Sunday, September 29, 2013

Pool, Part 3: The Bathhouse -- The Boys' Dressing Room

by Robert Giles

The mechanics of ticketing, and checking clothes were the same as for the girls. I wore my "diaper pin" somewhere on my trunks near the waistband.

I wonder if they ever ran out of mesh baskets or spaces to store them. What happened then? Did you double up and use a friend's basket or just turn around and go home? How many visitors could be accommodated?

The ticket taker, the basket handlers, the lifeguards were all high school age. As I got older, I recognized schoolmates. 

There was an office in the bathhouse somewhere. I never quite knew where it was.

Most of the time, I sloshed through the foot baths. I had a vague idea that it was good hygiene - if something is unclean, most likely it is the feet (or hands - I was going to add the nose but who wants to go there?).

After all, it was a community pool. The water didn't go anywhere. It had to be treated. 

"Fungus amungus" - words I liked to say when I was four and even now when I am sixty-four.

Remember how red the chlorine made your eyes and how blue your lips got when the water was cold?

The "wringer" - some of you may not know what one is. The English call them "mangles". Wringers are good places to mangle your fingers if not fed at the right angle.

For a picture of a mangling wringer, I am offering a link:

As a young lad, one of the highlights of my day at the pool was wringing out my towel and suit. A couple of passes through the ringer made them remarkably dry.

The mangles probably upset the insurance adjusters, because they were removed sometime before I reached adulthood. The diving boards and slide eventually suffered the same end.

The funky smells of the girls' side may have been matched by the boys' - minus the hairspray. I do catch a whiff of coconut oil when I close my eyes and lean back from the keyboard.

Is that the faint smell of "Aqua-Velva"?

There were no dressing rooms to give a boy some sense of privacy. Everything was out in the open. The human body comes in all sizes and shapes, many of them unpleasant. 

There was often the feel of something icky on the floor beneath my feet. 

Outside in the hot sun, the total concrete surface could get "... hotter than a match head". It was a relief to cool my dogs on cloudless days in the shade of the bathhouse steps .

I have to go back inside the bathhouse now and comb my hair for the seventeenth time. Have to look sharp - good grooming doesn't go out of fashion until the late sixties.


  1. Until now, I never thought much about the fact that the girls' dressing room had a matron, an adult supervisor, in addition to the teenage checkers, but the boys' dressing room was staffed by teen boys only.

    Was it because the assumption was that the male pool manager would supervise the boys' side? Was it because the borough felt girls needed more in-the-room protection from...something or someone? Or were the girls seen as a more unruly bunch?

  2. The pool office was in the back of the boys' dressing room across from the counter, near where the turnstile to re-enter the dressing room from the pool area was. The girls' dressing room had a first-aid room instead.