By Mary Ellen Shaw
In the heat of summer, I can’t help but think of the many days back in the 50s and 60s that I spent at the Rutland City pool.
It was located on the west side on North Main Street where there is green space today. Its history goes back to 1929 and was enjoyed by many until 1974. It was a two-story brick structure that you entered on the ground level where the changing rooms and restrooms were located. The pool itself was on the second level.
After entering you would head to the counter to get your basket and a stretchy elastic band with a metal number that matched your basket number. After changing into your bathing suit, you returned the basket to the counter, slipped the band on your wrist or ankle and headed up the stairs to the pool.
Just before you climbed the stairs there was a small cement square that held some cold water. You were supposed to step into the square, as it contained a medicinal component to prevent athlete’s foot. If you walked along the raised edge of the square you could avoid stepping into it. I was one of the kids who did just that!
Avoiding the square did not turn out so well for me. I ended up with a severe case of athlete’s foot, which meant that you were not allowed in the pool. It kept me away for about a week. My father, who was a pharmacist, brought home some Phisohex to soak my feet in. He made sure I understood the importance of stepping in the medicated water on future pool visits. You can be assured that I did, because who wants to stay home when your friends are at the pool?
The goal for many kids was to jump off the “tower” at the deep edge of the pool. Just looking at the stairway that you had to climb to get up there was enough to make my stomach lurch. The tower was not for me! Many a forbidden cannonball was done off that tower. It was apparently worth the “time out” for those who did it!
Many children learned to swim by taking lessons at the pool. We all knew the instructors and lifeguards by name and looked up to them. The kids had to leave the pool once an hour for a rest period. The lifeguards got to swim during that time. It was fun to watch them swim so expertly. Looking back, I thought they were so much older than we were. But depending on our ages at the time, there was probably only five to ten years difference. To adults that age span is nothing. But to kids it’s another generation!
The water always seemed ice cold but even when your lips turned blue you didn’t want to get out. When you finally had to give in and leave the pool, it felt so good to wrap yourself up in a sun-warmed towel.
For many years there was an annual water carnival at the pool along with swim races, diving contests and clown acts. Many locals will remember Bill Reardon from the Rutland Recreation Department jumping off the tower diving board in his clown outfit. He told me one time that it got heavy and wet really fast. This made it a challenge to get out of the way of the next performer who was right behind him.
My group of friends got plenty of exercise because we either walked or rode our bikes to the pool. It was about two miles from our street. We never thought of locking our bikes when we got there. We just put them in the bike racks and raced into the pool. Nobody ever had a bike stolen. Getting across North Main Street wasn’t a safety concern because it was only a two lane road back then and there was someone to stop traffic so you could cross the street.
Anyone who went to the North Main Street pool over the years will remember the small concession stand that was near the top of the driveway. It was a ritual to stop there before heading home. The most popular treat was either a frozen Charleston Chew or a strawberry taffy bar.
Rutland got its second city pool, known as White’s Pool, in 1970. This pool, located at the end of Avenue B, has been closed for a few years ago due to age deterioration. However, plans are under way for a new pool at this location in the summer of 2018. There will actually be two pools on-site, so it will be double the pleasure and double the fun.
I’m sure that the generations after mine have made their own memories of happy days at White’s. Once the new pools are open, new memories can begin to be made.