Sunday, June 1, 2014

Ambridge Borough Swimming Pool, Part 4: hot summer fun in the three pools

This is the fourth in a series of posts about my favorite summer spot, the Ambridge Borough Swimming Pool. Upcoming posts will offer more memories including: the snack bar and working at the pool.

"The big pool" at the Ambridge Borough Swimming Pool,
facing north, shot from top of sliding board,
Bridger yearbook, 1969

Original photo caption:
CHILDREN of all ages flock to Boro Park in Ambridge in an effort to beat the heat.
Finally! You made it to the pool, either by climbing those endless steps, taking a shortcut through the woods, biking, or if you were very lucky, getting a ride with someone. You got through the girls' or boys' dressing rooms in the bathhouse, and now you could get into the water. Or not, if you, like more than a few, were just there to get a tan, chat with your friends, or see and been seen by the guy or gal you had a crush on.

If you click on the photo above to get an enlarged view, you'll be able to better see kids on the bathhouse observation deck and sitting on the short wall between the dressing rooms which separated the pool's filter from the pool deck. Both excellent spots for checking out the action.

If you were a pool regular, as many Ambridge kids were, you generally had a favorite spot on the hot, comfy concrete to spread out your towel. And it was so disconcerting when you arrived at the pool and someone else was already in your spot.

Before the "sundeck" was expanded by a slightly sloping area on the east side along the fence between the pool and baseball field, my "spot" was in the corner of the fenced area where the front fence met the girls' dressing room side of the bathhouse. The advantage to that spot was that no one stepped on your towel--or you--on crowded days. The disadvantages were that it was a long, foot-scorching hop from wet spot to wet spot to get to the pool, and you couldn't see much of the action except for the baby pool.

Once the deck expansion contemplated in 1960 was finally ready in 1965, my "spot" was right in the center of that deck. What an improvement. Just a few feet from the edge of the big pool, and I had a view of all three pools, most of the deck area, the observation decks, and the bathhouse entrances. And because the deck only had room for one row of towels, and the chain link fence was at your head, the deck was well-protected from towel-intruders. Just about perfect I'd say, especially while the tinny loudspeakers blasted out Clark Race on KDKA at 3 PM, or later in the '60s and '70s, the top-40 hits on KQV.

The Ambridge pool facility had three pools. 

At the south end was the small, shallow baby pool where the little kids could splash and pretend to swim in the usually warmish water, supervised by a parent or other adult sitting on its edge. During hot days, the sounds of laughing toddlers and preschoolers was mixed with the wailing of young waders who didn't like water being splashed on them.

The "baby pool,"
Ambridge Borough Pool,
Beaver County Times,
August 18, 1965

Original photo caption:

COOLING OFF - Splashing around at the Ambridge swimming pool, these four youngsters join many others who are populating district swimming pools to cool off during the hot spell that has hit the district the past few days.
Moms on guard at the "baby pool,"
Ambridge Borough Pool,
Beaver County Times,
August 18, 1965

Original photo caption:
THE COOL ONES - Two boys, under the watchful eyes of their mothers, take to the water for relief from the hot weather that has hit the district over the weekend. The picture was taken at the Ambridge swimming pool.
The deep diving tank with two low dives on its south side, and one high dive in the middle of the opposite side, was at the north end. Most kids just jumped off the boards or completed the occasional ungraceful and painful belly-flop, but there were also those, mostly young men, who exhibited their diving prowess. Or their prowess in doing cannonballs in an attempt to soak the lifeguard sitting in the elevated guard chair next to the pool. Success usually led to a "benching"--a time out on the wooden bench reserved for miscreants.

Diving tank at the Ambridge swimming pool,
Beaver County Times,
June 10, 1970

Original photo caption:
AH, SUMMER VACATION! - Now that school is out and the warm weather is here to stay, most of the county's swimming pools are open--and crowded, as was the case this week at the Ambridge Pool.
I wasn't a big fan of the diving tank, although I'd jump off the boards from time to time, especially if my friends were doing it. The water was usually quite cold for one thing. I also don't like heights, but the straight-up steps of the high dive scared me more than actually jumping off the board did. I never found jumping off the low dives produced enough of a reward for me to want to spend my time at the pool doing it.

Between the baby pool and the diving tank was "the big pool."

The pool was huge, but not particularly deep. I believe it started at three feet at all four sides, then gradually got deeper to about five feet in the center. At the southeast corner, there was a metal sliding board with water flowing down it. It was a popular feature, but I didn't use it too often. I didn't like the out-of-control feeling, even for the few fleeting seconds it took to zip from the top of the slide into the water. And I never understood what was so exciting about sliding into water.

But I practically lived in the big pool and, like many pool regulars, became a proficient swimmer even before my mom made me take swimming lessons.

The "big pool,"
Ambridge Borough pool with new expanded sundeck on right,
Beaver County Times,
August 20, 1965

Original photo caption:

TAKE TO THE WATER - When days become hot and humid, many people, young and old alike, find their swimming pool a welcome relief. Here, at the Ambridge swimming pool, some persons are taking a dip in the water while others bath [sic] in the sun. The hot spell of weather that has hit the district recently has made this scene an almost every-day occurrence at swimming pools throughout the county.
To jump into that water, especially after the long walk to the pool and up those many steps from Beaver Road, was so refreshing. 

The water was usually cool (unless you had morning swimming lessons, then brrrrrr), but not too frigid for comfort. And the water was generally clear, although there were days when the water in the big pool was cloudy, which made swimming underwater tricky. Plus you could usually see drifts of the "black sugar" that some of the mills belched out, swirling around the pool bottom as they were being sucked towards the filter drains.

There were always challenges to meet in the big pool, especially when the pool wasn't packed with swimmers, or "standers" on really crowded days: swimming the length of the pool without stopping, then turning around and doing it again; swimming the width entirely underwater; doing somersaults and then double somersaults, then going for a triple; the tougher backward somersaults; learning to do a handstand.

I'd have tea-parties with my friends while sitting at the bottom of the pool. We'd play pool tag or a game we called "quicksand" which required players to avoid touching the bottom of the pool or else we'd be trapped and out of the game. 

My friends, my sisters, and I usually would stay at the pool most of the afternoon, and by the end of the day, we'd be happily exhausted and sport "pruney" hands and feet. And then we'd start the long walk back to our hot, unairconditioned homes. But the walk home was easier than our trek to the pool, because for most of us, it was mostly downhill.


  1. jd aka john domansky

    too bad no one added any comments in here, so many memories, mostly good & filled with fun ones. the 1960 pictures show what was going wrong w/the pool, towels layed out every where, in 1940s you could lay on a towel, but when you got up you stuck it in the fence & kept the area clear for safe walking. no street clothes were allowed in pool area. a tee shirt was ok for burners like me & other blondes & redheads too. no running was the rule & it stuck, you never splashed a lifeguard on purpose, you did that & you left the pool for the day period. still everyone had sense enuff to do the right thing & keep peace. where i live now we had a nice pool , deep end was in center & extended the width by 25 ' more, 2 lows & a high dive , which i used until a few years ago, kids lived there , like i lived at ambridge pool, then it got ruined & just was torn up this year, if i win big lotto i will buid new one ha ha , anyone recall the 40s up there??

  2. Loved going to the Ambridge Pool. Walked there every day, had my first kiss from Bob at the Pool. My cousin who was a lifeguard made me go off the high dive, boy was I scared. A loft of fun times.