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BY MIKE AVITT
I took this week’s picture on August 6, 2011. The bath house is no longer there but the pool has been there since 1963.
The first official “swimming beach” was opened at the old city reservoir in 1940. Certified Red Cross life guards offered swimming lessons and a sand beach provided swimmers with a venue for sunbathing and relaxing. The swimming beach was discontinued in the late 1950s over health concerns.
Judge Charles Lewis offered the city $10,000 for a park if a swimming pool could be built on it. A bond issue for $70,000 was passed in 1962 and Judge Lewis Park was born. In 1963, work was completed on Mount Ayr’s swimming pool and opening day occurred on June 26th. Much has happened since then – for example, the first ball diamond was built on the west side of the park in 1964.
Other structures were added over the years. A concrete slab was poured in 1964 southwest of the pool for band concerts. The second ballpark was built south of the pool in early 1977. Construction of the tennis courts began in 1980, but weren’t completed until 1982. Work started on the horseshoe pitching court in 1991 and was finished in 1992. Most of these projects were done by volunteers.
Maintenance of the pool has been a topic of discussion for about thirty years. In 1994, half of the concrete deck was replaced, new doors were placed on the bath house, and new wiring was installed on the underwater lights. In 2013, the new bath house opened and the Rick Stull family provided Judge Lewis Park with a big, beautiful sign. This is a small example of all the work that has been done at Judge Lewis Park over the last six decades.
In 1997, the cost of a family season pass was $55. A single season pass was $25. Daily entrance was $1.75 for the regular pool and 50 cents for the baby pool.
About 2010, a group organized under the name Mount Ayr Aquatic Center (or something similar), and attempted to raise money for a new pool. And I remember a few years ago, the pool failed to open for the year.
I have many memories of the swimming pool including the time I got kicked out for lighting a firecracker in the bath house.
Other than one particular lifeguard, most of my memories center on the high diving board which was removed in 1982. That thing was a blast!
I also remember going to Ruth’s Steakhouse for a meal after swimming.
I also remember local law enforcement interrupting our midnight swim a time or two, but that’s another story.