Norman Knight: Water brings back childhood memories

I’m in the shower, and I tilt my head back and look up at the nozzle to rinse my face. Suddenly water goes in my nose and up into my sinus cavities where water is not supposed to be. It is an unexpected shock, a painful one-of-a-kind physical sensation. My head reels, and, just at that moment, my mind is transported back to childhood summers at the Longacre swimming pool.

A trip in the family car up to Longacre Park on Indianapolis’s south side was about as thrilling a prospect as a small boy from the then small town of Greenwood could ask on a hot summer vacation day. Mom and Dad would claim a spot and spread our towels and bags on the beach, an actual sandy beach. The smell and slick feel of sunscreen, a quick drink and then we kids would be off to the water.

My two, and later, three younger siblings would be restricted mostly to the kiddie pool unless a parent would take them in arms and slowly walk into the deeper water. On our first visits, I too spent time there, but I soon shunned the “baby pool” and ventured out into the large, kidney-shaped pool. I have since learned it was 400 feet long and 185 feet at its widest point which is a pretty good size, but to my young elementary school senses, Longacre Pool might as well have been one of the Great Lakes.

Throughout the day we went back and forth from the water to our spot on the beach to catch our breath. We might get re-sunscreened although sunburns weren’t as terrifying back then as they are today. If we kids were lucky, sometime during our breaks we would get a frozen orange Push-Up or maybe a Coke. We were almost always lucky.

I made some interesting discoveries at Longacre Pool. I figured out the principle that sound travels in water differently than it does in air. I learned that it is possible to tolerate the sting when you open your eyes underwater. I learned that if you are calm and believe, you can float. I also found out that letting go of fear usually pays off.

I watched as people stood in line to climb the ladder and then take their turn going down the ginormous slide. Some gutsy bathers even went down headfirst. It looked pretty scary, but at some point in my Longacre experience, I decided I needed to stand in line, climb up the ladder and speed down the slide. I discovered that not only was there nothing to fear, but it was also positively exhilarating to fly down the wet slide and then plunge into the churning water at the bottom. Nothing to fear except maybe some water up the nose. After the first time, the big slide was my new Longacre thing, and I would pull myself up out of the water, and scurry back in line for another thrill. After that, only one challenge remained: the high dive.

On the low boards, I had no problem jumping and even trying to dive arms out in front of me. All the while, though, the high dive was staring me down, daring me. It had to have been one of the last of our Longacre summers when I decided to scale the 20 foot Colossus. At the top, I leaped out. A feet-first jump was the best I could muster. I continued the jumps until it came to me that I should at least try a dive. A deep breath and I was off. Then I learned another lesson: hitting water can be hard on your head.

In my memory, our family spent years at Longacre Pool, but when I consider it with my logical adult memory, it was maybe two or three summers, four at most. My life’s lessons continued as other swimming spots came and went. Created in 1927, by the late 1970s Longacre Pool was closed. Now it is just a memory to those of us who frolicked in the pool and sometimes got water up our noses.

Norman Knight, a retired Clark-Pleasant Middle School teacher, writes this weekly column for the Daily Journal. Send comments to [email protected]