing rooms. Boys to the right and girls to the left. You got a wire basket, went into a changing booth with a cloth curtain for privacy and changed quickly into your bathing suit, pinned the large safety pin with the basket’s number to your suit, and handed the basket with all your clothes to the high school girl behind the counter. You were supposed to shower before going out – under a cold water shower – but sometimes we could sneak out without. There was a pan of liquid something that smelled to walk through at the door – you couldn’t avoid it – it was to kill any germs on your feet.
And then you were out and deciding where to put your towel. We all had sides of the pool and favorite spots to base ourselves. The pool was a large circular one, I don’t know the dimensions but it seemed very big to me. The outer part of the pool started shallow and got progressively deeper as you walked toward the middle (to maybe a depth of 4 feet), so you just walked in. The deep water was in the center of the circle, with a fence all around it. There were 4 openings in the fence to go through and inside was a short ledge that was the same depth as outside the fence before you stepped in/fell off into the deep water. I don’t know how deep it was but it was plenty deep for diving. In the center of the circle was a diving tower, with three boards of differing heights, and the life guards’ seats above even the highest board. There were 4 lifeguards facing the 4 quadrants of the pool. They were older high school kids or even college kids, home for the summer, and a big deal. You had to obey them or get thrown out for the day. If you managed to do a cannonball or anything else that would actually splash the lifeguard you would get thrown out of the deep water.
On Sundays, the whole family would go to the pool in the afternoon. Church and Sunday School in the morning, a fried chicken lunch, and then after the dishes and kitchen were cleaned up we’d be off. My parents both loved to swim and often took turns being in the water when my brothers were very young. There was a small, very shallow area fenced off for the baby-pool. After several hours of swimming and playing in the water, we would be ravenous. Occasionally we would go
Concession stand, Memorial Park
across the street in the park to the concession stand and be allowed an ice cream treat. When we were at the pool on our own we could go over and spend our allowance that way if we wanted (and had any left); I don’t remember doing that very often.
I know it isn’t accurate, but my memory is that I spent almost every summer afternoon at the pool. I know that for a number of years, by the time we went back to school in the fall many of us had a very green tinge to our hair (bathing caps were not required and there was a lot of chlorine in the water).
The pool I remember (and described) was in use for more than the 8 or so years we were in Lebanon. Apparently it was replaced a few years later, since by about 1966 it was the 50-meter pool shown above. The two pictures I’ve used here were taken in 2005 by my brother Steve and are used with his permission.