The Way It Was – A nighttime swim


Editor’s note: This is another column in Bill Boyd’s new series, “The Way It Was,” about growing up in Marysville. Bill continues to work with the Union County Historical Society to obtain information for his stories. With Marysville and Union County celebrating Bicentennial anniversaries in 2019 and 2020, respectively, these articles help depict what life was like in those early years.

I have written several times about the Marysville swimming pool and what a big part it played in the lives of kids who grew up in the1930s and 1940s. When I was about 10 years old, I was there just about every day. Although the days were almost all the same, I never got tired of it. There was a lot of swimming, yelling, and laughing.
Then there were a few special days near the end of summer. For example, one day was set aside for all kinds of swimming and diving contests – races and things like that. Then there was the last day of the season, when kids could take their dogs to the pool with them. That was one of my favorite days, and I never saw such happy dogs.
There was an older boy named Dick Holycross, and he had a beautiful collie that he carried up the steps of the high diving board. Then the two of them would jump into the water together. Boy, was that fun to watch. People were invited to bring their cameras to the pool on another special day. They took a lot of “bathing beauty” shots, plus pictures of pyramids that boys built by standing on each other‘s shoulders, and other things like that.
But out of all the swimming experiences I had in that pool, there is one that was totally “different” than all the rest, and I would like to tell you about it.
It started on a hot summer evening, when I was about 15 years old. I was walking home from a movie at the Avalon Theater. I was with two older boys, Jerry Kingsmore and Bud White. We were talking about how hot it was when Jerry said, “let’s go swimming.” I knew it was about time for the pool to close for the day, so I thought he was kidding. But Jerry was a lifeguard at the pool, and the lifeguards were allowed to swim after the pool closed at night.
Jerry said that Bud and I could swim with him. He said that he had a couple extra swimsuits at the pool, and we could wear them. So we headed up Fifth Street to the pool. It had already closed its gate, but the lights were still on while the night watchman, a man named “Barrel” Galloway, was making his rounds.
Barrel let us in through an outside door in the dressing room, and we all put on our swimsuits. When we left the dressing room, the pool lights were still on. They were really bright … so bright you could sit on any bench and thread a needle. Then suddenly Barrel turned the lights off. It seemed to be pitch dark at first, but after our eyes adjusted, we could tell it was a beautiful moonlit night.
Then Barrel turned off the fountains along the edge of the pool, and the water became as smooth as glass. I had never before seen the water in the pool like that. There wasn’t a ripple.
But what seemed even more unusual was the eerie silence – no splashing water-fountains, no laughing or no yelling. The swimming pool, nestled in the woods, was so quiet I could scarcely believe it. The three of us just swam in that moonlit silence.
I suppose we may have said a few words to each other, but if we did, I don’t remember it. I walked to the end of the pool and climbed the ladder to the high diving board. I went to the end of the board and looked out over the pool. The water appeared to be inky black and smooth. It was so smooth, in fact, that it reflected the moon’s image as if it were a mirror. Then the silence was broken by a lone owl somewhere in the park.
It was an eerie sound, but it is one of my favorite memories of the Marysville swimming pool.
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