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CHARLENE FANCHER: Remembering the Red Bay swimming pool


“I was giving thought to childhood, and I have some wonderful stories of Red Bay. My story starts around 1972 – the opening of the Red Bay swimming pool.

“At that time I was in about the second grade, 8 or 9 years old, and I spent almost every day at the Red Bay swimming pool. I rode my bicycle – you don’t see a lot of kids do that in this day and time, but even at that young age, we rode our bikes everywhere. I lived one block behind the baseball field house, on Miller Street, so that was quite a ride, but in those days most kids rode their bikes to get to and from regardless of the distance. Distance was no problem. You rode your bike if you wanted to be somewhere because our parents were working in factories.

“Most every day was spent at the pool. At that time, we had a high dive and a low dive. Those were the ‘good old days’ – you don’t see diving boards at pools anymore because of the liability issues. A lot of kids did some spectacular acrobatic tricks off that high dive.

“The pool was very crowded and packed most days. It stayed open from one to six o’clock, so that was several hours of good hard swimming time. Most of the time, it was the same kids, same crowd, every day. Things today are so different than back then. We played so many different games, like cross-pool tag … We played with intensity. It was just fun. We just loved being with friends, meeting there every day. Everybody stayed from the time it opened until closing time.

“By the time you swam for five hours straight, riding your bike back home was a challenge. We were tired. But the next day it was the same thing all over again – we loved it so much.

“Years went past, and it’s really remarkable, I think, that at the age of 14, that’s where I started my first job, as a lifeguard. I lifeguarded there for five summers. So you can see, I spent a lot of time at the Red Bay swimming pool. I made a lot of good relationships with people in the community and learned a lot from my first job. I paid for my first car with that job – a Canary Yellow Ford Pinto. I was proud of it.

“The best memories I have are of Carey Mills, who gave me a pretty difficult time as a lifeguard. He did some pretty outstanding tricks off the high dive. It’s pretty neat to know that he later joined the Air Force and jumped out of airplanes. He was part of the Golden Knights – and oh, he gave me such a hard time! He wasn’t afraid of anything. And then he jumps out of airplanes. It makes you proud.

“Rodney Williams, another good friend, is known very well in the community, and the flips he could turn were absolutely amazing – the stunts he could perform off the high dive. Those are vivid memories to me.

“There was not much to do until the swimming pool was built in 1972, and we’re continuing that tradition. It just keeps getting better. I guess you could say that’s part of my heritage. That’s one part of Red Bay I would really love to see grow and prosper – to get grants to add to it – because kids need something to do in the summertime. That’s where I grew up, and I’m really proud of that heritage. That’s where I got my start.”

“My roots are here.”