It is a magical place; full of memories of a wonderful childhood. For generations of kids, the Monticello swimming pool was the place to be from the opening day in May, when the water seemed freezing cold, to the closing day in August, when conditions were perfect but the schools demanded the attention of the kids.
My memories go way, way back. I remember the days when I was not quite tall enough to reach the bottom of the pool, even in the shallow end. When I wasn’t with the endless stream of bigger kids who were watching me, I spent the summer clinging to the wall or bobbing on my toes off the bottom of the pool.
I remember swimming lessons, swim races, water ballet, late night parties, and earning my swimming and lifesaving merit badges. The pool was a place of cute lifeguards, the occasional annoying bully, and pinning a numbered safety pin to the bottom of my suit.
In my day, there was a high dive and a low dive at the pool. They provided a summer of fun and challenge. I still carry a scar on my chin, the result of misjudging the distance from the diving board to the wall, and a scar on my head, from when I did a back flip off the board and didn’t jump out far enough.
However, it was more than just a place to swim. The pool was a great place to meet friends. It always seemed to be full of new faces, whether they were tourists just passing through or the cousins of Monticello kids. My brother Doug still talks about how popular he suddenly became when his good-looking cousins from Arizona arrived each summer.
The swimming pool always seemed to be the setting of the innumerable scarey stories that we made up while sleeping under the stars each night.
Another constant was the music. All of this was played on a sound track, that for me was Neal Diamond’s Hot August Night, Tapestry by Carol King, and Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon and Garfunkel.
The building was the perfect representation of a carefree summer. When the pool was open, life was good.
As I have done for the past several years, I went to the Monticello swimming pool several times last summer. However, there was one difference; I didn’t swim this time. Instead, I sat in the bleachers while the kids swam and enjoyed the flood of memories.
The pool was in terrible shape. Most of the overhead lights didn’t work, and all of the in-pool lights were burned out. The building was old and decrepit, and clearly showed the impact of 50 years of wet conditions. There was damage to the steel structure, and rust spots were everywhere. For some reason, the swimming pool was foggy several times last summer and I could barely see from one end of the building to the other.
The dressing rooms were a mess, despite the best efforts of the staff. It was clear that the building had run its course. When a pump clunked to a stop in August, it was the last straw.
Now, the city is working hard to finalize plans to build a new pool. No longer an Olympic-sized pool, the new facility will be a new pool for a new age.
The city has scoured near and far to find funds to build the new pool. They have found success in securing grants and loans from the Utah Community Impact Board, from San Juan County, and even from local school children saving their pennies.
The total funding package is not yet secure, but the city and its children are moving in the right direction. It is not easy for a pauper village to find money in this economy and facilities are expensive to run and maintain.
If you share good memories of the pool, don’t miss the chance to have one last visit to the old dinosaur before the wrecking ball knocks it down. It will be a great opportunity to relive old memories and to make a donation for the new “memory-maker” that will take its place.