When public pools were not an option…

Oct 3, 2017 | 2 comments

FDR, October 27, 1944

I don’t remember if there was more than one public swimming pool in Alameda when I was growing up.  All I know is that I wasn’t allowed to go.  Not in all the years we lived there – from 1941 to 1947.  The reason I couldn’t go, no matter how hot it was in the summer, all boiled (ahem!) down to one word: polio.  Or, if you wanted to sound important, two words:  infantile paralysis.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was our president when we moved to Alameda, just a few months ‘before Pearl Harbor.’  (That’s how we marked time in those years:  ‘before Pearl Harbor’ or ‘during the Depression’ or ‘after World War Two.)  President Roosevelt was a polio victim and, in an effort uncover its mysteries and to lend a helping hand to Americans suffering from the disease, he founded the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis in 1938.

Football Fans in Indiana

Every school child knew of his Foundation.  We called it “The March of Dimes.  And until Jonas Salk, a grantee of some of the Foundation’s funding, developed his famous vaccine and it became available to the public in 1955, we gave our pennies and nickels and dimes and quarters to the effort.  And, in my case anyway, no going to public swimming pools.  That’s where (I was taught) you were most likely to catch the dreaded disease.

I thought about that a lot yesterday.  I wondered if our present-day ‘concert culture’ will change now that it seems to be a focal point for shooters.  I have never gone to a concert – never even been tempted. (Oh.  Maybe that’s a lie.  Maybe I went to a Grateful Dead concert at the Fillmore Auditorium in the 1960s.  If so, it wasn’t that memorable…) Nor have I gone to a football game since I graduated from college – or, indeed to any other venue where thousands of people gather.  I think I was adversely imprinted during my childhood – no public pools, no public gatherings. I wonder if I’m wrong not to feel deprived…

University of Michigan – Photo by Andrew Home

I’m also beginning to feel uncomfortable about going to malls, college campuses, government buildings and on and on.  And, I’m sick to the point of revulsion at the gun debates.  It took almost no time at all for the government and the airlines to put in massive security measures at airports all over the United States after 9/11.  Were there huge arguments then about our second amendment rights?  If there were, we seem to have gotten over it.  Why is it taking so long to solve the assault weapon problem?  There is absolutely no rhetoric/excuse/reason/argument that I’m willing to listen to anymore.  It’s no longer up for ‘discussion’ in my book.

Oh.  And BTW.  If you are tempted to tell (again!) ‘the other side’ of the gun story, do it on your own blog or your own FB site.  Not on mine.


  1. Bob Reading

    Sydney, regarding your comment on public swimming pool in Alameda. I can’t think of one either. Believe it or not as a kid all my friends would go to the end of Versailles Ave to swim in the estuary. as you may know all of the sewage from Alameda and part of Oakland would dump in there. I didn’t know how to swim so I didn’t go in, THANK GOD. I hope you and yours are doing well.

    • sydney

      I vaguely remember hearing about kids going down to the estuary to swim. I wasn’t nearly adventurous enough for that! As you say… thank God!!


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