Lazy summer days when our parents were working, we would pack a bathing suit, some change and roll it all up in a towel and walk the seven or eight blocks past apartment buildings where people would hang out their windows yelling out to their kids the items they were to get from the store or yelling up to see if someone was home; intercom, doorbell and visitor control via the window. The hot morning walks to Jefferson pool were at times cooled by the “pompa” A fire hydrant which was illegally turned on. Kids would scrape their cans on the sidewalks so that they could pop the ends off of their cans and use these small steel tubes to direct the spray of the hydrants into towering fountains, or even defy the laws of physics and make the spray go sideways. Neighborhood kids would forego the walk to the pool to be splashed by the “pompa”. Time for our Barrio physics lesson as we anticipated which of our friends would be there or even how long the line on the diving boards would be.
Once at the pool we would pay our Twenty-five cents; a bargain considering that daily at our community pool it costs four dollars per person. A spectator at the pool needs to dig out one dollar, not at Jefferson pool. Once in the locker room Chlorine permeated the air which heightened our anticipatory ritual in which we would change into our swimsuits and put our clothes into a basket at which time we were handed an ankle or wrist bracelet with that basket number on it, to retrieve our clothes when it was time to go.
The pool was this large rectangle about three feet deep with these china caps looking structures somewhere close to the middle. We thought it was a big deal to go out to these and play tag around them. The older kids would hangout on towels and scope the Chicas out maybe even Rap a little with them. There was a smaller pool about thirteen feet deep with the diving boards. High dives and in between. My brother would spend lots of time there, I was too afraid of dying, so I did not opt to go off the diving boards. After several hours of the pool, we walked home thinking about the next time we could go. Little did I realize how times would change and I would be driving my own children to the pool loaded with SPF 50 and Five to ten dollars for snacks.
The hydrants would never be turned on unless there was a fire and I would never hear the sounds of people yelling at the apartments or even the sound of steel cans being scraped on the sidewalk to be used at the Pompa. I don’t know if Jefferson pool is still there, but it lives in me through the stories that I tell my own boys about my childhood and their Uncle Junior. These Similarities, though decades apart, have tugged at my memory strings when we were kids. Staring at the boys in a transfixed sort of way; I was transported to a simpler but similar time in my life the other day when I dropped off my three boys at the Wray Aquatic center.
The Aquatic center is a beautiful community pool with two one hundred foot or so slides, ok maybe not one hundred but it sure feels like it when I am zooming down the wet tube at a gazillion miles per hour. The boys, Colby 13, Chazz 11 and Colton 8 love to go to the pool, I was amazed that in the last three years, the youngest went from” Dad come with me in the kiddy pool”, to “please don’t come to the pool with us, we are old enough to do this on our own.” Self taught aqua men, with a trained eye for the young girls. One of their favorite pieces of equipment is swim goggles. The chlorine is just too much for their eyes, so they say. A far cry from the times that I spent walking with my brother and friends from the projects headed to Jefferson pool in New York City. Similar in action, but hopefully will fuel the same memories for them as in myself.
Article contributed by: John Z. Luciano