The Pool Was the Only Cool Place in Town

by Juanita Lovret
Reprinted courtesy of the Tustin News

There wasn’t much to do in Tustin during summer vacations while I was growing up.
We had no movies, no shopping mall, no nearby amusement parks, no organized sports or recreation. Vacation Bible school at either Tustin Presbyterian or the Advent Christian church and Girl Scout Day Camp were the most exciting items on our agenda.

Some kids went away to camp, but because of the Depression, most families had little extra money. A phone call asking, “Wanna go swimming?” could save your whole day. There was no need to ask, “your house or mine?" No one in Tustin had a backyard pool. The Tustin High School pool was the only place to swim on a hot summer afternoon.

Although our parents would gladly have driven us in exchange for an afternoon of peace and quiet, we preferred to ride our bicycles. Traveling on our own, we could loiter in the shade of the giant pepper trees on Main Street, stop to chat with our friends and visit the Tustin Drug Store soda fountain for a coke or ice cream.

Adjacent to the high school gymnasium, the outdoor pool was magnificent for its time. Our young eyes saw it as at least Olympic size and very official with tile lane markers and high and low diving boards. The life guard kept the turmoil of kids in order, using his whistle to stop anyone who ventured deeper than he considered safe for them or became rowdy. Cannon ball dives were prohibited and almost no one dared to attempt a high dive. We suffered many painful belly flops, but most of us conquered the low board.

Pool rules required swimmers to shower before entering the pool and wade through a trough filled with liquid disinfectant as they entered the pool gate. Girls had to wear bathing caps, but these minor inconveniences didn’t dim the pleasure of being part of the pool crowd. Part of the appeal was having access to the adjacent girls’ locker room. Although it smelled of dirty socks and chlorine, we liked the luxury of individual changing cubicles and a large wall mirror where we could primp without a parent or sibling pushing us out. Using the community shower tested our modesty, but we soon learned to cower behind a towel

Although the pool opened for recreational swimming every summer afternoon except when polio was rampant, none of us took lessons there. Some of us had learned to swim in the bay at Newport and passed our knowledge on to those who couldn’t swim.

After we entered high school, swimming at the pool was not cool. The beach was the place to be seen. Swimming was part of the physical education curriculum, but only a few participated in competitive swimming. Less than a dozen girls represented Tustin High in the swim meets held among the various high schools during our years in high school.

If anyone had peered into a crystal ball and predicted the popularity of swimming competition and water polo some 65 years later, and a swimming pool in almost every backyard in Tustin, we’d never have believed it.



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