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.

Natatorium Gets Finishing Touch

I mentioned in the last post that the Marquette Natatorium was sporting  new coat of paint when we drove past it Easter Sunday. I commented that the only thing it needed was to have the black accent applied to the name.

Black is back

When I drove past it this morning, someone had filled in the black. It looks good as new.

Don’t worry. This is the last post on the Marquette Natatorium for a long time. Unless, of course, they announce that it’s turning back into a swimming pool.

Natatorium Gets Paint Job

At the end of January, I posted a picture of the Marquette Natatorium taken in October 2009 paired with a photo my wife’s niece, Laurie Evertt (of Annie Laurie’s Antiques), shot January 29 of this year. Her photo (above) showed it looking pretty shabby.

You can follow this link to read comments readers posted after I wrote a little bit about the history of the indoor swimming hole.

Good news: Natatorium looks spiffy

The was some speculation that the building might be headed for the wrecking ball, but we had a pleasant surprise when we drove past the place on Easter. It was sporting a spiffy new paint job.

It needs some black paint inside the carved name to make it look like new.

It’s no longer being used as a swimming pool, but it appears the building will be around for us to appreciate for a few more years.

Marquette Natatorium Getting Spruced Up?

Marquette Natatorium 10/20/2009

When I was in Cape in Fall of 2009, I made a swing by the Marquette Natatorium down by the cement plant. Wife Lila was interested in seeing the place because she, Jacqie (Bill) Jackson (66) and Dan Beatty (67) worked there as swimming instructors and lifeguards in the late 1960s.

My wife’s niece, Laurie Evertt (of Annie Laurie’s Antiques), mentioned that the Natatorium was one her favorite places. She sent me an email the other week that she was afraid that they might be getting ready to tear it down because there was some kind of work going on there.

Marquette Natatorium 01/29/2010

Today she sent me an photo that makes it look like the building is being pressure-cleaned, maybe to be repainted. That’s not the kind of work you do if you’re going to bulldoze it. Laurie apologized, unnecessarily, for the quality of the picture: “I had Fletcher (her toddler son) screaming in the car, so I did a drive-by.”

Natatorium Historical Factoids

I think I swam in the pool only one time. Still, I’ve always had an interest in the place. A natatorium, by the way, is defined as a structurally separate building containing a swimming pool.

The Southeast Missourian is a treasure trove of little factoids.

  • A city permit was issued to build the 70x 94-foot structure at a declared cost of $25,000 in 1937. It was to be located at the site of the former Marquette School Building. It was to be built of reinforced concrete, the roof would be concrete slab and the steam heating plant, wiring and plumbing would be included in the cost.
  • The Natatorium, built for the use of cement plant employees, was placed in service Feb. 16, 1938.
  • The July 14, 1938 Missourian proudly announced $330,362 in building construction for the year, including the following new buildings or expansions: St. Mary’s School,  Lorimier School, the Natatorium, a new addition to the Rueseler Motor Company, the Jewish Synagogue and an expansion of the Buckner-Ragsdale building.
  • July 30, 1946: all swimming pools in Cape were temporarily closed until further notice and parents were urged to keep their children from swimming in ponds and creeks because of an outbreak of polio. Gerald Perry, 10, was taken to a St. Louis hospital after his left arm and shoulder were paralyzed. He was in a ward with two others. Twenty-seven youngsters were in a an isolation ward; three of them were in iron lungs.
  • Apr. 3, 1968: Cape department of Recreation acquires Natatorium and plans to keep pool open year-round. Mrs. Wm. Shambo, who conducted swimming clinics on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, said water ballet, additional swimming classes and public swimming would be added to the program. Water temperatures were to be maintained at 85 degrees.
  • Jan. 9, 1969: The city council ruled that the Natatorium would be open to Cape residents during the winter months again. It had been closed because of poor attendance. Only 200 swimmers used the pool in December, bringing in $72.50 in income; operating expenses are about $1,000 a month.

What is it used for today?

I couldn’t find any recent stories about what the building is being used for. At one time, I heard rumors that the pool had been floored over and the building was being used as housing for cement plant visitors. Later, I heard that it was being used for office space. I’d have to give more credence to the latter.

Anyone know the REAL answer? How many of you remember swimming in the Natatorium, either because your family worked at the cement plant or after the city took it over?


Click on the gray links to read them.

Here’s what the Natatorium looked like after its first coat of paint. The next day the job was finished when the black accents were added to the name.

Fred Lynch featured the Natatorium in his blog April 12, 2010.