There’s no pool like an old pool
As news regarding Gloversville’s Littauer pool has recently appeared in Leader Herald articles, sharing some pool history seems timely.
For Gloversville citizens unable to reach our many lakes or ponds, in-town access to water recreation has always been beneficial, and so must the Littauer Foundation directors have believed in 1929 when they gifted Gloversville with the Littauer Pool and Pavilion.
The July 29, 1929 Morning Herald, printed during a heat wave, observed, “In front of City Hall, the temperature registered 97 degrees and that is in the shade. Hundreds gathered at the Littauer swimming pool where they got relief from the heat covering the city like a blanket.”
Nor was the pool the only attraction: many social activities occurred at the pavilion, the most popular being Friday night open air dances, complete with orchestra.
On July 24, 1929, the Herald reported, “Last night there were about 400 dancers in attendance. Music was furnished by Roy Haywood’s Orchestra from 8:30 to 11 p.m.” These dances were “conducted every Friday night until cold weather [arrived].”
Littauer pool also hosted regional speed races, diving competitions, water polo competitions and special events such as a gala 1939 pavilion celebration commemorating Lucius Littauer’s 80th birthday.
Summer recreation activities were conducted by the Gloversville School System for many years, and Littauer Pool was overseen by caretaker Sam Lucas, a system employee, with several assistants, plus a life guard was always on duty.
When maintenance was required, Lucas had the authority to close the pool temporarily and service it.
The same July 24 Leader alerted swimmers of a one-day maintenance closure, necessary to clean the pool’s walls.
“Last night Caretaker Lucas opened the gate and let the water out so work can be started cleaning the pool at 6 a.m. today. Hose from the Gloversville Fire Department is used to spray the sides and bottom of the pool.”
This had to be done periodically because, “every heavy rain storm washes the dirt from above down into the pool where it clings to the sides and bottom until sprayed with the hose.”
No doubt today’s state inspectors would take dim views of such practical cleaning methods.
Besides general water recreation, Littauer Pool also provided swimming instruction to children of all Fulton County towns.
On a scheduled date for example, “Boys and girls from Mayfield who don’t know how to swim can take advantage of the opportunity offered by the Gloversville Red Cross. Competent instructors will teach girls in the morning and boys in the afternoon at the Littauer pool.”
Older residents may remember when Littauer Pool also provided winter recreation. The pool wasn’t emptied at the end of summer then, but remained full, and when the water froze during winter’s depths, it served as a community skating rink.
On Dec. 26, 1950, Roy Ward, pool activity supervisor, narrowly missed death when the tractor he was using to scrape snow off the frozen pool surface for skaters broke through the ice.
“We can’t figure out why the tractor went down,” school superintendent Painter was quoted as saying, a remark which must have caused much laughter. One wonders that he didn’t realize maybe the ice under the 3,000 pound tractor simply wasn’t thick enough.
Pools always require maintenance. For years, the Board of Education factored pool repair funding into the annual budget, but a temporary halt to Gloversville water recreation finally occurred during the summer of 1953.
Just when school ended and the swimming season should have begun, the June 23 Leader-Republican headlined, “City Locks Swimming Pool — First Time in 25 Years.”
The Leader explained, “Instead of having more than 600 bathers jamming into the facilities, the clubhouse is dark. The situation was brought about a year ago when the State Health Department listed eleven repair items to the pool and clubhouse. Maintenance, supervision and supplies have long been part of the Board of Education’s annual budget.”
In December 1952, however, when voters rejected the proposed budget, the Board was forced to halt funding both the pool and other summer recreation programs.
The time had finally arrived when putting more money into the original cement-walled pool was analogous to the old expression, ‘throwing good money down the (pool) drain.’
Fortunately, again with financial aid from the Littauer Foundation and other sources, building a new pool was feasible.
The Aug. 16, 1958 Amsterdam Recorder took notice, noting, “Gloversville recreational officials are pressing for a ceremonial opening of the new $145,000 Littauer Swimming Pool during the last week of August.”
Work had been held up because of heavy rains, but now, “work is progressing at the rate of 1,000 feet a day.”
The Littauer Foundation also contributed to this new pool, as did city government and the Gloversville Housing Authority, which over the next 30 some years contributed, according to former GHA Chairman Anthony Ferraro, over $90,000 toward maintenance.
Newspaper accounts of municipal swimming pools prove maintenance expenses are always high for such seasonal facilities, made higher yet with state inspectors always mandating additional requirements. Many unanticipated costs resulting from emergency breakdowns force officials to provide funds when least expected, but they must weigh these problems against the excellent health benefits water recreation provides.
As a survivor of backyard pool maintenance expenses, I’ve long believed that boats, barbecues, and yes, swimming pools, are great things, as long as someone else owns them.