Dive In

Cool off in some of the South’s beloved public pools.
by Erin Z. Bass

As heat advisories across the South continue today, with temperatures over 100 degrees in several places, Deep South suggests a surefire way to cool off. Head out to your local community pool and dive in! Community pools have long been a respite from the heat in summertime, and I remember spending many a day at the “Town Club” pool while growing up. Most cities have at least one, but some, like Austin, Texas, have many to choose from. Austin’s Parks and Recreation Department’s Aquatic Division operates 43 public pool facilities, including Deep Eddy, the city’s much-beloved public pool.

The oldest swimming pool in Texas, Deep Eddy began as a swimming hole in the Colorado River. The concrete pool was built in 1915 and became the centerpiece of a resort that included a bathing beach, zip line and diving platform. Now owned by the city, Deep Eddy continues to be a favorite Austin swimming hole today, fed with clear, cold water from a hand-dug well. Proof of Deep Eddy’s status in the state? The pool has a sweet tea vodka and record label named after it. (For more photos of Deep Eddy like the one above, view Steve Hopson’s photostream on Flickr.)

Maintaining a public pool can be expensive for a city, a problem Pensacola, Florida, ran into in 2007. The city closed its Roger Scott Pool, once part of a housing development, because of budget concerns and needed renovations that year. After undergoing a major renovation that added three waterslides and a zero-entry pool, the popular swimming spot reopened in June of 2010 with three daytime sessions and Friday and Saturday night swimming. “We’ve had over 22,000 people come through,” said Parks & Recreation Director David Flaherty at the time. “The pool has far exceeded our expectations of having it become a destination.”

It’s Stonewall, Mississippi, that may have the most interesting underwater story to tell. According to a 2006 article in The New York Times, local businessman Gilbert Carmichael spotted blue tile, light fixtures and white walls during a construction project, thus unearthing the town’s once-popular swimming hole. As in many a Southern town, Stonewall’s pool didn’t make it through the integration of the 1970s and was filled in with dirt. Carmichael excavated and rededicated the pool back to the town in 2007. “People were upset we weren’t open when school let out,” he says, “but we’re just pleased to see white and black kids swimming together.”

Check with your local parks and recreation department to find out if your town has a community pool. Many are free or cost a few dollars to get in, well worth it for a break from the heat. Have a favorite summer memory from the town pool? We’d love to hear it!

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Mockingbird Celebrat