Looking back at the old pool
Although demolition crews took down the old city swimming pool on the west side of town earlier this month, memories still remain of the fun swimmers once had there over nearly 60 years of Wadena summers.
John Edinger is a former member of the Wadena City Council and helped manage the pool as chair of the Recreation Board. He said it was originally built in 1954, and at one point was so popular with local kids that during the weekly general admittance day only children whose names started from A to L could use the pool at a certain time while M through Z had to wait their turn. The municipal pool was the premier destination for would-be swimmers because they had few options to choose from in the area, Edinger said.
“It was the only place around here other than going to the lake,” he said.
Popular as it was, the municipal pool was once the target for an odd form of sabotage. Edinger remembers very clearly a call he received from the police saying vandals had thrown watermelons into the pool and smashed others, causing the watermelon juice to flow into the pool.
“Of course, we had to re-drain the entire pool and then wash it out and then refill it with water, so we we were closed for about two days,” he said.
The watermelon vandals were never found, Edinger said.
Although Edinger said he isn’t a swimmer himself, he knows his wife will go to the new pool in the soon-to-be-constructed Regional Wellness Center, not too far from the site where the old pool once stood.
Current city council member and former rec board member Toby Pierce said another reason for the pool’s popularity was that it was easy to access for Wadena’s kids.
“The nice thing about it, of course, is just about every kid in town could bike there,” he said. “When they first built it, Wadena wasn’t as spread out as it is now. In that particular part of town, that’s where everything was...”
Former Wadena resident Jerry Szczech said the pool meant a lot to him and his siblings when they lived in town during the sixties. It was a great place both to meet up with friends and become a proficient swimmer, he remembered.
“My whole family basically grew up at that pool,” he said. “We all learned how to swim there. We all took lessons there.”