My Brain, Peanuts, Remembers The City Pool


Waitsburg City Pool or Gawdawful like it
The Waitsburg city pool (or gawdawful like it)


A Swimming Pool Fool

When I was a little girl, I was a swimming fool even though the pool in our little town left a lot to be desired.  First of all, it wasn’t heated or filtered so they had to drain it every week and refill it with water they piped in from the South Pole.  Not being a filtered pool, you’d think we would have all gotten a horrible disease like typhoid fever, leprosy or at the very least, Polio, but the water was either too cold to sustain microbial life or nobody could ever stay in long enough to catch anything.

The Magic of Turning Nine

Until I was in the fourth grade, all my summer mornings were spent begging and pleading with my mother to take me to the swimming pool.  But when I turned nine, she decided I was old enough to go to the city pool on my own. So every morning I’d get up and kill time by playing hide and seek with the neighborhood kids until the magical hour of 1:00 o’clock when the city pool opened.  My mother would fix me a tuna sandwich and make me wait half an hour before I could head out to the pool lest I get a cramp and drown. For some reason known only to 1950-ites, the most dangerous thing a person could do in the fifties would be to down a tuna sandwich and then dive directly into a body of water.  You would get a cramp and you would drown.  Period.  End of story.

leading cause of drowning in the 50's
Leading cause of drowning 1950-style

The Art of Towel Rolling

The towel you brought to the swimming pool said a lot about how well your parents had their acts together. The parents who had their acts totally together bought their children their own beach towels every summer with a cute picture of a whale or a beach umbrella emblazoned across its front.  Other parents who didn’t have their acts quite as together didn’t mind if their child brought whatever towel happened to be hanging on the towel rack that day.  And then there were the  parents who didn’t have their acts together at all.  These were the parents who were big believers in sun-dried kids.

My parents fell into the middle category.  I would take some dingy towel off the towel rack everyday and fold it in half length-wise and roll my swimming suit up in it.  Then I would put on my thongs (which is the fifties speak for flip-flops)  and I’d head out across town to the city pool to join the small group of children who were also addicted to the swimming pool as much as I was.

The Regulars

Looking back on it now, there were about five of us who came every single day without fail.   Most of them were sun-dried kids and for a while I forsook my towel to fit in.  (I’d tell you their names but I’m not sure they had any.)  Anyway, we would simply find a dry spot on the cement and lay there until we got hot enough to brave the frigid waters of Antarctica for another ten minutes of splish-splashing hypothermia.

Jackknifes, Cannonballs and Cutaways

Most of my activity at the pool was waiting in line to go off the diving board.  My  ‘go to’ dive was a jackknife.  My friend, Susan Weber, was a whiz at a dive called the cutaway. While us girls worked on our dives, the boys were perfecting their cannonballs — a dive that never made any sense to me because why make a big splash if you can’t see it?  But I do remember the boys who were a little on the hefty side being much better at the cannonball than their skinnier counterparts.

After Swimming Hunger

I have never been hungrier than I was in the fifties.  Being a kid lends itself to a lot of hunger.  The hunger you feel from only eating one bite of breakfast before school and counting the seconds until lunch.  The hunger you feel after waiting for lunch to find that you are too finicky to eat hamburger gravy and sandy butter sandwiches. And then there’s the  hunger you feel after school from being too picky to eat a decent breakfast and lunch.

Seven Bowls of Cheerios

But the hunger I felt after swimming all afternoon in the city pool beats them all. It’s the kind of hunger that only seven bowls of Cheerios swimming in a soup of sugary milk can satisfy.  Sitting at the kitchen table, eating Cheerios with the late afternoon sun pouring through the window and knowing that after you finish your last bowl, the Three Stooges will be on.  Does life get any better than that?

I think not.

Cheerios from the 1950's

Until next time . . . I love you

17 thoughts on “My Brain, Peanuts, Remembers The City Pool

  1. I looooved this one! I can picture you jack knifing your heart out then heading home to eat 6 bowls of cheerios. You must have been hungry enough to hide brown sugar into the bushes! I hope you tell that one next!

    • LOL! Thanks for reminding me about the brown sugar in the bushes and I also his the jello too. Yes, I was always hungry as a kid — not for real food though. I will definitely have to think about that!

  2. Do you remember the joy of “swimming pool drain day”? I’m not sure why it was so delightful to float in that cold, unfiltered water as it descended, but it was nearly a whole town under the age if 16 turn-out!!

    • It was! I’ll never forget how exciting it was to watch the pool drain. All of us laying there in the water as it went down. I guess you just had to grow up in Waitsburg to really understand that kind of “draining” joy!

  3. I went to swimming pools when I went to my brother’s and his family during the summer months. My mother had to work… my one brother and sister (that were the only other two unmarried) who were old enough to stay home. I think that my Mother also wanted me to have some fun, so off I’d go to visit for the summer.
    I remember taking my brother’s kids that were old enough to the city pool on any nice sunny day. I babysat them and I’d usually get some money for treats or to go to the show with my good friend there.

    Your post of the cold waters and cement to lie on in the sun, reminded me of my own time spent there. .. ‘memories’ eh? Diane

    • Oh how nice that you got to do that too. I have so many happy memories of swimming. In lakes, and rivers too. (Not in the ocean though as I am afraid of it). I do remember swimming in the Columbia River from time to time. I was a little afraid of it too though. It was a little too “mighty” for me.

  4. I’ve been a fan of your writing ever since you won the worst opening line of a novel contest. I still have a copy of that! So I like stopping in here now and then to see what you written lately. I’m so impressed! Sorry I haven’t posted sooner. All my best, Steve

      • Sorry, I didn’t see the reply. I drop by your blog now and then for an enjoyable read, but I just realized a few moments ago that I had bookmarked this very post and so here I am again. Yes, it’s me, Steve English, who worked with Bill at the Palo Alto office! Having been at the house in Fremont (?) many times during those years, I have many fond memories of you and the kids. In a recent visit to your blog I was quite saddened to read that you and Bill had divorced. I sure do hope all is well. I’ll always wish you, Jimmy and Jackie the very best.

        All these years later I still (more or less) recall a line from your “Worst Opening Ever”. It went something like, “a stone skipping across the water until it slowly sank to the bottom.” I still have a copy of that in my memory box. I’m going to have to dig it out and reread. It was priceless.

        My best always,

        • Oh. Steve really? Gosh how nice that is to hear! We lived in Palo Alto when you used to come and visit. Jackie is 37 and Jim is 38! Jackie has 2 kids a boy and a girl. Jim is still single. He’s going back to school now to get his degree but he’s been in a band since he was 14 and is still playing in bands. Are you still golfing? I remember how much you always loved it. I hope all is well with you. I always remember a compliment you gave me on my writing and I have told a lot of people what you said to me once. You said I was like Erma Bombeck on acid! I still consider it to be the best compliment I ever got!

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