Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

Old pool was important part of community life

The question I’m answering most often these days is, "What ever happened to that huge swimming pool that was in Proctorville out on Old 40?" Proctorville refers to a large white house which the Proctor brothers converted into All States Hotel with adjacent tourist cottages named for various states. Old 40 is now called Business Loop70 but was then Highway 40, also called "The Slab" when it was north of town.

The pool? It was a huge, rectangular concrete tank 125 feet long, 86 feet wide up to 9 feet deep, near a small fishing lake. I don’t know why that big concrete tank was there, but it had some relation to Columbia’s power plant. When it was no longer needed for its original purpose, the city converted it into a swimming pool. They filled in the west half, making a gradual slope so there would be shallow water for classes, for just playing in the water and even space for little tots. In the late ’30s I taught free swimming and lifesaving classes there as an American Red Cross volunteer.

Then mayor Bruce Carl said, "I’ve found enough money in the budget to pay you." That was when W.C. Harris was pool manager and I was his assistant. Lots of people came and sat in their cars to watch the swimmers in evenings as there was neither television nor air conditioning for the average home. When we put on water-safety demonstrations and water shows, hundreds of people brought lawn chairs or stood outside the pool fence to watch and listen as children and adults entertained with "water ballet, clowning, diving and safety skills. The old concrete tank was serving the public well at a very low cost per person.

There was a problem however: The level of the water in the lake nearby was higher than the pool bottom at its 9-foot depth! Water weeds, fishing worms and an occasional tiny minnow appeared in the pool! Of course the water that brought them through the cracks was impure lake water but it came in only in the very deepest part.

The pool was drained for repairs. All of the crew — lifeguards, basket-room attendants, teachers and even manager Harris — helped scrub the bottom and construction men came to seal up the cracks in the deep end. Their repairs were unsuccessful and couldn’t hold back the force of water which was "seeking a level!" Even then it was far ahead of lake swimming.

Our swimming program continued for several summers in the ’30s and early ’40s. Of course the water was chlorinated, the worms mostly stayed out of sight and water weeds were of no particular harm. My suggestion was: "Fill in the 9-foot area to only 6 or 7 feet — above the level of the nearby lake — and get rid of the diving boards. Then we’d swim in pure, chlorinated water in a wonderful big swimming pool." Alas, what would a woman know about things like that? Each spring, something new was tried to keep the pond water from coming in.

On March 22, 1946, 1 finally wrote my suggestion to mayor Bruce Carl, who passed the letter to the recreation committee. Carl’s reply, dated March 26, 1946, is in my scrapbook: "I would not criticize your solution to the swimming pool problem." However, "The Recreation Commission" felt unanimously "that any amount of money spent on the old pool would hardly be justified."

Many families drove to Fayette, Fulton or Jefferson City for Red Cross lessons or recreational swimming. Mayor Carl said that the 125-by-86 pool was to be used for a base for a tower which cooled water for the condensers at the light plant. Columbia was without a pool for many years, and I still contend that the huge old pool was better than no pool at all.

A picture of this big pool is on Page 122 of "My First 84 Years."

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