Thursday, November 18, 2010

World's Largest Concrete Freshwater Free Municipal Swimming Pool is Right Here In Garden City

                    It is one of the 8 wonders of Kansas.  And it was dug by hand, by volunteers with shovels.

  Garden City Kansas, where my father, Clarence, grew up,has a zoo with elephants and giraffes (the seventh most popular tourist attraction in Kansas) and the world’s largest municipal, outdoor, concrete, free, freshwater swimming pool. It's half a city block in size and holds 2.5 million gallons of water.

             In 1921, Mayor Trinkle decided that what this dusty town needed (so dusty, my father said, you could see where the fish were in the Arkansas River by the cloud of dust they kicked up) was a swimming pool.  Everybody was willing, of course -- even enthusiastic, but -- and several "buts" were interposed, chief of which was, "but where will be get the money?"

"Suppose we build it with our own hands," said the mayor. 

Subscription papers were circulated. "How many day's labor will you give to the pool?" How many teams will you furnish?"

"If you can't work and haven't any horses, how much money will you give?" were the questions put to the citizens of Garden City, high and low, rich and poor. And Garden City's citizens...each set down some sort of pledge to the pool and signed on the dotted line.

Almost before the ink was dry...the work commenced and by the end of the first week the new pool began to take on form and shape…the dirt was flying and men were shovelling dirt, the horses were hauling.
 Then came the problem of the cement. Garden City had the sand. In the enthusiasm of the workers and the planners, the pool had taken on such tremendous proportions it would take train load of cement for the concrete. How Mayor Trinkle and the commissioners got the cement nobody knows, and nobody is asking foolish questions...

At its dedication on July 18, 1922, a band played as hundreds of people hit the water in unison to inaugurate Garden City's first summer swim season. 

 The pool has had homemade boat races, doggy swims, dive in movies but the most popular was when the zoo's elephants took a dip in the pool after it was closed for the summer. The elephants were guided over by the trainers from their nearby exhibit at Lee Richardson Zoo. Thousands lined the perimeter of the fence to watch the elephants, Moki & Chana, splash and play. 

 Garden City calls it The Big Dipper these days. Clarence and his friends called it the mud hole. 

"It just goes to show," my Grandmother Clara said, "if you really want something, dig it yourself."

(large portions of this blog were lifted from an undated issue of the Garden City Herald, a newspaper that appears to be, alas, defunct.)

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