In the swim of things

Appropriately enough for the month of August, I’ve been thinking about swimming. Not that I’m even close to being a decent swimmer – as I mentioned in last week’s column. More than one lifeguard has, I’m sure, had to begrudgingly look away from the bronzed and bikinied bodies on the beach in order to keep a watchful eye on my perilous swimming display out in the waves.
Maybe that’s why most of my swimming has been in a safer environment than the ocean. I do alright if I can reach the relative safety of a pool ladder or tiled coving within a couple of flailing strokes. Good thing there always seemed to be a pool nearby growing up in the Crescenta Valley, even if not in my own backyard. In the ’60s and ’70s, it seemed like you only had to wait a summer or two and the parents of some lucky kid on your block or the next one over would have a pool installed in their yard.
Of course, once any new neighborhood pool was completed and, more importantly, filled with cool, clear water, then began the inevitable social wrangling to be sure you were on the guest list when the new pool was officially open for Marco Polo games and cannonball competitions.
No matter how many pools I saw installed throughout our neighborhood, it still always came as a shock to find out just how many water-filled holes in the ground our community actually had. On many weekends, my dad would take us flying in his single-engine Beech airplane. We’d circle low over La Crescenta, identifying schools, Foothill landmarks, parks and of course our own home. Once we got used to the thrill of seeing the neighborhood from a bird’s eye view, it always struck us how many hundreds of light blue circles, squares, rectangles and bean-shaped pools dotted the backyards down below.
In addition to the many backyard “ce-ment ponds” (as Granny on the “Beverly Hillbillies” TV show would call them) we also spent considerable swimming time at either the Indian Springs pool (long buried under the Vons and Radio Shack shopping complex on Verdugo Boulevard), or my favorite, the old Keyhole, just across the street from Glendale Community College.
Alas, the Keyhole is also gone, replaced by a multi-level parking lot. But once it was a huge outdoor swimming pool shaped like – you guessed it – a big, water-filled keyhole. Coming out of the changing rooms, you had to walk barefoot through a foot bath of diluted bleach before you could jump in (something neighbors never made us do, thank goodness!)
The Keyhole had two different diving boards, one long and springy that could launch a body into outer space before flipping you over 180-degrees to land flat on your back – producing a loud, smack that reverberated off the nearby canyon walls like Shamu hitting the water at SeaWorld.
That’s how I always landed, at least.
The other diving board was, well, tall. Filled with a summer’s worth of pent up bravado and testosterone, I climbed up to the top of the ladder once. I reached the top, and looked down. The water looked so far away I was sure I had somehow been transported to a cliffside at La Quebrada in Acapulco. I mean, what if I missed the water? Or worse, what if my trunks came off when I went in, exposing my fifth grade physique for all of Glendale to see?
I don’t remember how I got down off that high dive platform that summer. I’m sure it wasn’t by diving into the water.
Another thing I remember about the old Keyhole pool is the “other” name some of my friends had for the place – the “Pee-Hole” pool. Which is probably a good enough reason for the place being a parking garage today.
I’ll see you ‘round town.

Jim Chase is an award-winning advertising copywriter and lifetime CV resident. Find him online at