Jackson’s 1938 Swimming Pool

I get amused when I hear people complaining about federal stimulus programs, because a lot of the same gripes were made about FDR’s alphabet soup of  the CCC, NRA, WPA and the like.

In 1938, Jackson agonized over spending $2,000 for materials needed by the WPA to build a swimming pool for the city. The Missourian reported June 7, 1938 that a delegation argued “that such a pool is a necessity, that other cities nearby have such pools and that the pools are frequented a great deal and pay for their upkeep. It was also said that the construction of a pool in the Sanford Park would redeem the park which has become more or less of a white elephant to the city and that, unless something is done to utilize it, the park might as well be sold.

“It was also pointed out that daily Jackson people visit the swimming pool in Cape Girardeau, that, if Jackson had a pool, graduating classes from other towns could be invited to use it, that the pool would serve to keep the youth of the city off the streets in the idle summer months, that the Board of Education is spending $10,000 of the people’s money on a stadium that is used probably four or five times a year, and that only $1,500 of the people’s money is being asked for to build an $11,000 swimming pool that would be used 120 days a year.

The pool, as planned, would hold 140,000 gallons of water. The biggest concern was how much it would cost to maintain the pool. The City Council ducked making a decision by ruling that it would circulate a petition “to ascertain the feelings of the citizens regarding the matter.”

Jackson Swimming Pool and Drive-in

The voters must have decided they wanted the pool, because it WAS built. This aerial photo from the late 60s shows the pool in the middle of the photo. Jackson’s Drive-in Theater is at the bottom right. It’s the site of the new pool, which replaced the 1938 WPA project in 1976.

All good things come to an end

Oct. 13, 1965, The Missourian ran a story that said the old pool was too old and too small. James R. Nelson, summer pool manager and principal of Jackson High School, said the pool had become outmoded, machinery is believed to be in danger of collapse and huge leaks are releasing tremendous amounts of water. In one three-day period with no activity, the pool leaked 90,000 gallons of water, about half its capacity.

Nelson thought the problem was in the circulation system. When the pool was built, pipes were laid in the concrete around the pool. During the first 20 years of operation, the acid level of the pool was rarely checked and it was believed that acid over the years had eaten the pipes away. The presumed result was that the circulation system consists of holes in the concrete instead of pipes. Water leaked out at every joint or crack in the concrete. Water in the pool met safety standards, but just barely.

Pool has been filled in

I’m not sure when the old pool closed, but a new pool, opened in 1976. The old pool has been filled and turned into a Tot Land. If you look closely at some of the photos in the gallery, you can still see where the lifeguard chairs were mounted and see  barely make out the NO DIVING markers.

Jackson Pool Photo Gallery

Here is a collection of vintage and current photos of the Jackson pool. Click on any image to make it larger, then click on the left or right side of the photo to move through the gallery.

14 Replies to “Jackson’s 1938 Swimming Pool”

  1. Ah yes, I remember it well…I guess I was six or seven when my neighbor Ric Lamb and his family had an event in the far away city of Jackson and decided to take me. As part of the event the “kids” got to go swimming!
    I can remember getting dressed into my swim suit running past the basket check and jumping into the water! The next thing I remember is a lifeguard pulling me out of the water.
    The Jackson pool was different than the old Cape pool, the steps out of the Jackson bathhouse lead into water about 4 ½ feet deep, not the baby 6 inch pool as it did in Cape. This is generally not problem, unless you cannot swim and are under 4 ½ feet. Score one for me on both items. The guard was nice and rescued me and sent me to shallow end of the pool with a stern warning NOT get in the deep end until I could pass the test of swimming across the pool and back.
    All was not lost! Because I was so fast coming out of the bathhouse and jumping into the water the parents were still inside; I was rescued, returned to shallow water and sternly warned before ANY of them came out. I enjoyed the whole day free of parents fussing and telling me what an idiot I was. I enjoyed the experience of my one and only time swimming in the far away Jackson pool!

  2. I have memories of my parents taking me to the Jackson Pool in the early evening hours. The pictures reminded me of how wonderful it was to be in the cool water on the hot dog days of summer in Southeast MO. I think I summered at the Cape Girardeau Pool (admission 25 cents…?)as my grandparents lived nearby. Good memories. Neither of my kids think much of swimming pools as ours are mostly indoors here, and the cool delights I enjoyed translated to cold for them. It just isn’t the same without hot concrete!

  3. Ken,
    Another great memmory.I attended Immaculate Conception in Jackson for fourth fith and sixth grade, while Mom taught at Jackson highschool. My closest friend,Sharon Platt,and I visited the pool and park many times. My family and Sharons often spent a Sunday afternoon picnicking and catching crawdads and frogs.
    Sharons father worked at (Fulenwider) Drugs, so much of my childhood has great memmories of Jackson. I have a block print, of a historic house in Jackson, that Mom made to auction for some group.
    Thanks again

  4. I can smell the chlorine now! We went to this pool a lot since we had relatives who lived in Jackson and we visited them frequently. We’d take a picnic lunch and eat in the park. I seem to remember that the pool had lights and we would get to swim at night.

  5. Please if you have memories of the Chaffee swimming pool in Chaffee, Missouri – especially if you know of someone who was alive while it was being built, I would appreciate that info. I’m working on a history project on the Chaffee pool for a class in public history.

    Thank you,
    charmagne Schneider

    1. I didn’t do much shooting in Chaffee, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t even know that Chaffee HAD a pool. I did a Google Archive search and found a few stories that I’ll send you in private email.

      They most had to do with the pool’s proximity to the baseball field.

      Sorry I couldn’t be of more help.

  6. This story and photos brought back a lot of memories of time spent at the Jackson City Pool. I can remember trying to be the first swimmer standing in line to enter the pool, taking swimming lessons each morning of the summer, and working as a lifeguard in my teens! I especially love the photo taken from the air…..don’t suppose I could get a copy. I would love to share it with my fellow lifeguards and long-time manager Mr. Nelson, who is now 90 years old and lives next door to my parents in Jackson!

  7. I got my Lifesaving Merit Badge in that pool in 1948, with Sam McClanahan as the instructor. He is now a retired History Professor in northern Arizona and I am a retired Chemistry Professor in College Station, Texas.

    That was great pool!

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