The Legion pool
When I was a kid, I spent a good part of my summers at the Legion Pool in Kingsport, Tenn. Two or three miles from where I lived, I could get on the city bus that stopped just a few yards from my house and be dropped off at the pool. The pool was large and could accommodate a great many people, although the primary customers were children and youth.
The “shallow” end of the pool ranged in depth from about three feet to six feet while the “deep end,” which had a low diving board and a high diving board, went about 10 feet deep. There was also a kiddie pool for the little tykes and their moms. The pool was almost always crowded from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
I learned to swim there and I took my first leaps, dives, and flips off the boards. My cousin Danny Flynn, four years older than me, was the undisputed “splash king” of the Legion Pool. Can openers, cannon balls, preacher’s seats, and more were standard fare as Danny and others sent the water as high as 15-20 feet in the air. As I got older, I did pretty well myself in the splash department. It was a place to have fun, to meet friends, and grow up.
It wasn’t all fun, all the time, however. There were a few instances when two or three of the local tough guys would rough me up and steal my bus fare. When I was younger, I either relented or hid from them, since they were always older and traveled in packs. As I grew older, I stopped giving in and cowering and kept my money.
I was 19 and home from the Marine Corps when my brother, then 11 years old, got bullied and hurt by a 17-year-old tough guy. I drove to the Legion and found him. My brother was never bullied there again. Hopefully, the rest of his memories are joyful.
As I became a high school student, the Legion Pool became even more important during the summers. It was, not only a place to meet friends, but a place to meet girls. Often, after football practice, or between practices on the dreaded two-a-day practice times, I would join some of my teammates at the pool since it was within walking distance of Dobyns-Bennett High School’s locker rooms.
The local state park had a great pool but, if one didn’t have a car, it was inaccessible. The Legion was accessible, affordable, and immensely enjoyable.
I discovered a few days ago that the Legion Pool is being demolished and the area turned into a grassy field. I suppose there are reasons for the action but I don’t know for certain what they are.
Some say that the pool had become a place where mostly poor kids came to swim. Some have speculated that, since the middle class kids no longer visited the pool, and, that since the upper class kids had pools at home, tax dollars from the middle and upper class should no longer be used to subsidize the pool.
The truth is that, when I was in elementary school, I would have qualified as a poor kid — or at least as a lower working class kid. The Legion Pool was a refuge for me and a place that provided wonderful memories that I would not otherwise have had.
I don’t know who will use the planned grassy field. It’s hard to imagine that the poor kids will remember the grassy field as a place of growth and joy.
For the decades that it was around, the Legion Pool brought happiness and made memories for tens of thousands of young people. Now, the Legion Pool itself is only a memory.
[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese which consists of Georgia and Tennessee (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U.S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.]