Friday, February 16, 2018

Sepia Saturday: Caution - Water Ahead!

Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt assures me that when winter comes, spring will not be far behind, and then summer will not be far behind that. Right? I am tired of the cold. Bring on some warmer days!

Children dressed in only a swimsuit and flip-flops with a towel tucked under an arm passed by my house routinely throughout the summer when I was a kid. I would be filled with envy because I knew where they were going.

The Dinky Pool

Today there is a skate park where the pool once was.
image from Google Maps
It was just a small community pool in a park on the corner of Bainbridge Avenue and George Washington Highway in the Cradock neighborhood of Portsmouth, Virginia. There was no diving board because there was no deep end. It was basically a wading pool. But there was a lifeguard.

My mother never let me go to the Dinky Pool. Never. Why? She feared I would contract polio. Polio was the big scare of the day reaching its peak in the 1950s. My mother was not the only one who thought that polio could spread in a public pool; it was a common view. A little girl in my neighborhood had polio, so I knew it would not be an easy life in iron braces, unable to run, roller skate, and jump rope. I was obedient about staying away from the Dinky Pool even after the Salk and Sabin vaccines were introduced in the early 1960s. Vaccine via sugar cube – what could be better than that? I wish more medicine came on a sugar cube.

The Dinky Pool was not the only place deemed off-limits by my cautious mother. 

Lake Ahoy
Lake Ahoy was likewise on Momma’s list of disgusting places. If it wasn’t the polio thing, then maybe it was the “pee and poop” thing. Everybody I knew LOVED Lake Ahoy. Nobody died from it despite rumors of “things” found floating in the lake. 

Lake Ahoy
Image used by permission
Cradock Alumni & Friends Facebook Group
I was SOMEBODY’s guest ONE time. How I managed to snag permission that one time can only be chalked up to my mother possibly being too embarrassed to say “no” and having to justify her answer to somebody’s parents. She must have crossed her fingers and said an extra prayer for my safety.

Kiddie Pool
On most steamy hot days, our little pool in the backyard offered some relief. We didn’t even mind the grass that built up from all our hopping in and out.
Mary Jollette and Rusty in the backyard pool
My sister Mary Jollette and our friend Rusty

Debbie, Mary Jollette, Donna 1965
Mary Jollette and friends Debbie and Donna

The Beach
Family at Virginia Beach 1973
Momma's head, my sister and Dad
Virginia Beach
But then came Tuesday. On Tuesdays, my dad’s day off from work at Sears & Roebuck, we all headed to Virginia Beach. Daddy always went in first to test the waves. We rented a raft from the lifeguard. It was a heavy-weight canvas, sturdy, better than what you could buy in the store. My sister and I would plop ourselves across the raft and hang onto the edges as Daddy dragged us out to sea. When a big wave came, he’d duck under it while hoisting us up just at the crest so we could ride the wave to shore. Sometimes we would be thrown off, tumbling and rolling in the sand. It was scary, but we always went back for more. “Do it again, Daddy. Do it again!”

Wade on over to Sepia Saturday and see who is making a splash this week.

© 2018, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.


  1. Lovely post that brought back so many memories. My mom's cousins, younger than her, were also forbidden to go to the local community pool due to polio fears. Lake swimming was always my favorite -- and it seemed like everyone in upstate New York had a favorite getaway lake for the weekends. The beach evokes Cape Cod, a frequent family vacation spot -- though I never went to a beach where you could rent a raft like the one you describe.

  2. My mom had the same fears about polio and questionable water quality. Some pools were acceptable but only if they had enough chlorine to turn your hair green. Mothers were right to fear polio as it was once a terrible scourge. But then again they also paid no attention to cigarette smoke, lard, seat belts, running with scissors, etc.

  3. Growing up my mother would drop us off at the pool and pick us up on the way home from work. There was no holiday program in those days. I don't remember playing in kiddy pool in the backyard but I do remember playing for hours under the sprinkler and with the hose - no water restrictions in those days.

  4. As a child the backyard paddling pool was our summer salvation, although we occasionally went on family outings to the local riverside picnic spots and annual camping trips to the beach. The city Olympic pool was a popular meeting place for teenagers, parent-free. It looks like your paddling pool was fun, being your only option in those days.

  5. Luckily we had a nice swimming pool in the local park which, at the age of 12, I was allowed to go swimming in with a friend but never alone - even with lifeguards on duty. My Mom's biggest polio fear centered on large crowds which is why we never went to any big doings like county or state fairs. At least that's the reason she said we couldn't go. At the time polio was a big scare so I never questioned her reasoning. As I got older, however, I began to wonder a bit about her excuse. I think, actually, she simply didn't want to go to things like that. Oh well. The polio scare was over by the time my kids were growing up so we did go to the fairs! :)

  6. I remember people worrying about getting polio in crowds, but I don't remember being kept away form anything. Ironically, an adult friend of my parents contracted polio shortly after visiting our home and actually died from it.

  7. Reminds me of the kiddie pool and beach trips I had.

  8. Hmmm - lots to think about here - how do you get polio????

  9. We ran through our sprinklers in the summer until my best friends family put in a pool. But we never really went anywhere that you had to pay, which is everywhere on Long Island. We spent time at the beach on our visits to Prince Edward Island, but talk about cold, the water was freezing even in August!

  10. I have great memories of swimming pools, lakes, and the ocean. Thanks for bringing those up for me!

  11. My sprinkler back yard days were over when we moved to an apartment when I was 8...and I was much too old for that play when a teen at our next house. I wasn't given polio vaccine ever, which was one of the reason my Christian Science parents moved to put me in a CS school, since public schools required vaccinations then. I got the small pox vac and that was all.