Pool Lures Young and Old to ‘Take It Easy’ Every Summer

Mockingbird chattering filled the magnolia trees in the cerulean early morning air in late May outside the venerable Highland Park pool. 

The season’s first gaggle of half a dozen early-bird lap swimmers with their goggles and swimming caps waited and watched through the gate as a young man swept the hosed-down concrete and the manager wheeled away the aerator. 

The old pool has changed a little since its opening on May 18, 1924, but not too much, and patrons like it that way. 

The 33.3-yard-long oasis set into a natural amphitheater next to a branch of Turtle Creek in Davis Park exudes a sense of comforting permanence in this chaotic world. 

The town has added bathrooms, showers, and a snack bar, but the general look and feel of the pool have remained mostly the same since the 1950s. 

Newcomers might think locals come because they lack backyard pools, but it’s more than that. It is a tradition. 

Some joined the tradition this summer; others have enjoyed it their whole lives.

“It’s been go, go, go from the start,” new manager Steve Sapien said.

He oversees 30-35 staff members, including lifeguards, a rite-of-passage job for generations of Highland Park high schoolers and college students. 

“Some follow in their family’s footsteps,” he noted.

A mid-morning in June found the lanes opened for free swimming with a clutch of older lady floaters in sun hats chatting about their grandkids in colleges and upcoming garden parties. 

Some have been coming to the pool for more than 50 years. Their children learned to swim here. 

A ginger-haired toddler in a bright floral swimsuit screamed and stamped her feet, refusing her first swimming lesson as a tan, white-capped instructor patiently invited her into the water. 

I remember splashing through swimming lessons here in 1978.

Noon on July 4 brought a stream of bathers flowing past American flags at the pool’s entrance steps. 

Swimmers lined up for hamburgers, hot dogs, and complementary watermelon, and enjoyed a holiday dip in the growing heat. 

A young voice bellowed the old warning of “No running!” through a bullhorn as little feet slapped back and forth at the water’s edge. 

The diving board stayed busy with a collegiate, feminine dive, a young boy’s goofy can opener, and the cannonball of a big-bellied grandpa with its ensuing torrential splash. 

Well-bronzed sunbathers stretched out on chez lounges and inflatable floats, reading, scrolling on their phones, or napping. 

Mothers chatted in the shade as their youngsters frolicked in the shallow end or splashed in the kiddie pool fountain behind as the Eagles’ “Take It Easy” oozed out of the lone speaker amongst the buzzing cicadas. 

By mid-August, black dragonflies will flit overhead as straggler boys exchange shots with water guns in the dimming amber sunset of the shortening days before final closing time is called. 

Goodbyes will be hollered and waved as another day, another summer, at the pool fade into fond memory.

Josh Hickman, a Park Cities artist and author of such humorous novels as “I Am Luney: The Untold Story of The World’s Naughtiest Man,” is a frequent contributor to People Newspapers. Visit joshhickmanbooks.com.

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