Lakewood Swimming Pool – Jim Evans


Lakewood Swimming Pool

Leaving Knoxville by way of Clinton Highway just as you enter the Powell Community there is a sign on the right marking the entrance to Lakewood Lane. Today, nothing significant seems to stand out at this location. However, for many years the Lakewood area offered joy and fun to literally hundreds of people.

Lakewood Lane was the gravel road leading to three homes. A couple of these homes were really modern and the other older house was painted white and was neat and well kept. All of this made the beautiful lake at the foot of the hill all the more spectacular. You had to pass the pool to reach the houses. But, swimmers only came close to the older house.
At the top of the hill stood the older well kept home overlooking the Lakewood Swimming Pool. If I recall, the Mays family lived in this house. From the Mays’ front porch you probably could see about every inch of the pool area which probably covered about 3/4 of an acre or more.

When I say the “pool area” I am including the whole front yard belonging to the Mays, for this is where everyone spread their towel to bask in the sun. Many towels would be pitched and spread on this hill every day of the week, unless it was raining. But, on Sunday, this yard would be so covered with towels that it look like a huge piece quilt. I was there, at times, when it was difficult to find a space to spread a towel.

The pool itself was unique due to its water supply, its huge size and its strange shape.
You see, this lake was fed by a cold water spring which dumped fresh water around the clock into the pool. All day water had to be coming in at the upper end of the pool and also going out an overflow drain at the lower end of the pool.

While most pools, at this time, were not very large. This pool was probably more than a hundred and twenty feet wide at its deep end. However, the length of the sides were probably a hundred and fifty feet long. Its depth at the deep end was probably about 6 and 1/2 ft. However, most of the pool area was not very deep at all. Along its sides the water was just wading deep, about 6 or 8 inches. Located in the corner of the deep side of the pool stood a stand supporting two diving boards. One diving board was quite high the other only stood about two feet off the surface of the pool.

Lakewood offered many things that appealed to a young kid. For example, I could swim from about the time they opened which I think was about 10:00 A.M then go home for lunch and then come back after lunch without having to pay again. Another thing I liked about Lakewood is that even when we would go practically to the porch of the house above where we laid out our bath towels no one ever came out and asked us to stay back closer to the pool area. And, I liked the staff they hired to manage the pool. There was always a lifeguard on duty. The lifeguards were probably college students and I remember them as being likeable. The staff running the bathhouse where I paid my swim fee was quite often run by high school kids. Sometimes there might be a boy behind the desk and other times it could be a girl.

To even start to understand my desire to tell about Lakewood, you first have to visualize what this pool offered in its historical setting of the 1940’s. Many of the Powell Station families still did not own an automobile, and if they did they could not afford to even do things like take an enjoyable drive. To see a good movie you had to drive or catch a bus to Knoxville. Baseball games at the high school playground was the only regular entertainment in the community.

In Summer months the kids in the Powel Station area walked to Lakewood. There would almost always be a few adults and quite often they got there by walking also. Many kids living close to the pool came there almost every day. The thought comes to me now, as I write this, perhaps the pool was being used as a babysitter, because they could bring their lunch and stay all day for about twenty cents.

I lived a bit over a mile from the pool and I could not come as often as I would have liked. But, in early summer I was a regular for a few weeks. One image still is lodged in my brain. I attended Powell Baptist Church and on one Sunday in early June I sat in church impatiently waiting to get out of church, because I was planning to go swimming the minute lunch was eaten. I had hurriedly eaten and had walked nearly a quarter of a mile where I came to the Brickyard Road which leads to the town of Powell Station. As I looked toward Powell I could hardly believe my eyes, for there were droves of kids and some adults carrying their towels heading to the pool! As I looked closer, among the crowd of kids, was our Sunday School Superintendent . 1 had never seen this man come out to any local community function. But on this Sunday, he was accompanying his daughter and her friends as they traveled to the pool. Two things stand out in my mind about this scene. First, I had never seen this many kids heading toward the pool at once. Secondly, seeing this man, who almost always wore a suit, and was seldom seen out of his house or car, now walking over a mile to the pool still seems unreal.

The unusual shape was caused by the sides coming in nearly together up near the stream furnishing the water. And to make the shape even more different, a huge sandbar had been built out in the center of the shallow end of the pool. This bar could likely handle 15 or 20 kids.

To help complete the picture you would have to see the wide apron along the deep end of the pool. Everyone who walked to the pool would find themselves entering this way. This walk was covered with small river rock which protected your feet from any sharp objects that would normal cause pain. River rock, at that time, were very unusual and added to the beauty of the pool area since it provided a neat and clean edge along the pool that required little maintenance.

And lastly, the bathhouse was at the end of the river rock covered apron. Of course there was both a men and women’s area for changing into your swimsuit. As you entered the small covered building you came to a desk where you paid your swimming fee. You were then handed a basket which you took to the changing room. The basket was like the ones grocery stores used for displaying and selling things like apples. Once you had changed you put all your street clothes in the basket. The basket was numbered. And you returned it to the desk where the clerk placed it on a numbered spot on a shelf. The bath house desk also sold some snack foods for hungry swimmers. (As I recall the swim fee was twenty cents daily and twenty five cents on Sunday)

I have attempted and failed to do justice in describing the beauty of Lakewood. Because, you see, to a small boy living in nearly poverty conditions in the 1940’s Lakewood was gorgeous!

I was probably around eleven years of age when I first went to Lakewood. Although I learned to swim in Beaver Creek, which I did almost daily in the summer, the creek was just a stream of muddy water. And, I can still remember the mud squashing between my toes when I walked on the bottom. On the creek’s banks there was rarely any grass, And the tall weeds on the bank offered little or no pleasure for sun bathing.

Lakewood on the other hand was a new and exciting place. The people swimming at Lakewood wore bathing suits. They brought their own towels and even some of them were adults. If you spent most of the day there you would encounter many people, because throughout the day there were groups coming and going. With this turnover I was always able to find someone with which to buddy even if I had come by myself.

On a typical Sunday in the summer Lakewood really came alive. On Sunday the whole family would come and spend hours visiting, talking and enjoying themselves. Up near the shallow end of the pool there were tables under shade trees offering a great place to enjoy picnic meals. And while there were few cars throughout the week, on Sunday the lot was full. It was at this time the towel spaceĀ on the hill, that I mentioned before, became so scarce. I loved Sundays at -Lakewood because there was always something happening to make things exciting. Some would come and show off their skills using the diving boards, while others might line up for a swimming race. There seldom was a dull moment.
I treasure my many hours at Lakewood as one of the happiest memories of my childhood.

(Written by Jim Evans January 12, 2019 another of ” My Stories”)

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