Above ground

This time of year always makes me nostalgic for the glorious summer-and-a-half my family had an above-ground swimming pool. With temperatures climbing into the 90s now, I can’t help but wish for a dip in the pool like those carefree summer days in my pre-teens.

A family frolics in an above ground swimming pool in the 1980s.
This vintage ad from the 1980s gives you an idea of what our pool was like, though we didn’t have the faux wood exterior resembling a barrel. Photo courtesy of ClickAmericana.

In late spring of 1981, my dad installed a 24-foot-in-diameter, 4-foot-deep, above-ground swimming pool. We lived in Bedford, Texas, a suburb of Dallas-Fort Worth, and summers were brutally hot.

I don’t know what possessed my dad to make such a purchase or to go to the trouble of leveling the backyard, erecting the metal frame, unrolling and rigging the lining carefully so as not to tear a hole in it, patching the lining when the inevitable leak sprang up, connecting the filter system, checking the PH balance and maintaining the water purity daily.

It was a ton of work. His decision to give this gift to the family came with it the commitment of upkeep and repair. I’m so glad he made the sacrifice.

For two summers, my middle brother, Lee, and I were sun-drenched and tan. It was one of the only times in my life I was tan. Not allowed to swim during the heat of the day, we typically spent time in the pool from breakfast to lunch, late afternoon to supper and after supper to bedtime.

Those two summers we were immune to the soaring Texas temperatures, and we were never bored. We ran laps in the pool trying to generate a swirling current. We set up our scuba diver action figures and played shark hunt and dolphin rescue. Shouts of “Marco” and “Polo” echoed off our storage shed and the back walls of our house for hours. We threw waterlogged Nerf footballs and tennis balls, making spectacularly splashy diving catches. We didn’t have a care in the world.

My only not-so-found memory of the pool came in March of 1982 when the leaves-infested, dark green waters of the pool demanded cleaning. It was way too early to even think about swimming, but one particularly chilly Saturday I went out with the dip net to start cleaning the scum and filth I could reach from around the circumference and the ladder.

I guess I just couldn’t wait until summer. As I leaned out from the ladder, holding onto the rail and reaching the net as far as possible, Lee, who was all of 8 at the time, came from nowhere and gave me a playful push. My hold on the ladder handle was firm, but I cried out “Lee!” in terror at the thought of falling into the icy sludge.

Dad heard my cries and immediately knew what had happened. He emerged from the garage with a stern expression.

“Lee, don’t you push your brother into that pool,” he said with finger pointing at my red-haired mischief maker of a brother. “If you do, you’ll get a whipping.”

Thinking the threat was enough to secure my safety, I resumed cleaning. My trust in Lee’s fear of my father was so complete, that I continued to lean out over the water perilously. But Lee was undeterred.

Only a few minutes after the warning, I stretched to reach a clump of leaves. A much firmer push caused me to relinquish my grip and sent me hurtling downward into the cold depths of untreated pool water. The splash alerted my father that his threat had gone unheeded. Lee was forced to face the promised punishment.

To this day, Lee still says that was the only spanking he ever received that was worth it.

We moved to Central Florida in the summer of 1982, cutting short our swimming season. We sold the pool to the family of my best friend, Eddie, and we packed up and moved to Lake Wales.

If the Yanceys enjoyed the pool half as much as we did, it was a great investment.

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