The museum welcomes back visitors on Tuesday, September 15 with new health and safety procedures like free timed tickets and required cloth face masks.
It’s not hard to imagine the excitement back in 1940 when the Town of Wake Forest decided to build a swimming pool in the three-acre hollow behind the high school gymnasium.
The pool was constructed along with the Community House as a project for the Works Progress Administration. Everything from the poured concrete to the building’s giant fireplace, ladies’ lounge, kitchen and dining room facilities, bath and dressing areas, and lockers and meeting rooms had to meet the approval of officials in Washington, D.C.
It wasn’t a particularly inexpensive project. The house and pool cost $68,000 to build ($1,060,474 in 2019 dollars), with the WPA ultimately covering 73% of the total price and the town financing the rest.
The new site opened in June of 1942. It was bright and sparkling, with water filtered through sand and rendered “chemically correct” to meet the highest sanitation standards. Swimmers could visit for a small daily fee or buy tickets to cover the whole season, April through September.
Soon the student newspaper and college yearbook were populated with photographs of boys and “coeds” enjoying the sun on the pool deck, dipping a toe in the water, or jumping off the diving board.
Mischief makers also struck. As 1942 was the year women first enrolled at Wake Forest College, early rule breaking seemed to fall squarely in the “social” category.
This article from the July 17, 1942 edition of the Old Gold & Black is a perfect example of the school’s World War II era summer high jinks.
SWIMMING — Boys will be boys, they say, and this includes even lifeguards at the Wake Forest swimming pool.
One night not so long ago, after closing hours for the swimming pool, the guards took their dates in for a dip. It was strictly against the rules, so they swam with no pool lights turned on.
Suddenly all lights flashed up. The guards thought they had been turned on by a couple sitting on the Community House porch. They immediately began to shout, “Turn off the lights!” and “Cut out such foolishness!” and “Do you want us to be caught?”
Simultaneously, they were caught. Mr. O. M. McKaughan, manager of the pool, solemnly revealed to them that it was he who turned on the lights.
The boys who were boys were caught red-handed–and they were severely reprimanded.
The variety of reprimand isn’t included in the article and, to be honest, the museum doesn’t have many documents about the pool having problems.
More often when we search our files, we come up with adorable images of students, children, and townsfolk enjoying a splashing cool time in the bright days of summer.