COMMENTARY - The city needs a pool

Ever hear of Graybill's or the Natatorium? These are just a few of the swimming pools Walla Walla kids used to enjoy.



Children crowd the D. M. Smith Natatorium on a hot summer day in Walla Walla in the 1950s. The Natatorium was located just south of Mill Creek on Wilbur Avenue where an apartment complex now sits.


The D. M. Smith Natatorium is shown under construction in 1917.


Swimmers enjoy the Natatorium shortly after its completion.


An advertisement from an August 1936 edition of the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin touts the 'fresh sparkling spring water” of Graybill's Pool.

Special to the Union-Bulletin

Any day now it will be hot enough to go swimming. My favorite summer sport. But where will I go? Russell Creek dries up about the same time the thermometer reminds me that gettin' down and rollin' around in that wonderful cool water is one of the grandest exercises in the whole world.

Many of my happiest adolescent memories are of summertime at Graybill's. What? You haven't heard of Graybill's? Well, it was awhile ago - like 1945 or thereabouts.

One of my kids reminded me that she was still riding her bike there in the 1930s.

Believe it or not, we had a choice of public pools then, way back when. There were Veterans Memorial Pool by the stadium, the Natatorium closer to the city center, several smaller, shallower pools scattered throughout the city and then, my favorite, Graybill's - corner of Reser and Kendall roads. It even had bleachers and diving boards. I believe you can still see its carcass if you're looking as you drive by.

I'm so glad it wasn't condemned before I outgrew my swimming suit and donned my housewifey apron. But I still feel sorry for all of the swimmers in the wonderful summery area who missed out on a pool within biking distance. What a great gift it was for me and mine to meet and greet friends at Graybill's!

Several people have expressed an interest in rebuilding Veterans Memorial Pool and are anxious and willing to reveal why. Here are a few of their comments:


How sad I was when walking past the vacant pool by Borleske Stadium. I instantly remembered going there as a child, a few years ago now. I heard the laughs, shrieks, and sounds of summer like it was yesterday.

The feeling of excitement driving into the parking lot, the heat of the day beating down on me. Thinking, who would be at the pool today? Did I put on sunscreen? Where's my towel? Then finally, jumping into the cool, refreshing water.

Well, actually I wasn't a jumper. I was a one foot in, then the other, and then slowly sink into the water type of kid. Either way, the end result was the same. Hours of fun.

I soon will be having a child of my own. A memory like this should be as well remembered by this child as it is by me.

Maggie Youd


One of my favorite memories of childhood was my first swim of the summer in Keuka Lake, one of the Finger Lakes near my boyhood home in New York state. Diving in, letting the water flow over me, taking away the cares of the school year and washing me with the promise of the endless summer stretching out ahead - laughter, exercise, play - the euphoric sense of water, sun and summertime. Every child should have that experience every summer.

Mark Brown


We moved to Walla Walla in July 1972 with our two small daughters, the temperature soaring to 103 degrees! Our first adventure was to the municipal swimming pool to meet people and enjoy the coolness of the water. This soon became our weekly outing and was a favorite activity for our girls. We now have three grandchildren whom we would like to repeat this memory with at our local pool!

Linda Wood


I would love to have a swimming pool in Walla Walla.

As I walk around our community in the summer, the neighborhoods are strangely silent. I wonder where the children are. Most kids play indoors most of the time now.

Growing up in a town of 4,000 people, I have fond memories of cooling off and playing with friends at the community swimming pool.

Children and teenagers of the next generation need outlets for exercise and social interaction. I believe a swimming pool in Walla Walla would be cost-effective and a widely used service.

I find myself driving to communities in the surrounding towns to take my own children to swimming pools. Perhaps Walla Walla can find a way to build a pool for our own kids.

Allison Kirby, M.D.

We will keep folks informed as this effort to build a community pool proceeds.


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