Column, Looking Back

Remembering the North Main Street swimming pool

By Mary Ellen Shaw

Reminiscing about the old city swimming pool on North Main Street never gets old! I took a look back at it a few years ago but it’s worth another look as the topic inevitably comes up among my age group at this time of year. There’s nothing like the “good ol’ days!”

The pool opened in 1929 and closed in 1974. That time span meant a lot of memories were made by different generations.

It was a two-story circular brick structure that stood out as you traveled on upper North Main Street. The pool itself was on the second story and the changing rooms and restrooms were on the bottom level.

After entering on the lower level you went to the counter to get a wire basket for your clothes and a stretchy elastic band with a number that matched the one on your basket. After turning in your basket and attaching the band to your ankle or wrist it was time to climb the stairs and head for the water.

There was one unique feature just before you started the ascent. It was a cement square filled with ankle high water that contained a medicinal component to prevent athlete’s foot. You were supposed to walk through it but most of us managed to hop onto the rim and avoid it. Doing so didn’t work out well for me as I ended up with athlete’s foot and couldn’t go to the pool until it was gone. Lesson learned! I walked where I was supposed to from that point on.

Back in the ‘50s North Main Street was a two-lane road. Walking or riding a bike to the pool was never a problem as there was someone “on duty” to help us cross.

Swim lessons were held in the morning. All levels were covered from beginners to a Red Cross instructors’ course for lifeguards. Free admission in the morning allowed everyone the chance to take lessons. The pool wasn’t heated so swimming in the morning meant blue lips on chilly days. Achievement Days were held so parents could witness what their children had learned in their lessons.

It seems like we could never get enough of the pool. We swam in the afternoon with our friends and we returned again in the evening if our parents allowed us to do that. Not everyone behaved appropriately at the pool so a few timeouts were issued by the lifeguards. One prominent reason for that was a reckless cannonball. The “offenders” had to sit under the watchful eyes of the lifeguards for a specified amount of time. There were 5-minute rest breaks every hour during which we wrapped ourselves warmly in a towel as we waited.

Diving boards are always a popular spot at any pool. There were two of them at the North Main Street pool. One was a lower springboard and the other was known as “the tower.” It was pretty high in the air and just looking at it was all the thrill I needed. Kids were constantly in line waiting for their turn to dive or jump off one of the boards.

The pool wasn’t just for recreational swimming or lessons. Fun events were also held there such as carnivals and water ballets. The late Bill Reardon, a long time employee of the Rutland Recreation Dept., had told me that during one of the carnivals he jumped off the tower diving board in his clown suit. It got heavy and wet really fast and it was all he could do to hustle out of the way of the next performer who was right behind him.

In the ‘50s some employees of the Dept. of Public Works patched, cleaned and painted the entire interior of the pool. The entrance was remodeled and a new motor and pump were installed. However, by the ‘60s the City of Rutland Annual Report stated that the city needed a new and larger pool. That happened when a new pool opened in 1970 in White Memorial Park at the end of Avenue B. Both locations were open until 1974 when the North Main Street pool closed.

The main reason for going to the pool may have been to swim but before you headed home you usually made a stop at the small concession stand for a treat. For my friends and me it was usually a frozen Charleston Chew bar. After biking to the pool and then swimming we were hungry!

The 1970 pool at White Memorial Park was replaced in 2018 by two pools at that location. One is a six-lane, 75-foot competition pool and the other is considered a family pool. New memories will be made there by today’s youth. Some day they will look back just as my age group does today and they will cherish their own memories.

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