Archive for Thursday, May 30, 2013

25 years ago: Manager remembers early days at city pool

May 30, 2013


From the Lawrence Daily Journal-World for May 30, 1988:

Lawrence Municipal Pool manager Bob Lockwood was featured in an article today. The pool had just opened for its 20th season, and Lockwood had become manager halfway through the first season. He reminisced today about some of the early problems, mentioning the unrest among Lawrence youth and a lack of acceptance of the pool (the city's first integrated swimming facility) and of pool authority. In its first season, the facility had been closed temporarily in late June because of fights among teen patrons; the original pool manager had quit in July and Lockwood had been hired. "It all worked out," he said. "It turned out to be a nice challenge dealing with people." Attendance went up; in recent years, as many as 80,000 people had visited each season, and in 1987 the pool had celebrated its millionth customer.


Sarah St. John 4 years, 10 months ago

There's a great interview of Bob Lockwood that was done by Jewell Willhite as part of an oral history project. You can read the whole thing by googling "Bob Lockwood Jewell Willhite" (no quotes) -- it's the first thing that comes up. (It's a PDF file or I would like it here.) It makes for great reading about Lawrence in days past.

A partial excerpt about the pool:

[Bob] I worked from 1969 to 1998 as director of the Municipal Pool and then the last three years we changed it to the new Aquatic Center that is there now. Of course 1969 reminds us of the problems that we had and the unrest that was in Lawrence, Kansas, at that time.

Q.: Now the pool was fairly new at that time, wasn't it?

A: Yes, the pool was in its first year. The Lawrence Recreation Department had the old Jayhawk Plunge, an old pool at Sixth Street and Florida. It was a private pool and certain races were not allowed in there. It was an all white pool. In those times, when it was called to the attention of everyone, Parks and Recreation Department tried to find opportunities for everyone, a public facility. They used a facility called the Firebird Pool, which was out on 23rd and Iowa. It has been torn down, but they rented that pool for a while. It took three bond issues before they got the Municipal Pool approved. That first year they asked me to manage it. As I told you before, I was a tree trimmer during the summers, and I had continued that as summer work. I had made an obligation to my boss to help him through some summer contracts. I didn't want to renig on that. So I turned down the job as the aquatics director. One of my close friends, a colleague from KU, Bobby Harper, was a Lawrence boy. He was a little bit younger than I and he worked on his master=s degree at KU. He started out. It was no fault of his, I think, but there were different bosses of instruction, management, Red Cross certification. There just wasn't a consistency. There were problems. Before the Fourth of July, most of the staff had quit. The manager quit. Wayne Bly, who was the Parks and Rec director, and Jim Talley, who was assistant director, were running the pool day by day. They would sit down at the pool and a handful of people would come in. Everyone was threatened. Paint was thrown in the water. There was a lot of vandalism that was done out of protest.


Sarah St. John 4 years, 10 months ago


Q.: Were they protesting that the pool was open to everyone?

A: Well, no, not that. I think there was a protest movement in Lawrence saying that there were still not opportunities for African Americans and things like that. There were some groups in Lawrence that would march in throw the lifeguards off the stands and things like that. Maybe it was a power struggle, just a defiant attitude that things weren't right and to call attention to that. So I told my tree trimming boss that I thought I had better go down and help with this. Around that time in July, he said, "I think you had better do it." We had finished our out-of-town contracts, so I had really helped him with what he needed. So I went down to work at the pool. The first week that I worked there I wore a shirt and tie to the pool. The Journal-world quoted me. They asked me a question I will never forget. I still have the article. They asked, "What rule changes do you plan to make to get this pool back on track?" I said, "I don't plan any rule changes. I plan to be consistent in what we do. The pool is a place that must be fun, sanitary, and safe. And that's what I plan to have here." Basically, that is what I told them. For the 29 or 30 years that I ran that pool, I lived by those standards, safe, sanitary, and fun. You know, it straightened out. We started to get people back and there was confidence in it. The next year was better and the third year was even better. By the end it was a pretty automatic thing, that we had a great swimming pool there. The pool itself deteriorated and we had to build a new center. They came in with that bond issue, which was a blessing for all of us in Lawrence. We are able to enjoy some facilities with the sales tax revenue. We built the Aquatic Center, and I got to start that and then spent two more summers with it. So I got it kind of on its feet, so to speak. Then I had a great retirement ceremony down there. They named the "Bob Lockwood Room" after me, which was really nice. It is a big meeting room, and Lawrence Mayor Kennedy proclaimed "Bob Lockwood Day" in September of 1998. It was a great experience with Parks and Rec. and with the Lawrence community. At KU we are shielded from a lot of things that happen to the people of Lawrence. That gave me an opportunity to work with children's programs, swimming lessons, and to personally know young people who grew up, their children and grandchildren. So I've seen three generations.

Dec84 4 years, 10 months ago

re·nege: ri-ˈneg also -ˈnāg, -ˈnig; rē-\

Sarah St. John 4 years, 10 months ago

"Since when is 'renig' a word?"

I know, I know. I was quoting the text of the interview so didn't change it, and I didn't have time to put a [sic] in there. Sorry, but hope it didn't detract from your enjoyment of your pool memories too much. :-) I'd actually like to hear more about the early-pool days from anyone out there who remembers. I got here in 1986 so I only remember the current pool and its immediate pre-renovation version.

Mike Hatch 4 years, 10 months ago

Parent: Why are you kicking my kid out of the pool? Manager: Because he was urinating in the pool. Parent: Heck, all kids do that. Manager: Yeah, but not from the diving board.

Used to love going to the pool in the mid to late 70s as a kid. Would usually be left there all afternoon. Get picked up in the late afternoon sunburned, exhausted and happy--if luck was with me, would get to stop at the DQ on Mass. Walking in there was like walking into a meat locker, I swear you could see your breath. It felt wonderful after being out in the sun all day.

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