A day at the pool
I was 10 years old in late August of 1965. Three things were on the horizon and all of us knew them well: school would be starting after Labor Day weekend and we would have to start wearing shoes again, the fair was on its way to McDonough and the City pool in Alexander Park would soon close for the season.
It was a great pool, painted aqua blue with big black stripes to let you know how deep it was. The water was cold especially in the morning hours, which were reserved for those taking swimming lessons. The gates opened at 1 p.m. for everyone else.
There was nothing back then that could compare to an afternoon at the pool. We would walk or ride our bicycles to the pool, always barefoot, and if we arrived early we would wait under the shade of the huge oak tree at the entrance on the left. The only things we would bring with us were a towel and our change in one hand as there were no pockets in our swim suits. After you paid 20 cents to get in, you found a spot to spread your towel out on the concrete pad, pulled up one corner of the towel and hid the rest of your money underneath. No one would bother it and it would be right there when you got ready for a sweet drink and candy at the concession stand. That was the first place I ever had a frozen candy bar and, boy, was it good!
There was a long concrete block building painted white with Boy and Girl dressing rooms on each end and a concession stand in the middle. On each end of the pool there were areas for children in the front and teenagers in the back. On the teenager side was a juke box where I heard for the first time the Beatles playing “I should have known better with a girl like you, That I would love everything that you do, And I do, hey, hey hey…” I can close my eyes and feel that moment in 1965. I have that memory seared in my mind just like it was yesterday.
Jim Baker was the manager for the summers that I remember. Mr. Baker was a coach at the high school and looked out after all of us in the summer. He had a great smile and we all liked him. He was especially patient and good with children.
Some of the people that come to mind who were either life guards or swimming instructors were Alberta Robinson, Paul Cates, Jr., Leslie Hand, Bill Lynch, Dub Norsworthy, Wade Pullin, Eddie Ausband, Sr. and Tony Moye, who taught my wife Betsy how to swim.
The teenagers were very cool and we were not supposed to come down to their spot except if you had enough nerve to get in line to jump off of the very best diving board in all of Henry County. You see, you had to walk right by the teenager section en route to the line at the diving board. The board was made of real wood with shiny varnish and the end had a burlap type of cloth to keep you from slipping. It was a scary experience for a 10-year-old to walk out on the end of that board. The depth of the water below was nine feet but it might as well have been 50 feet deep when you looked down into it at the bottom of the pool. You would wait in line until your turn came and you had to move rapidly to keep everyone moving. Our favorite thing to do was to jump and make a cannon ball and splash the teenage girls!
I remember the older girls going over to the fence where boys that could drive would pull up in a cool car and talk through the fence, because if you went outside the fence you had to pay to get back in. The boys were probably confirming a date for that night. We had no cell phones back then, thank goodness.
Sometimes, usually during the afternoon, the whole pool gang would start playing Dibble Dabble and Fox and Goose. Remember that? The sky would be as blue as it could be with the white puffy clouds and if a thunderstorm popped up, we would have to get out until it blew over. We did not realize how lucky we were then.
The pool days finally came to an end when they closed it for good and that was a sad day for us. The original pool is still there, you just can’t see it. All they did was fill it with dirt and put up a tennis court and finally a parking lot.
Jeff Reeves is a lifelong resident of McDonough and has recently joined the Times as an advertising sales representative. He and his wife Betsy have one son.