I lived right down the street from the neighborhood pool as a kid. This was a good thing because no matter how much I begged my parents to put a pool in our backyard, they said no. I cannot remember a time I couldn’t swim, I love to swim, and the water is my happy place. So as you can imagine, when this pool right down the street opened, it was incredibly exciting!
During summer, the pool held swim lessons in the morning, but at 1:00, it opened for public use. I would put on my swimsuit and flipflops, grab my towel, and practically sprint down the street to meet friends. We would pay our 37¢ (yes, cents!), hurry through the locker room, find a place on the pool chairs to plop our towels, and then jump in. Oh, the refreshment! The excitement!
Popular music of the day (Afternoon Delight, anyone?) would blast over the loudspeaker. Lifeguards, noses covered with zinc oxide, would survey the water, blowing whistles at pool rule violators, and yelling, “WAAAALK!” at those of us who dared to run on the slippery deck. Mothers with toddlers would splash around with them in the smaller, shallower (baby) pool. Lines formed at both the regular diving board and the high dive with kids cannon-balling and diving into the deep end of the pool with glee. The most daring of us would backflip and contort ourselves into the craziest positions possible on the way down.
Inevitably, we would get hungry and head to the vending machines for a cold Yoo-hoo or Sprite and a bag of Fritos. These had to be taken into the covered bleachers where we would go to the very top and survey the mayhem down in the pool below. Every now and then, someone would yell, “Alligator!” and point behind us to the lake in the park where there would, indeed, be a gator sunning himself or looking up out of the murky lake. The most well-trained of us would wait the full 30 minutes before returning to swim, but mostly, we finished up our snacks and headed right back into the chlorinated fray.
A game of Sharks & Minnows would be announced over the speaker at some point, and the diving board lines would dissipate. Those who didn’t mind getting dunked and trampled in the deep end would head over and line opposite sides of the pool to start the game. A whistle would blow, and what seemed like 500 kids would simultaneously jump into the water. Lifeguards refereed this mass of humanity, fighting it out to see who would prevail.
Eventually, 5:00 rolled around, and the afternoon swim was over. We would dutifully gather up our towels and flip-flops, make our way back through the locker room to the lobby, and get our hands stamped. Because, you see, evening swim started again at 6:00. We would go home, have dinner in our damp swimsuits, and turn right around to go do it all over again until 9:00 – you know, when the streetlights came on.