Walls could make faces turn red

Published 12:23 am Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The clubhouse at the city pool on Park Avenue in Opp is history. So much more than a building fell when it came down. Years of memories tumbled to the ground leaving those of us who spent many happy hours there feeling a little sad.

I tried to remember the first time I went upstairs to the big room in the clubhouse. It was probably to attend a birthday party. Oh, there were great parties held up there.

When we hit puberty, the focus of those parties changed from balloons and pin-the-tale-on-the-donkey to who was sitting with whom — possibly holding hands. Forget the cake; it was about the boys.

If those walls revealed all they saw back in the day, there would be more than a few red faces because romances bloomed at some of those summer parties when we were teenagers. I witnessed serious smooching taking place on and under those clubhouse steps. (Names escape me, which is probably a good thing, but you know who you are.)

The bottom floor of the clubhouse housed the room where you bought snacks and got paddles and balls for the ping-pong table. One of the lifeguards or maybe the coach who supervised the pool operation usually sat behind or perched on top of the counter. If my friends and I thought the lifeguard was cute, we found many excuses for popping in. I probably ate my weight in M&Ms when Hinton Johns was on duty.

Of course, the bathrooms were on the other side of the buildings. In my memory, they were cool, a little dark and smelled damp with a hint of chlorine. The floor was always wet and if you dropped your towel, it got soaked. Any sound echoed off the concrete walls and a flush sounded like an avalanche of water was about to crash over the building.

When I was older, I was leader of a Brownie Scout troop that met in that upstairs room. I remember lots of giggling girls running back and forth while I tried to corral them. The sound of their feet bouncing across the creaky wood floor echoed all the way up the street.

As a young mother, I took my own kids to the city pool. In my mind, I see them hanging over the rails of the porch upstairs waving at me as I sat sunning at the other end of the pool.

For lots of years now, I’ve driven by the pool and the clubhouse on my way to my mother’s house at the other end of Park Avenue. I watched as the pool fell into disrepair and the paint on the clubhouse flaked and peeled.

It’s been a long time since laughter and splashing filled the air at the pool, and even longer since there was the sound of footsteps on the clubhouse stairs. I heard a rumor that the city might bring the pool back to life, but the clubhouse is gone like so many buildings in Opp that were there when I was growing up.

Yes, the clubhouse at the city pool on Park Avenue is history, now a part of the town’s past and of my past. Still, I think if you drive by slowly on a hot summer night, you might catch the long ago echo of a jukebox playing rock and roll, hear the shuffle of generations of feet dancing across the old wood floor and imagine two shadowy figures holding hands in the darkness under the invisible stairs.