May 25, 1995
In a matter of days, the Perry Municipal Swimming Pool will be open for business once again. Perhaps that announcement doesn't arouse the same excitement it did some 42 years ago when the pool welcomed its first customers but that's because all of us have become a little spoiled since then.
Young people and adults alike flocked to what is now known as Lions West Park on Aug. 23, 1953, all of them eager to make history by dipping a toe in Perry's first city swimming pool. Jim Wilson, a ward one city councilman, actually beat all of them by splashing in ahead of the crowd but he was entitled to do that. Jim sponsored the swimming pool proposal and engineered its approval by the city council, then pulled out all the stops in a successful effort to gain voter approval of a bond issue. Two previous attempts had failed but the third time did indeed prove to be a charm.
Earlier, in 1952, Mayor Henry Dolezal appointed Mr. Wilson chairman of a swimming pool committee which had the responsibility of formulating a plan for building a pool that would be financed by a municipal bond issue. The committee was to recommend a location for the pool, determine its size, estimate the amount of money needed, recommend a company to design and engineer the pool, and generally look after all the details. Mr. Wilson, a veteran member of the council, was a good choice for the job. As a family man and a businessman, he genuinely believed young people here should have a swimming pool. He was undismayed by the failure of two previous bond issue proposals in less than ten years. In addition to Mr. Wilson, members of the committee appointed by Mayor Dolezal were Councilmen W B. Cavitt and Moe Marcus.
On Jan. 8, 1953, the council hired Lee M. Bush & Co. of Oklahoma City as engineers for the proposed pool. Lester Settle, an engineer with the firm, suggested a fan-shaped design measuring 40 feet wide at the narrow end and 60 feet at the wide end, with an overall length of 75 feet. The city's West Park was believed to be the best location. Mr. Settle promised to look at other possible sites and to discuss the matter with school officials and other adults who worked with young people. Mayor Dolezal added all members of the city council to serve as ad hoc members of the pool committee. In addition to Councilmen Wilson, Cavitt and Marcus, the others were Robert Casey, Chester Swart, Emil Voigt, Ralph Cooper and Foy Branscom.
During the next month, the council looked for ways of keeping costs at a reasonable level. With that in mind they eliminated underwater lights and opted for a less expensive chemical filter, but lengthened the pool by ten feet to provide a shallow wading pool. Later the underwater lights were restored to the plan as a safety feature. At that time the tentative design called for a pool 35 feet wide at the narrow end, 60 feet at the wide end and an overall 85-foot length. The estimated cost was $47,000.
The possibility excited the entire community, which is not to say that each individual adult Perryan was enthusiastic about a bond issue. There were some who opposed the idea, but they seemed to be in the minority. On Jan. 20, the council formally called for a $45,000 bond issue election to be held on Feb. 10. By general agreement among council members, the pool would be built in West Park.
A sketch showing the proposed pool was published in The Perry Daily Journal one week later. It was described then as having a moderate fan shape, 35 feet at one end and 60 feet at the other, with a length of 90 feet. The sketch showed a separate wading pool for younger kiddies, but that was not yet an official part of the plan. Building costs would dictate an answer to that and ultimately it was retained. The final design looked just like the sketch.
We'll have more on this subject in the next Northwest Corner. Please watch for it.