Valley residents get their warm-weather kicks at the pool

A photo collage from July 1937 shows various swimming-related activities taking place at Graybill’s pool.

A photo collage from July 1937 shows various swimming-related activities taking place at Graybill’s pool. U-B file image


‘What was your favorite childhood activity?” I asked my mom, Linda Mobley. Of course I already knew what the answer would be: the Nat.

I’ve heard her and my aunts rhapsodizing about the D.M. Smith Natatorium my whole life. The dances. The pool. How all the kids in town would go there to meet up with friends.

My dad, Greg. was more partial to Graybill’s, which was on the south side of town near their farm. My mom laughed and said Graybill’s was a swamp, but the Van Donge kids all enjoyed swimming in a natural pond. The Union-Bulletin and Joe Drazan’s blog have some good-quality file photos of both pools.

When I was a child, my friends and I met at Memorial, a private pool near Borleske Stadium. The high dive and slide made it a place to be daring, but the frozen Charleston Chews were my biggest motivator for going there.

Today my kids, Natalie and Noah, get a lot of use out of a tiny round plastic pool — surprisingly fun, considering they are 5 and 7. With the pool, washing my car, the sprinkler and an occasional squirt gun, we make the most of our summer days at home. If we need to swim, the YMCA has an excellent swim program. But nothing beats an outdoor pool.

My favorite is the Prescott pool. It’s rarely crowded, has a slide, a diving board and a baby area, and is in really good condition.

The aquatic center in Milton-Freewater is also a lot of fun, with a variety of slides, covered tables, a snack bar and sand volleyball — though the price and hours that make you pay twice for one day of swimming deter us from going very often. But for special occasions, it is great; and if you live in Milton-Freewater the family pass is a good deal.

Swimming in the Walla Walla Valley has definitely changed through the years, but it will always be a fun activity for families and friends.

Sara Van Donge is a Walla Walla native and middle school dual language teacher. She can be reached at


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