Opinion

WALLY'S WORLD: Beating summer heat was cool at Pete’s Pool

In the last three or four years, I’ve written a few columns on Pete’s Pool and there’s surely no need to repeat myself. Suffice to say, it was a legendary park that was created when Pete Chorak and some Tougaw and Olson employees, working without compensation, tapped into a natural spring of glacial water. It was in front of the Expo Center fieldhouse – it’s a parking-lot today – and was arguably the finest swimming hole in King County.

Way back in the distant past when I was halfway through my seventh year, Mom took me there for swim lessons in a class being conducted by high school coach Bob Campbell. Given the skills he taught me and a little practice on my own, I quickly mastered the sport and, by the following summer, I was swimming out to the pool’s supply pipe and jumping off the high dive at Deep Lake.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago a 4-year-old acquaintance of mine told me he was taking swim lessons at the community indoor pool beside the high school. I decided to check this scene out and compare it to my early experiences at Pete’s Pool.

Today, the instructors are high school kids, but don’t mistakenly sell them short. They know what they’re doing. Furthermore, whereas Campbell’s classes had perhaps 15 or 20 kids that he handled all by himself, my little friend’s class only had three other students, which obviously allows much more time for individual instruction.

The shallow end of the pool is 3 feet deep, which is over the heads of most kids who are less than 5 years old. This requires attention and care by the instructors because even a minor mishap can result in a student being permanently scarred with a fear of the water. To the contrary, Pete’s Pool had a very gradual slope. At the shallow end, there was only a few inches of water and you could wade out six or seven feet and it still wasn’t more than a yard deep.

The air inside the enclosed pool is a bit humid, but not nearly as stuffy as I’ve experienced in other indoor pools. This certainly wasn’t a problem at Pete’s park.

Then too, the high school pool is heated and pumped full of chemicals to meet state health and sanitary standards. The water in Pete’s Pool was pure, unheated and glacier-fresh – so cold even the strongest cholera or typhoid bugs couldn’t possibly have survived in it.

Being indoors, the modern pool seems to magnify the youngsters’ every squeal and screech and bounce them back and forth inside your skull and off the surrounding walls. Before the swim lessons began, there was an adult exercise class. The coach shouted her instructions and the resulting echo was so intense and garbled I didn’t understand a single thing she said for 15 minutes.

Alas, no matter what time of the day or night you visited Pete’s Pool and no matter how crowded it may have been, it was always relatively quiet and calm. I’d point out that the place had no hours and never closed, so midnight swims weren’t uncommon. And if a boy and girl snuggled by themselves behind one of the fir trees, the swimmers had enough sense to leave them alone.

Sigh; there’s something to be said for the old days.

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