Carol Jean Ellis shows up next week
My six year old grandson called to tell me he is taking swimming lessons. “KK, I put my head ALL THE WAY UNDER…..”
The overpowering smell of chlorine kept me from hearing the rest. My eyes instinctively squinted from a relentless sun of fifty-six years ago. My skin turned two shades darker. The Coasters “Fe fe, fi fi, fo fo, fum, I smell smoke in the auditorium…..” filtered in over Max’s little voice.
It has always been like this.
Any mention of swim, swimming, swimminest….and quicker than Scotty can beam you up—I am transported back to the old swimming pool that was strategically (for me anyway) located out towards our end of Stonewall Street.
Twin Pools was the official name. Roe and Belle Alexander owned and operated it for years. It was an old fashion pool to say the least. There was no fancy filtering system with built in water purification stations.
If the water looked a little dark or if some green appeared on the concrete walls, we just poured in a little more chlorine. There were actually two pools divided by a ten inch concrete wall. Roe had a 150 foot deep well drilled out in the north side yard, and I’m telling you, that thing could pump out some of the coldest water in the universe.
When one side of the pool got so dark the chlorine wouldn’t work, we drained it late in the evening, cleaned it at first light the next morning and had that cold water pumping in before we opened at 9:00. Roe bragged he always had a warm pool….and a cold pool. He aimed to please.
We were draining and cleaning one side of the pool every three or four days. And I say “we” because I spent my growing up years working for Roe and Miss Belle. I picked up trash when I was ten to “get in swimming” free. I started working in the little concession stand Miss Belle ran when I was twelve.
I became a life guard a couple of years later.
Let me tell you something about Roe and Miss Belle. They could be a little demanding. They wanted “things” a certain way. Roe played those stacks of 45 RPM records in a pre-determined order. You didn’t mess with that.
Miss Belle didn’t want the candy colors to clash in her little stand. You kept the yellow and brown Sugar Babies separated from the reddish wrapped Zagnuts. She liked the dark blue Hollywood bars next to the silver wrapped Zeros.
And we sold only three kinds of soft drinks, or “colas” as we called any drink back then. We had Orange Crush, NuGrape and Coca-Cola in the small bottle. And they had to be stacked in a certain order and direction in the old drink case.
You might think eccentric but we never noticed…..
Because here is what Roe and Belle Alexander did for all three of the Colbert boys, and for Stanley Patterson, Jerry Atkins, Buddy Elinor, Jackie Burns, Bobby King, Joe Gooch and a slew of others—they gave us work. They paid us cash money.
You can’t over estimate that or over appreciate it!
You might not think 50 cents an hour is much of a wage. But good gracious sakes alive, it beat picking cotton for a penny a pound or hauling hay from before sunup till after dark-thirty! And it meant spending money for us. And I know that don’t mean much to anyone today….unless they once upon a time walked to town without any in their pocket.
I didn’t think about responsibility or showing up on time. I just lived close by so it wasn’t a problem. We talked more about girls in the little basket room than work ethic or earning our 50 cents. We certainly didn’t think working at a swimming pool was preparing us for anything.
But it was more than just “fun and games”. We complained about having to “run the wall” with the chlorine bucket. We didn’t like swabbing out the bathrooms. I didn’t like it when two giant farm boys got to horse playing and Roe would send me out there to tell them to stop!
And the absolute worst was when some little kid, early in the day, jumped off the low diving board without knowing how to swim. It meant you had to go get them. And that meant sitting on that stand in a wet bathing suit for the rest of the afternoon!
But all in all it was an idyllic way to spend a summer. The living was easy, the girls weren’t bad and the music was free!
We will get to the girls and the music next week……if I can remember where I am in this story……