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The Perfect Babysitter

Nov 7, 2011

Photo courtesy of Webster Reporter and Farmer.


Our parents never hired a babysitter – never. But Mom would regularly announce that the $25 she spent each year for the family season pass at Webster's public pool was the best money she ever spent on a babysitter. No wonder.

Like all the other neighborhood kids in Webster, we lived at the pool from Memorial Day until Labor Day. Depending on ages and the class, mornings were for swimming lessons, and then home for lunch. The pool opened at 1 p.m. and it was good etiquette to be in line at least 15 minutes early. Not sure what happened to those who couldn’t get there until after 1 p.m., but nobody in the neighborhood wanted to take the chance and find out.

The pool closed at 5 p.m., but that’s when then first round of swim team practices started, and they took you right to the evening general swim at 7 p.m. Sometimes after the pool closed at 9 p.m. we could still swim laps or have swim team practice.

Life for a city kid in Webster meant days at the pool. It also meant love.

For twenty years the first crush every pool-going boy in Webster had was on one of the many Baukol girls. They greeted us in the morning teaching our lessons, coached us on swim team, and beautifully occupied the lifeguard chairs at all hours of general swim in between. Romance didn’t get much better than that if you were between the ages of 8 and 14. After about 20 years Harmon Baukol quit providing daughters to the pool staff, and I left for college. I’m not sure how the young pre-teens in Webster survived, or who filled in for all those Baukol girls.

Whole summers of trouble and excitement were designed at the pool. Poor Mr. Meyer owned the apple trees closest to the pool, which made it the first and most obvious target for mandatory raids that took place almost nightly after practice. Sometimes we’d even get as far as Grandma Hoven or Grandma Johnson’s, but the absence of yard lights and the presence of way too many gardening devices brought a certain risk with running through those dark enclaves.

You also didn’t need much cash to hang out at the pool. With a quarter you could get all the Hot Tamales and other snacks you needed. Fashion hadn’t really hit the neighborhood, so cutoffs worked just fine for looking good at general swim. As for female fashion, there were really only three choices – Anthony’s, Nerger’s or The Elevator Store. The chances that they would have neighbors in the same summer fashion wear was pretty much a lock.

While we swim team folks thought life in the pool was built for speed, there was another way to prove prowess – the diving pool. Flips off the high board that didn’t finish in the form of a belly flop were to be admired and worshipped.  For those lacking the death-defying urge, there was another option – the cannonball. Danny Giese perfected the 4:45 p.m., high board, soak-the-lifeguard cannonball. The one that got you kicked out for the afternoon (which was why it was best to wait for about 4:45).

Last week I drove by the pool, and saw that my old babysitter isn’t what she used to be. It was kind of sad to see such a big part of neighborhood life reduced to a hole in the ground. To this day, the old swim team crowd is still my close friends. Next year the young people in the community get to start building memories with a new pool. I’m sure all of us from the neighborhood wish for them the many great memories that the city parents built for us over fifty years ago.

Lee Schoenbeck grew up in Webster, practices law in Watertown, and is a freelance writer for the South Dakota Magazine website.


08:03 am - Mon, November 7 2011
Bernie Hunhoff said:
It's interesting to see all the various styles of community pools in SD. Surely Eureka has the best is Eureka Lake, right on the outskirts of town. A beautiful, clean little lake with a big sandy beach, docks and all. Woonsocket is great for a little town too. Good column Lee ... I think a pool is an overlooked community asset that has much more importance to families than most community leaders realize.
08:55 am - Mon, November 7 2011
farmer's wife said:
yay..... for Eureka Lake.........makes this little German town beautiful.... thanks, Bernie!! It's where my boys took swimming lessons on cool summer mornings
09:08 am - Mon, November 7 2011
Katie said:
Great memories about your community "babysitter." My mom told me stories of staying at the pool from morning until night as a kid in Sioux Falls. Growing up on a farm, I didn't get to frequent the pool every day but it was a treat when we did go. But we had other fun adventures on the farm.
09:25 am - Mon, November 7 2011
Bill Goehring said:
There was a fantastic swimming hole in the Wessington Springs park right next to the baseball field and grandstand while I was growing up in the mid-60s to mid-70s that had a two-story-high diving board sharing the deep end with a low diving board, a dock below the bathhouse pointing to the dock in the cold, deep reaches of the middle, with a swinging rope on the opposite side and a nice sandy beach in the warm, shallow end where I learned to bob, tread water and dog paddle. I can still remember the nervous knot I had in my stomach as I peddled my Sting Ray toward the pool in anticipation of my first dives.

Today the swimming hole is filled in and a "cement pond" is nearby that is nice too, but not really the same.
12:06 pm - Mon, November 7 2011
Andrea said:
I grew up in Gayville. There wasn't a pool in town but from the time you were ten to fourteen you could board a bus in the morning that would take you to the USD campus in Vermillion. There was a program called NYSP that went on through the summer. You would play sports (anything from soccer to softball to swimming lessons) all summer with kids from around the area. They fed you breakfast and then lunch. I wonder if this program still exists?

The summer I was fifteen my parents bought a family pass to the pool in Vermillion. My sister, a couple friends and I would go almost every day to the pool that summer.

Thanks for bringing back some fond memories.
02:12 pm - Mon, November 7 2011
John Andrews said:
Lake Norden didn't have a pool, so the kids would all ride bikes out to lake. You could swim and have an ice cream cone at the Drive Inn, which my aunt and uncle operated. Flooding has closed the Drive Inn for the past two years, so hopefully 2012 is drier.
08:46 pm - Tue, November 8 2011
Joyce Anderson Nokleby said:
As the author (Lee) wrote---I too--was in that number which lined up at 1 pm. From the first day it was opened, until I graduated and moved away from Webster. Many memories still hold true. I taught my own 3 sons 'how to live at the pool' and currently take my 2 granddaughters to continue tradition. June thru Aug is spent most every day at our local aquatic center. That $25 is now $138 for family pass, excluding lessons. Here in MN I was fortunate to get on a committee to get our 2nd pool built. Our first was a WPA project in 1939.
Another note on the Baukol girls. A branch off their family lives in the town I do in MN. And yes, 2 generations of the Baukol girls here have been teaching as well. And my children and grandchildren can now say we are 3 generation 'Baukol girl' taught!
Our family pool sits right next to the Chippewa River on one side, the Benson Golf course and Dairy Queen on the other. Kids ride the bike paths to get there, grab the city transit bus or waiting for the neighborhood mom to pile them all in for a day of sun and water. We even have school buses bring children from other communities every week, certain days.
As Lee said, where else could you make life long friends and memories, have good 'clean' fun at very low cost. The box of candy will cost a bit more, you can get a slice of pizza and stay from 1 till 8, or get a hand-stamp pass and run over to the DQ.
There was never any problem with our parents knowing where we all were. It was about 1 mile from my house across town, and if riding bike, you could be there in 15 minutes easily. Lee forgot that Sears catalog store was in town and so many of us girls ordered our suits as NOT to look like each other very often. You made 1 suit last all summer. Now guys can't have cut offs and gals usually have 3-4 different suits to use over the summer. Lots of hats, sunscreen, wearing shades, we are more careful about the direct sun rays and apply lots of sunscreen.

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