This is the third in a series of posts about my favorite summer spot, the Ambridge Borough Swimming Pool. Upcoming posts will offer more memories including: the pools, the snack bar, and working there. In addition, there's going to be a post about the boys' dressing room by someone with more expertise on the subject than I have.
To get to the pool area, you had to walk through the one-story, yellow brick bathhouse.
There were external concrete steps on both ends of the bathhouse. These led to observation decks at the top of each side, separated by the main part of the bathhouse roof. Some kids liked to go up to the decks before entering the bathhouse so they could check out who was already there, but I was always too anxious to get into the pool to bother. Besides, I typically was one of the earliest arrivals and beat almost everyone else to the pool.
The bathhouse entrance was an open, covered area in the center with a box office at the front, similar to a box office at the movies in the '50s and '60s.
At the box office, you'd pay your entrance fee ($0.25 for kids in 1969) or showed your season swimming pass. The cashier would give you a ticket. After that, girls and women entered the bathhouse on the right, boys and men on the left.
Here's what would happen on the girls' side: Upon entering, you'd give your ticket to the seated matron, an adult woman employee, who would drop it in a slot in the top of her end of a long counter, and she would give you a metal wire basket similar to the baskets used by shoppers in grocery stores, only without any handles. Then you'd pass through a waist-high turnstile and immediately smell the essence of bathhouse, a combination of chlorine, wet concrete floor, sweaty bodies, musty towels, damp swimsuits, and hairspray. Sometimes, when the pool was crowded, the smell of urine drifting from the toilet area was added to the mix.
If you needed to change into your swimsuit, you'd find an empty wooden dressing room. The dressing rooms, painted a blue-gray (or perhaps a gray-blue) were frequently decorated with declarations of love written in pink lipstick like "Barb loves Tommy," "Tommy loves Jane," or "P.S. + D.W." surrounded by a heart.
In the dressing room, you'd change into your swimsuit and put your street clothes in the basket. Then you'd walk back to the counter where one or more teen-aged girl "checkers" would be standing. The checker would remove a large metal safety pin from rows of nails pounded into the end of long wooden shelves. You'd then exchange your basket for a pin which had a number stamped into the clasp. The checker would take your basket and store it on a shelf in a numbered space that corresponded with the number of your pin. I'd usually attach the pin above the bottom right leghole of my swimsuit. I knew other girls favored their swimsuit strap or put the pin on their towel, but I was convinced that they were doing it wrong.
At that point, you'd take your pool necessities, carried in a fashionable train case or a "beach bag," and your beach towel and head towards the back right of the dressing room. But before you could get outside, you had to pass through the dreaded steamy shower room with its wet, painted floors. When I was young, I hated going through the shower room if the showers were on. I didn't like the water spraying on my head, even though in a few minutes I'd be jumping in the pool and soaking wet all over.
Beyond the shower room was a shallow pan of unidentified, milky-white liquid that we were all supposed to walk through before leaving the building. I believe there was supposed to be an athlete's foot-fighting substance in that liquid, but who knew for sure? I never saw anyone actually walk through the pan, everyone veered around it. I certainly wasn't going to put my feet into a pan of unidentified, milky liquid that other people had walked through (if anyone ever did) with their bare feet.
But after that final obstacle, you'd find yourself on a covered porch area in the back of the building, just a few steps above the sole-scorching concrete of the pool area.
When you were ready to leave the pool at the end of the day, you went back up the steps to the back porch, then turned right and pushed through a full-height turnstile. Immediately upon exiting the turnstile, there was a another large pan of milky liquid that everyone was instructed to step in. And which everyone walked around.
Then you'd walk over to the counter, exchange your pin for your basket, take the basket to a dressing room and change back into your street clothes. If you were a nice young lady, which I was, you took your empty basket back to the counter before leaving the bathhouse. (Not so nice young ladies left their empty basket in the dressing rooms which annoyed both the next user and the checker who had to collect them.)
At one time, a suit-wringer was available at the rear of the dressing area between the counter and the first aid room. If you hadn't been out of the pool long enough for your suit to dry off, you could squeeze the water out by cranking your suit between the wringer's rollers.
Finally, you exited the bathhouse though another full-height turnstile that led to the front of the building, just to the side of the main entrance area. And you were ready to head home. Maybe. First, you still might need to visit the snack bar for food to sustain you on your walk home and/or climb the concrete steps to the observation deck on the roof of the bathhouse to wave and talk to your friends who were still at the pool.
Next: The bathhouse--the boys' dressing room