Swim lessons and falling in love
By Jerry Robinson
Warmer weather makes me think about getting outside in the sun running, swimming and playing like I did as a kid. We were always outside it seems, in those days, but compared to today I think we were healthier, even through the Great Depression. We did not have the distractions of electronic games. After our house chores we were off to adventures unknown. We ran barefoot anywhere and everywhere. I don't think we sat down for more than a minute. Well at least I didn't. I was probably ADHD. I just didn't know it.
This is not about those days but more about how significant getting outside was for me at that time. Our social network was the Peninsula Park Pool. Friends were made, gossip exchanged and swim lessons were learned all summer long. We fell in love, we showed off and generally ran around like kids are supposed to run around.
At 93 I still think like a kid and I fondly recall a day years later in 1957, when I was much younger. I got a phone call at the White Center News office. It was from the president of a big Seattle hardware company. He was involved with the Red Shield Youth Club which is part of the Salvation Army. He wanted to meet me.
We met to discuss ways to improve living conditions in White Center. What would make the town a better place? We had our share of rough years. We had a string of taverns along the main drag and we had a poor reputation. I wanted to change that too. I remembered how important that pool at Peninsula Park in Portland was to thousands of families in Portland back then.
The hardware exec asked me to gather a group of White Center business leaders. I called fifteen or twenty people including Danny Mandin, county fieldhouse director, Willard Rhodes, banker, Omar Schau, baker, Elliott Couden, Realtor, Harold Hopkins, chamber of commerce leader and Floyd Wallen, druggist. I also called Walt Platt, the town butcher and a bunch more folks.
I suggested they serve with me to improve the town. I told them how much I had enjoyed a community pool in my younger days. Could they help me get one built? It would not be easy. We needed $60,000 bucks!
We organized a fund raising gang and rang a lot of doorbells and added a bundle of dollars but we fell short with just weeks to go in the campaign. We built a thermometer in town to show the community the progress on our goal. It was fun watching the "temperature" rise. On the final day of the fund raising we managed to collect the last $1000 we needed. The pool was scheduled, the ground broken the following Spring and we had an indoor heated pool which lasted for 50 years. The pool is gone now. Replaced by a nice gymnasium that gets a lot of use.
What if we could do it again? Burien needs a community pool. I know there are a few private pools in town and there is a remodeled pool from 1968 Forward Thrust next to Evergreen High. It's now called the Evergreen Community Aquatics Center. But that's actually North Highline. Not downtown Burien. If we did get up the resolve to build a new pool we'd need to find the land.
Where you ask? Maybe Dottie Harper Park? Maybe one of the old closed elementary school grounds that already have parking and lots of room. Maybe the school district would sell the property to the city. I don't know. Maybe if we had a pool our kids would drop the video games for swim lessons or to show off or to run around or to fall in love.
NOTE: This column originally appeared in 2013 when the late Jerry Robinson was 93