Monday, September 22, 2014

Columbian Park nostalgia


This is where I learned to swim – the public swimming pool in Lafayette, Ind.’s Columbian Park, right across the street from Home Hospital where I was born.

The pool was built in the 1930s by the Works Progress Administration and was the place to swim for kids in Lafayette, West Lafayette, Delphi, and other surrounding communities in the 1950s and ‘60s.

basketI know it was a huge part of the growing-up experience of tens of thousands of kids because I posted a picture of a basket, like the ones we used to put our clothes into in the bathhouse, on a Lafayette nostalgia Facebook page a couple of days ago and it generated a frenzy of reminiscences.

At last count, it had received nearly 400 “likes” and more than 60 comments, which is exceptional.

When you put your clothes into the basket after changing into your swimsuit, you got a safety pin with a corresponding number to pin to your suit and use later to redeem your stuff.

I begged my parents to take me to the Lafayette pool every chance I got in the summers in the late 1950s and early ‘60s. I think it was the summer of my sophomore year in high school that the Carroll County Country Club in Delphi finally got a pool and my friends and I shifted our attention there.

There were similar round WPA pools in Kokomo and Lebanon. I don’t know when or why the Columbian Park pool went away, but I suspect it suffered the same fate as the one in Lebanon – cracks and leaks that were too expensive to repair.

A water park called Tropicanoe Cove has replaced the pool and judging from the comments on Facebook, it lacks the charm of the old WPA facility.

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