Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

Historic Columbia pool goes down the drain

The history of Columbia’s swimming pools is both sad and happy; some of us have survived both. The University of Missouri-Columbia had no place for men to swim long after the women’s pool was used to train girls and women, particularly female physical education majors. Males, training to teach physical education, were accepted for enrollment in Techniques of Teaching Swimming taught by Miss Ruby Cline. There were three or four men in our class in l934. Men used the class to learn to conduct swimming meets, to judge diving and other skills as a part of that advanced training.

In a water show produced by the Missouri Mermaids in l936, all of the participants had black fish scales marked plainly from their ankles to the bottom of their bathing suits. Men and women paid about 50 cents to view the Mermaid show and sat in the balcony viewing area, slightly higher than street level. They sweltered in the heat that rose from the warm pool area. The water was never very warm. In those days, water above about 74 degrees was supposed to be invigorating, but finally a study showed that it actually took away energy.

We read recently about the new uses for the McKee Gymnasium, and I have not seen any report of what happened to my favorite old pool. I feel sure it has bit the dust by now.

In seventh grade at University High School, I wrote my own check to pay for each semester’s fee for swimming lessons. All U-High girls had this option. Miss Cline and students majoring in physical education were our teachers. Miss Cline hurt my pride, that first class period, when she said, "Sue, that’s not swimming; go back to the shallow end." And I went back using the loping, double-underarm stroke I taught myself in the creek. But I loved Miss Cline because she gave me special help on diving. We didn’t do that in the creek.

I was a scrawny kid not weighing l00 pounds by a long shot, and I was a good friend and classmate of a junior or senior in high school who weighed 265 pounds! We were a real challenge to a student teacher.

Two swimming pools have, through the years, been named Columbia Swimming Pool and have been bulldozed away. At the point where College Avenue and Ashland Gravel road make a "Y," the privately owned Columbia pool was built before 1930. You old-timers: Am I guessing correctly? The front cover photo of my first book, "My First 84 Years," shows me as a gangly child of about 10 or 11 years in my $5 red, all-wool bathing suit with white wool stripes. Mom took the photo because I’d never had a bathing suit before; we swam in our clothes in the North Fork of the Grindstone Creek.

Bathing suits were required at Columbia Swimming Pool. I taught some classes for beginning swimmers while the pool was full of other paying guests - splashing and laughing and screaming - disturbing my students. It was a nightmare. I think the public paid a nominal fee for admission, but the instruction was free, and the ARC instructors were not paid.

I considered it a great mistake to destroy that pool.

When our Nancy was almost 6 years old, we built a little concrete pool at the farm; see photo on Page 111 of "My First 84 Years." Enlarged twice, our water is filtered, the pool is 45 feet long and is 46 years old!

To be continued.

Click here to return to the index

 Subscribe in your RSS reader

Copyright © 1994-2010 Sue Gerard. All Rights Reserved. No text or images on this website may be reproduced in any form without written permission of the author, except small quotations to be used in reviews.