The sky is as
blue as the Caribbean Sea, the temperature of the water inside
the pool is comparable to an iceberg, and the collections of beach towels
that litter the grassy area resemble a patchwork quilt. There is an
aluminum sliding board for the adolescents, a kiddy pool set-aside for the
children, and the wooden diving board located in the deep-end is the setting
for impromptu diving contests, compliments of the local teenage males.
The massive concrete swimming pool is located less than two blocks from
downtown, and operates under the supervision of the American Legion Post
#128. Because there is no filtration system, the water is drained and
changed every Sunday night; the water is pumped from deep below the ground
and is astonishingly frigid the first days of the week. It is possible to
travel the entire perimeter of the pool by treading water and holding to the
ancient homemade metal tubing mounted just below the water's edge.
A long and narrow block building is situated near the shallow end; the
ladies changing area is on the left and one for the gentlemen on the right,
with the snack-bar and admission gate occupying the middle section of the
azure-blue concrete structure. To pay the daily fee or select a snack,
patrons stand at the half-door entrance and converse with the staff. Sweet
and salty items alike are displayed on slanted shelves, but the popular
offering is a frozen Milky-Way bar, oh how good it tasted on a blistering
Suddenly, in the late afternoon, the shrill reverberation of a whistle
suspends all conversation, the patrons pause in anticipation of an
announcement by the lifeguard. Get out of the pool, he shouts loudly,
swinging his arms to announce the emergency; exit the pool, immediately.
Seeking cover in the dressing area, those of us who have season tickets
balance on the wooden slats, which keep our feet out of the collected water,
and wait impatiently for the summer storm to blow over.
As surely as lightening and thunder curtails the summer fun, the unexpected
return of unbearably bright sunshine signals the return to amusement there
at the public swimming pool in that far-away place in southwest Georgia
named Richland; my hometown.