Citizen Wausau

A Site About Life in Wausau, Wisconsin

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In Support of Pools

by on July 18th, 2012

I hate when I piggyback on the brilliance of Robert Mentzer, but in this case I am going to.  Recently the Wausau Daily Herald wrote about the pools needing to be a focus, and something we should invest in.

It is going to be 99 degrees today.  So, um, yeah.  Pools.  We need pools.  At this point we need hoses, puddles, slip and slides, and sprinklers.  We need cold water to prevent people from boiling.  If you have cold water we can dip ourselves in, you have an attraction worthy of a line, a guy selling tickets, and two carnies to clean up.

But, more than that, we need pools.  I spent my high school and early college years working at the RS Pool.  For those of us who live here, that’s the Rothschild Pool.  No one said the S.  It was a more primitive time.  There was a high dive, and we used chlorine GAS to treat the water.  What a crazy time.

I remember those times very well.  I considered the lifeguards my family, even when I went away to college.  One of us ended up being a professional Ironman Triathlete.  One lives in France.  But, we are all bonded by strange lifeguard experiences, like Cam drinking two liters of water in 60 seconds, then barfing up the water, just to win a bet.  Or Gus long jumping from the roof into the shallow end of the pool on the last day of summer.  Or me ending up in the hospital with chlorine gas poisoning.

I grew up a pool kid.  I was on the swim team at Weston pool.  We had swim meets on Saturday against the other city pools in the area.  It was a cool, really easy going sort of competition thing.  I took swim lessons at the Y and outdoor pools.  Later on I taught swim lessons at them all.

I was in the first class of lifeguards to work the Wausau Triathlon when it was started.  One of my proudest moments was being selected by Sue Lewitzke to be on the first buoy, because I had been around awhile, and I had the biggest voice.

That brings us to Sue Lewitzke, and I know I am getting off of pools here, but it is just fine.  I am part of a generation of Wausau aquatics that was raised by Sue.  First Sue taught me to swim, then she coached me on the Green Dolphins, then she taught me to be a lifeguard, then a swim instructor, then she eventually taught me to teach others how to be lifeguards and swim instructors.  Guys like me, Peter Rotter, Ted Tautges all came out of the aquatics of the YMCA.  Even though I do not see those guys often, this shared experience is always there.

I remember one winter when Sue pulled Ted and I aside and asked us to pick what we wanted to teach.  You see, the Y had some short specialized classes.  One was safe diving, the other was water dance.  I am not making this up.  I chose safe diving, though if I remember right I think we did it with a coin flip, and Ted lost.

I remember the patrons of the RS Pool, like Meghan, a young girl who was at the pool everyday.  She was sort of a mascot.  She was there everyday, all day.  She was about 8 or so, and was so familiar with all of us that we missed her when she was not there.

Then there was some guy named Rudy.  His real name might have been John Rudant, but I have no idea.  He would come for family swim, and swim laps for an hour.  I never saw such a great flip turn in my life.  He was a college swimmer in his mid 20s and was just awesome.  I wear my watch on my right wrist to this day trying to be like that dude.

I remember turning the pool green, or rather the pool turning green.  One of the wells in Rothschild that fed the pool had a high iron content, and that iron reacted with the soda ash and other chemicals in the water, and it would turn the water green.  People would not even mind.  They knew it happened, and that it did not mean anything.

I remember the prank war with the Wausau pools that escalated way out of control.

I remember learning way too much about pool chemistry, and then taking a pool managers class in college and learning even more.

Basically, I remember my whole entire life being about pools.  So while that is rambling, and a bit self indulgent as far as writing goes, it gets me to this point.

We need community centers.  We need places to be around each other, to interact, to build relationships, and for young kids, the pool is that place sometimes.  And it is worthy of our commitment and our resource dollars.

Young people swimming in the pool are not from a particular class, or creed, or color — they are simply kids playing Marco Polo, learning to do a proper can opener or cannon ball, or just swimming next to someone.  Parents are nothing more than parents at a pool, happy to swim and swim with their kids and the kids around them.

My favorite occurrence at the pool is communal parenting for safety.  Kids are swimming, and a young swimmer happens to be out there in water over their head, and inevitably a parent would help that kid, even if that kid was not their kid.  Parents become community lifeguards, and parent all the kids in their sphere of influence.

For me, there might be nothing more inspiring than listening to the voices and laughter at the pool.  It is a special sort of roar of children and innocence and just plain fun.  Kids are socialized in these places, and they are important.

I get it though, money is tight.  You do not want your taxes to pay for anything that it should not go to (expect a blog post about money in the next couple of days).  And this conversation is dominated by voices calling for fiscal responsibility.

To those voices I defiantly, and with self knowledge of what this means, I say, SHUT UP.  Pools are about kids.  If you would just shut up for one moment, realize that pools cost you pennies and create community for children, maybe you could get past your own nose for just one moment.

Sure, 6 million sounds like a lot.  But, I have a lifetime of memories from the pool, and so do hundreds of thousands of young people around here.  Sue Lewitzke changed my life, just like Stacy Gering, Patty Schneider and Joel Mensch.

How about you just realize that no one is trying to pull a fast one on you, and instead they want to make pools for the community and parents, and your pennies make it possible for great things to happen.  So I get that you do not want to pay anything, that times are tight for you and yours, but I think pools create community.

And community creates the future we will all live in.

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