Tuesday, July 20, 2010
This is a community swimming pool in a tiny farming village in northwestern Ohio. Pemberville is a great little town. It’s situated in some very fertile farmland, so the population is financially comfortable. There has always been an amazing amount of community spirit in Pemberville. Residents know each other and organize a lot of public events.
My mom’s aunt lived here and, for three summers, my sister and I stayed with her. The formal reason was that Sarge and I could swim at the pool across the street. I think that Mom’s aunt really wanted to help her niece, whose babysitting costs were higher when we were out of school. Mom says that she just “always liked having a bunch of kids around.”
Mom dropped us off on Sundays and picked us up Friday nights. Aunt Onie (Leona) was pretty laissez-faire about child rearing and just let us run. We only came home for meals, I think. There was a livestock barn in town for when the fair was held; we spent hours there, running through the stalls and climbing up to the vast hay mow. We played by the river and ran all around town, but most of our time was spent at the pool, since Onie lived right across the street.
I was 9, 10 and 11 when we were there – well beyond swimming lesson age, so we took lifesaving and synchronized lessons. I wasn’t even old enough for a lifeguard’s badge, but the synchronized lessons were amazing! There wasn’t one other kid in my school who had taken them, as far as I knew. At the end of the summer, the entire team (about 20) would put on a water ballet show for our parents. We were so excited about it!
What I remember of Pemberville is freedom. No school, no clocks, no clothes (we lived in bathing suits), no curfew, no pass to get in the pool (they knew us), and little adult authority. When I drive through town now, I still get a rush of that freedom.
I’ve wanted to go back to the pool for a couple years and I finally did it last week. What a wonderful little trip back in time! The pool is twice the size I remember, the guard towers are half the height I remember and I’d completely forgotten the snack bar and toddlers’ wading pool. There were about a dozen people there. Only three of us were adults and the other two were there with their kids. Lanes weren’t roped off for laps; this whole complex exists for the kids.
Now I see how special Pemberville is/was. How unusual for a town that tiny to have a community pool. To date, I have only met one other person who has taken synchronized swimming lessons and yet that little farming village was putting on a water ballet every year!
I bought a summer membership. I don’t know if I’ll make it back often; it’s nearly a 45 minute drive from home, in the opposite direction from my job. I don’t care; I’m happy to contribute to this kind of investment in a community.