LETTERS TO THE EDITOR - Swimming provided fond memories

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Patricia Yenney's Perspective page article (The city needs a pool, July 3) was a pleasant surprise. Particularly the photo of "the Nat" (Smith Natatorium) and its signature "toadstool" covered with kids.

I learned to swim there during the early 1950s and vividly remember my very first unassisted "long distance" swim from the side of that pool to the "toadstool" and back. Until then I had to hang onto Dad while he swam.

Dad (about to observe his 100th birthday next month) brought me to Walla Walla from Red Lodge, Mont., in 1948 to begin the second grade at Edison. We lived across Alder Street from Pioneer Park (where I sometimes morphed into my hero "Robin Hood"), then moved to the airport, to Third Avenue and finally Balm Street, attending Berney, Baker, Sharpstein, Pioneer and Wa-Hi.

During that time, what would I have done without the Nat, Graybill's and the wonderful Veterans Memorial swimming pools?

I have fond memories of summers spent riding my bike there to swim, diving off the high and low boards, sliding headfirst down that huge water slide and, sometimes, hanging onto the grate at the bottom of the 12' 6" deep end to see how long I could hold my breath.

Finding lost items in the oozy mud that collected beneath that grate, which I'd turn over to the lifeguard. Smelling the hot surface of concrete, chlorine and tar-filled cracks while drying and turning dark brown in the sun after a swim. I must be one of thousands who recall such wonderful summertime memories there.

I saved enough money picking Klicker strawberries and driving in wheat and pea harvest to purchase what could be the first SCUBA rig in town -- at Scotty Cummin's shop in 1959. Free air-tank refills in the old firehouse basement on Rose Street had a slight taste of rubber boots and canvas hoses.

I learned diving by watching "Sea Hunt," reading a book, plunging into the Columbia and during a somewhat comical "KUJ Sounding Expedition" to Wallowa Lake with KUJ's "Brooksie," Sheriff Cummins and others.

Now I've dived the world from La Jolla to the Sulu and South China Seas, Indian Ocean, Palau and the Caribbean. Would I have experienced these great ocean adventures had my interest not been born in the Walla Walla Memorial pool?

I don't know but I certainly support the need for a pool so today's kids have that same opportunity.

Steve Singleton
Walla Walla

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