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Memorial memories

"Mama, I need a quarter."

"I gave it to your brother."

"Well, we're leaving. The bus should be on its way."

Toting our swimsuits rolled up inside bath towels, my two older brothers and I waited out at the road for the Franklinville School activity bus to come chugging up the road. We lived south of the village within shouting distance of Highway 64.

The red-and-white bus appeared down the road and lurched to a stop to pick us up. We boarded, found friends among the town kids and sat for the 15-minute trip to Memorial Swimming Pool.

It was the 1950s and there was nothing else to do on summer afternoons when a Little League or PONY League baseball game wasn't scheduled. Video games, ESPN and skateboard parks hadn't been invented.

The bus parked in front of the pool and we joined a long line of kids waiting to get in. As we got to the counter, each of us paid our quarter and got a wire basket and a safety pin, each with a corresponding number.

Then we went into the dressing rooms to change, placing our clothes neatly into the basket in such a way as to keep the undies out of sight. We gave the basket to someone at the counter and headed for the pool with the safety pin hooked to the waistband.

In those days, there was electricity in the air at Memorial. The place was crowded with little kids fighting to stay afloat in the shallow end, bigger kids having water fights and diving off the big board, and teens lurking in the shadows checking out each other.

The jukebox blared out the latest rock ’n’ roll hits, entertaining several city blocks with the booming bass, yackety sax and wailing voices of instant celebs not much older than we were.

I can hear the tunes to this day:

"Ooh-ee, ooh-ee baby, ooh-ee, ooh-ee baby, ooh-ee, ooh-ee baby. Won'cha let me take ya on a sea cruise ..."

"Splish, splash, I wuzza takin' a bath, along about a Saturday night, A rub dub, just relaxing in the tub, Thinking everything was alright …"

“It was an itsy, bitsy, teenie, weenie, yellow, polka dot bikini, That she wore for the first time today, An itsy, bitsy, teenie, weenie, yellow, polka dot bikini, So, in the water, she wanted to stay …”

“Poison ivee-ee-ee-ee, poison ivee-ee-ee-ee. …

Measles make you bumpy, And mumps'll make you lumpy, And chicken pox'll make you jump and twitch, A common cold'll fool ya, And whooping cough can cool ya, But poison ivy, lawd'll make you itch …”

Then there were the voices, from yells to dares to that commanding lifeguard whistle.

"Tweeeet! Hey you, don't be dunking that little boy!"

"But he's my brother. I'm not hurtin' 'im."

"I dare you to go off the high dive."

"I will if you will."

"OK then, let's get in line. You first."

"I'm not goin' first. It was your idea."

"Hey, check out Linda. She's really grown since last summer — if ya know what I mean."

"Tweeeet! Everybody out of the pool! A storm's coming up."

"Why do we have to get out of the rain when we're already wet?"

"It's not the rain we're worried about but the lightning. Now get in the building."

Inside, we lined up at the counter with our safety pins unhooked from our swimwear. The teenager on duty would match its number with the corresponding basket on a shelf that lined the rear wall.

We took our baskets back into the dressing room, dried off and got back in our street clothes.

"Boy, swimming sure makes me hungry. Do we have money for snacks?"

"Mama just gave us enough for swimming. Come on, let's get on the bus. Maybe supper will be waiting for us."

"I hope so 'cause I'm starving. Hey, do you think Daddy will bring us back for the night swim?"


Larry Penkava, a writer for Randolph Hub, learned to swim at Memorial Pool. Contact him at 336-302-2189 or larrypenkava@gmail.com.