Back in the day, we only needed a dime

Published 8:02 pm Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Some summer days the sidewalks were so hot on our bare feet we ran as much as we walked up East Park Avenue. There was usually a crowd of us from the neighborhood. (There was a crowd if only the Folmar children made up the group.)

We knew every crack and bump on the way from our house to the city pool and exactly how long it took us to get there. Many days, when we managed to scrape up money, we made the trip both morning and afternoon, returning home completely waterlogged and worn out.

If we got there early, we stood outside the fence with everyone who was waiting for the gate to open. If we were indeed barefoot, (we usually were) we found a shady spot on the grass beside the parking spaces and watched as the lifeguards got everything ready for the rush of kids and parents.

When I got older, the lifeguards were much more interesting, and got much more attention. It was not unusual for teenage girls to search for reasons to hang around near where the tanned male lifeguards sat watching the swimmers.

There was lots of giggling and trying to look cute. Yes, there were even a few summer romances that started on the pool’s benches and in the clubhouse.

The opening day of that pool every year was what made summer feel like summer. And those days tramping home from swimming wrapped in a wet towel while I munched something chocolate are some of my best memories.

I don’t remember when the pool closed down completely, but it was after my own children enjoyed several summers swimming there. There was a sad feeling when I drove past the park and saw the rundown state of the pool and clubhouse. It was like part of Opp died — for me, one of the best parts.

This week it comes back to life, opening to the public for the first time since construction of a new pool became a reality. I read that the day will be a grand opening celebration complete with free admission. There are also plans for a big day on July 4th, again with free admission, free watermelons and chips — sounds like the Fourth of July celebrations of my childhood.

Of course, the cost to get into the pool is a sign of how times change, or maybe how inflations works. When we were kids all we had to come up with was a dime to get in to swim. In 2016, you need a $1 for a day of swimming.

While a dime might seem pretty cheap today, way back when coming up with 10 cents wasn’t easy. And if you had to do it twice in order to swim morning and afternoon, it was a real challenge. There were a lot of times I paid in pennies or babysitting money.

Since there was a bunch of us, Mother had to come up with a dime times three or four or more. Still, I’m betting she was happy to press one into our little hands and send us off for a couple of hours, especially since she knew we were safe and watched.

Yes, the Opp City Pool, now named Veterans Memorial Park Pool, brings good memories for me and for many others. Laughing with neighborhood friends as we walked to and from the pool, playing ping pong between swims, the damp, cool feel of the inside of the concession stand, the sounds of kids laughing and music coming from the juke box, the sight of my Daddy amazing us with his dives, all of it makes those memories so sweet.

I’m glad Opp is reopening the pool for another generation to enjoy. It will be nice to drive past the park and hear splashing and laughter again.

And I‘m sure kids (and their mothers) will find creative ways to come up with a dollar, just like we did when we needed a dime.


Nancy Blackmon is a former newspaper editor and a yoga teacher.