Monday, April 17, 2006

Reaney Park Pool

72 degrees - that was the magic temperature that would ensure Reaney Park pool would be open once school let out for the summer. It has to be 72 degrees they said, or we won't open. As kids, we'd wait for the temperature to reach this goal by checking the digital time/temperature sign at the old Seafirst Bank. We'd grab our towels, our flip flops, and our suntan lotion (never sunscreen in those days). We'd jump on our bikes and ride down Harrison to Grand streets, cross the street at Paradise, ride past the old train depot, cross Kamiaken, and continue down the secret scary path to the pool, where the chlorine smell would permeate the air and the sounds of splashing, joyous shouts and kids playing "Marco Polo", and the lifeguards' whistles warning kids to 'walk and not run' around the pool, would meet you as you neared. On some days, we'd stop downtown at White Drugs for a candy bar or, more often, at my bank next to Baskin Robbins where I had a small savings account and would take just enough out to cover my post-swim ice cream cone. My best friend would always groan at having to stop at my bank which served as an impediment to our immediate relief from the hot dry sun in the cooling waters of the pool. Once we arrived at the pool's entrance and locked up our bikes in the bike rack, we'd show our plastic octagonal pool pass to the person at the counter, who would hand each of us a green hanging basket made of plastic, and we'd take these into the dressing rooms. I didn't like the dressing rooms at the pool - the floors were made of concrete, and were always wet so they felt yuccy on your feet. But we'd change out of our clothes which we put into the green basket and head to the showers. If I could get away with it, I wouldn't shower before I went outside to jump in the pool. I always liked feeling the cold pool water on my skin first, and felt that taking a shower first ruined this great experience. I knew that I didn't have any weird skin problems and that I was clean because I'd taken a bath the night before. Once we checked our baskets in and received our numbered clothespin which we attached to our swimsuits, we'd find a good spot to lay down our beach towels, hopefully mid-depth on the far end of the pool. I preferred the non-lap pool because that was where you could play. Those lap pool sorts were way too serious about their swimming, I thought. Besides, the lap pool had those large, round lights on the sides which scared me to look at them. The other pool, while inevitably more crowded, started at 2.5 feet, where the new moms would be bobbing their infants up and down in the water. This pool also had a drop-off which led to the two diving boards, one low one and another really high one. Even after years of swimming lessons which I excelled at, I never learned how to dive gracefully, so I never dove off of the diving boards. I just jumped. When I did dare to stand in line for the high dive, I'd inevitably climb the stair slowly-still trying to convince myself that I'd live after jumping off, that it wasn't too high, after all, because everyone else jumped off of it and lived. Once I was up there, I'd look down and wanted to change my mind about the whole thing. If it weren't so incredibly embarassing to walk back down the stairs, to have all of the kids stare at you one-by-one as you descended the stairs in shame - if it weren't for the thought of all of that, I would have chickened out. But I took a deep breath, and looked down - oh how far down it looked from up there - how small things looked below. I exhaled, took another deep breath and jumped, eventually finding the water and plunging down, hoping I wouldn't go so far as to touch the bottom, especially not the creepy drain. I'd swim up to the surface as fast as I could go so that another kid wouldn't jump on top of me, and opening my eyes in the water, I'd see the little perverted boys with their swim goggles on, heads underwater, hoping that the next girl to jump would lose a piece of their swimsuit, or at least that it would shift just so, so they could catch a glimpse of something unmentionable. Eventually, I'd get tired of the water and get out to dry off and rest on my towel. I loved those first few minutes on the towel, wet from the water on my skin, beading up and slowly diappearing as it dried and rolled of of my body to the thirsty towel. Laying there it was so relaxing to feel the sun on my skin, hear the sounds of laughter, splashing, and the monotone sounds of 70's music coming out of the one brown speaker above the basket check window. They often played "Baker Street" by Gerry Rafferty and Chuck Mangione's "Feels So Good" so much so that when I hear those songs today, I think of the pool. Eventually, laying in the sun, you'd get too warm and would have to jump back in the pool. Before they put in the high dive, the "kiddie pool" had a nice blue plastic slide that was faded to a light blue from many years in the hot Palouse sun. Every kid seemed to love that slide. I liked it myself and went down it often, but the slide only had one small trickle of water streaming down its hot plastic chute, and often it wasn't enough to keep you from getting friction burns on your backside. I'm not sure why they took the slide out after so many years. It was a beloved feature of the pool, but one year, it was gone. Maybe it was due to the fact that it wasn't safe. It sat on the edge of the pool and deposited you in the shallower part of the pool, just before the drop-off to the deep end. Maybe it was because with two diving boards on the edges of the pool, keeping the slide would have made it too crowded. Whatever the reason, there were a lot of disappointed kids that season when they showed up for their first swim to find their beloved slide gone. Mostly, kids like me who were too apprehensive of the high dive. Where the old slide used to be sat two round plastic tables with plastic benches and a hard plastic umbrella. I never sat there because the hard plastic was always scorching hot from basking in the sunshine all day long and this heat would burn your unprotected buns the minute you sat down on it. At the days end, when we'd had enough of swimming, we'd gather our things, pick up our green basket of clothes, change back into our summer clothes, and head out on our bicycles, with our wet swimsuits soaking through our shorts. Because swimming always made me hungry - almost instantly - we'd often stop at Baskin Robbins for our post-swim ice cream cone. I usually selected chocolate chip mint or chocolate peanut butter. I liked chocolate and didn't like nuts in my ice cream unless they were chocolate coated peanuts or almonds, and I always felt as though fruit flavors were a waste of an ice cream treat. Waiting my turn in line, I'd examine the ice cream cakes and treats in the case next to the scoopable ice cream selections. I always wanted to try one of those ice cream clowns, which were like an upside down ice cream cone with frosting decorating the face. To this day, I still look at them in wonder whenever I go to a Baskin Robbins, but I still haven't tried one. Once our ice cream was devoured and our swimsuits and clothes had nearly dried in the heat of the Pullman summer afternoon, we'd hop back on our bikes and head back up to our homes on Military Hill, exhausted, refreshed, and looking forward to the next day's adventures at the pool.