Plunging into the past

Recreational swimming in Lindsay

By Ian McKechnie

The inground pool in Lindsay is fondly remembered by two generations.

Back in the late summer of 2005, when I entered LCVI, I discovered that I had phys ed slotted into first period on my timetable. If the weather cooperated, we Grade 9 boys would often be trooped outside to run circuits on the enormous track immediately east of the Lindsay school.

As we angled our way northwest along the track, anticipating yet another several laps in short order, few of us probably realized that we were running across the site of Lindsay’s long-gone inground swimming pool. By that point in time, the pool had been covered over for more than a quarter of a century, with scarcely anything left  to commemorate this once popular local landmark.

Fondly remembered by two generations of local citizens and Lindsay expats alike, the old swimming pool was but one chapter in the long story of recreational swimming here in town. Indeed, for many Ontarians, the local river or millpond was the place where they were first immersed in the world of public swimming.

Sharing the water with canoeists and steamboat excursionists, those taking a dip in the Scugog River during the 1880s were occasionally berated by prudish local editors, who were scandalized by bathers’ seeming indifference to public decency. “People who are using the river in the way of boating evenings do not care to behold a parcel of naked humanity capering around the lumber piles and striding over the boom logs attired in less than one suspender and a pair of socks,” vented one correspondent in the Aug. 13, 1886 edition of the Canadian Post, before urging local police to “extend their beats down along the river banks.”

Public propriety was the least of the concerns for those who had a swimming hole somewhere on their property. “Very often these swimming holes offer no chance for learning the art of swimming, being too circumscribed in area, too deep, too shallow, or the bottom is too muddy or too full of rubbish,” observed an editorial in the Aug. 10, 1911 issue of Lindsay’s Watchman-Warder. Swimming holes — or rather, the lack of sufficient facilities for swimming and opportunities to teach swimming lessons — were deemed by the Watchman-Warder to be a public health issue.

Something more permanent and regulated was clearly needed. Young men, often railroaders looking to pass time between shifts, could take advantage of YMCA facilities located in a three-storey building at the southwest corner of Kent and Lindsay Streets. Now the site of a parkette at Ridout and Kent Streets, the YMCA sported a 10-pin bowling alley and swimming pool in its basement. (Presumably more law-abiding than those who took to the river, and more cognizant of health concerns than those who splashed around in swimming holes, patrons at the “Y” nevertheless attracted editorial comment in the summer of 1901, when some carelessly threw their swimsuits over an electric wire to dry and received an electric shock when they went to retrieve them.)

A wading pool was completed under Kiwanis Club auspices in Kawartha Park, just north of LCVI, in 1927. More than 20 years would pass, however, before discussion turned to an outdoor pool. The Rotary Club put forward a proposal for a pool in 1949, and the new in-ground facility was officially opened a year later thanks to the club’s efforts.

This pool holds a special place in the hearts of those who worked at it or frequented its waters.

“I worked at the pool for two summers after Grades 10 and 11, having taken the Red Cross Instructor course in Peterborough over the winter,” remembers Liz Shanks, née McQuarrie. “We taught swimming lessons, mainly to young children, in the mornings and during the afternoons the job was lifeguarding. There were two chairs, and a third guard walked around the shallow end. I don’t recall ever wearing a hat, and sunscreen was yet to be invented. We used baby oil with some iodine in it to get a better tan!” Though the pool was unheated, Shanks recalls that it was always packed with kids.

Young swimmers who were unable to afford swimming lessons or  recreational swim passes were subsidized by the Children’s Aid Society in conjunction with the Town of Lindsay. “It was wonderful to know that no one was left out of enjoying summers spent at the pool,” observes Karen Hughes, née Burns, who coached the Optimist Swim Team in the early 1970s.

Jane Hay, nee Richardson, remembers the smell of chlorine in the adjacent concrete change-house, which she describes as dark and slippery. “I first worked at the outdoor pool the summer of 1975 when I was a basket girl (the front desk attendant),” she recalls. “I was responsible for letting swimmers in and giving each a basket to put their clothes in. Once changed, they returned to the front desk to leave their basket where I would store it in an assigned slot and give them the companion pin to attach to their bathing suit with the corresponding slot number.” This pin matched each basket of clothes and ensured that matching each patron with their clothes basket didn’t become a logistical nightmare.

By the mid-1970s, pool maintenance had become onerous, and through the combined fundraising efforts of the Lindsay Kinsmen, Kiwanis, Lions and Rotary clubs a new 25-metre indoor pool known as the Aquatorium (now known as the Rec Complex) was built on Adelaide Street North near Fleming College. It was opened in December, 1977. It remains active today, carrying forward the long tradition of recreational swimming in Lindsay.

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