Photographer: Arthur Rothstein *
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division
Beaver County Times,
June 22, 2011
The Dead-End Pool, reportedly named for the 1937 movie Dead End, was built by the depression era children of the First Street neighborhood by damming the Bank Street Creek, the local name for the section of Big Sewickley Creek that flowed past Bank Street**, and is a testimony to their ingenuity, resourcefulness, and work ethic. My aunt Helen(Sokolosky) Gause, then 11 years-old, says she was one of the neighborhood children who helped fill 100 sandbags with sand to make the pool.
Note the Life Guard Station on the upper left side of the top photo.
But then came those darn grownups and their concerns about things like safety.
A brief mention in The Daily Times of August 1, 1938, said the authorities were testing the pool's water, and the pool's fate rested in the test results.
On August 3, the same paper announced that the test results were in and showed that the pool was "grossly polluted with intestinal bacteria and wholly unfit for bathing purposes." The chemist from the Board of Health was quoted as saying, "It is a public health menace and should be destroyed." And so, the Dead-End Pool was condemned.
However, the children of First Street were determined, tenacious, assertive--and angry. And perhaps they had learned some strategies from the union organizers in the community.
The August 6, 1938, Pittsburgh Press reported that the borough had drained the Dead-End Pool the day before, although it had left the dam walls to provide ice skating in colder weather. The article also reported that the borough boys had circulated petitions demanding a municipal pool and had planned a parade for that afternoon to march to the borough building to demand a pool.
In news that may shock people used to dealing more recently with Ambridge authorities, the August 9 Press reported that "between 50 and 60 Dead-End Kids deprived of their swimming hole in Big Sewickley Creek when it was drained last week, took their complaint before Borough Council last night and came away from the meeting cheering." The Council agreed to put a bond proposal on the November ballot that would pay for the construction of a $110,000 swimming pool. And until a pool was constructed, the fire department would provide sprinklers for the kids to splash in. Wow.
So the end of the Dead-End Pool led to the birth of the borough pool so many of us enjoyed from the 1940s through the early 1990s.
The borough pool was built *** on top of a steep hill on borough property currently called Walter Panek Park, about as far away from First Street as you could get and still be in Ambridge. But kids didn't seem to care. For generations, kids in Ambridge and beyond made the trek to the pool. It was where many of us spent long summer days providing wonderful memories.
*Arthur Rothstein was an acclaimed American photojournalist. He was one of the photographers employed by the Farm Service Administration to document the hardship of people's lives during the Great Depression. You can learn more about him and his work at the Arthur Rothstein Archive. Rothstein took a series of photographs in the First Street neighborhood that were published in July 1938.
Update: I have been assured by residents of the First Street neighborhood that "Bank Street Creek" was the name that locals gave to the section of Big Sewickley Creek that flowed past Bank Street. And that the bridge shown in the photo is the railroad bridge that once crossed Big Sewickley Creek west of the stone Big Sewickley Creek Bridge.