July 08, 2003

Total Immersion

It is July hot. Oppressive if you're an adult. As a kid, I didn't really notice the heat that much; but of course, I was never far from water, as I remember.

I wipe the oily-sweet smell of Coppertone and cocoa butter across the back of my neck, under my eyes, across my slender chest with sandy palms, basting before baking in the Alabama sun at the local pool. Cascade Plunge it is called, and it still stands in a 'transitional' Birmingham east-side neighborhood-- a whitewashed stockade surrounding an enormous blue pool, a persistent landmark among children that my mother had known in her childhood. At the far, shallow end near the baby-pool stands a series of gleaming blue-white steps the width of the pool. Water cascades too-smoothly down these perfectly sculpted waterfalls continuously, summer after summer.

There are a dozen other kids in the locker room this day, and I know all of them, there in that cool bunker of benches and bent metal bins and naked two-toned flesh and wet cotton; it smells of dank concrete, chlorine and ammonia. There is an echo in that dark windowless box so that our voices flow together into one shapeless happy hum. I pin my locker key inside my trunks and, gathering up my fins and goggles, step my feet quickly into and out of the unavoidable tray of white disenfectant that stands as the final barrier before leaving the last of the cool shade, destined for a day of total immersion beneath a searing, cloudless white-hot Alabama summer sky.

Posted by fred1st at July 8, 2003 08:11 AM | TrackBack
Comments

Hey, we have a new pool. Want to come by for a pool party? It's 100+ here this week. The water will be nice and warm :-)

Posted by: meg at July 8, 2003 08:53 PM

No pool, but I did join the kids on the slip n slide this weekend.

Posted by: Chris at July 9, 2003 08:50 AM

So beautifully said. I grew up in East Lake, 3 blocks from Cascade Plunge, on 66th Street, and spent every summer there at the pool. Your description was perfect. I have so many happy memories of Cascade - my first swimming lessons, family dinners in the Cloud Room, chatting with my friends in the locker room, diving off the first, then the second, then the third step and finally the TOWER!

Posted by: Terri Chaney Merren at September 20, 2003 09:53 AM

Thanks for the memories. I, too, grew up in B'ham. Early 70s. Kids were turned loose on summer days, and lots of mine were spent with a friend at Cascade. We rode our bikes from 76th street and stayed all day, splitting an order of fries and a coke for lunch. Ahh, that was freedom. I miss it.

Posted by: lora at April 29, 2004 06:39 AM

Thanks for the memories. I, too, grew up in B'ham. Early 70s. Kids were turned loose on summer days, and lots of mine were spent with a friend at Cascade. We rode our bikes from 76th street and stayed all day, splitting an order of fries and a coke for lunch. Ahh, that was freedom. I miss it.

Posted by: lora at April 29, 2004 06:40 AM

I go all the way back to the mid 50s. We would walk from Woodlawn, 60th St. N., and spent many happy days at Cascade. Going off the tower the first time was a heroic accomplish I thought. How lucky we were to grow up in a sane society where kids could be kids. Oh how I wish my children could have enjoyed some of the same freedoms.

Posted by: Duke at May 10, 2004 08:40 AM

I grew up in Irondale in the late fifties, but went to Cascade plunge as often as possible. I remember the smell of the chlorine you had to step into before you could get into the pool. We'd stay all day, and eat a hotdog and coke for lunch. Remember Grayson's Spinning Wheel?

Posted by: Sandra Bonilla at May 26, 2004 05:36 PM

I used to go to Cascade in the late 50's & early 60's for the swimming & the tower then in the early middle 60's for my girlfriend's (now wife of 38 years) club functions. Great times & good memories.

Posted by: Wayne at August 20, 2004 12:02 AM

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