Camp Dodge Swimming Pool 6/30/2021
One of many world’s largest swimming swimming pools operated from 1922 by means of 2001.
My summers as a child within the Quad Cities weren’t that a lot completely different than most different youngsters’ through the early Nineteen Nineties. There was a mud park a half-mile away from my dwelling the place I might trip my bicycle to, a Dairy Queen that was inside view of that park, and a swimming pool that I knew because the Aqualetic Swim Membership.
In 2019, I scouted Camp Dodge for a Elegant music video (sure, that band). The director of public affairs, LTC Michael Wunn, was my tour information, and, at one level, we have been standing on a large stretch of grass that seemed prefer it was framed by stone. He defined to me that we have been on what was as soon as one of many largest swimming swimming pools on the planet. As I spun round in a circle following the concrete edge, I begin to envision how giant this pool actually was. I may really feel vertigo hitting me as my eyes scaled this one-time behemoth constructed almost a century in the past.
The Camp Dodge Swimming Pool Complicated was in-built 1922 by Stark & Knots and was designed by the Des Moines-based architectural agency Pearse, Robinson, and Sprague. Though it was supposed for public use exterior of the Iowa Nationwide Guard annual encampment, it was not operated as such then. In 1923, operations have been taken over by the Playground Affiliation of Des Moines (the identical group that managed the opposite public swimming pools and parks). The concrete concession stand was constructed throughout World Battle II WPA days. The pool advanced was a supply of leisure for central Iowa youngsters (and adults) for many years.
“My dim recollections encompass getting a blue magic marker letter written on my wrist as I entered — like getting an admission stamp in a membership — and considering it by no means absolutely washed off,” says Mark Heggen, noting that he additionally recollects having to watch out for all of the burrs within the grass that have been robust on his naked toes.
Des Moines native Leo Landis grew up in Clive and in addition has vivid recollections.
“Camp Dodge pool at all times struck me as a bit unique and amazingly large,” Landis says. “As a western suburb child, I additionally went to Vacation Pool close to seventeenth and Railroad in West Des Moines. Camp Dodge pool was a utilitarian distinction. Its industrial showers and altering room, and the sheer scale of the pool with what appeared like acres of concrete sidewalk surrounding it, added to the navy look. I loved the ‘island’ within the middle close to the deeper finish as an awesome place to relaxation as a 9-year-old swimmer with strong expertise. Camp Dodge Pool by no means appeared crowded on account of its dimension.”
Within the fall of 2001, the Camp Dodge Swimming Pool closed for its finish of season as typical. Nonetheless, the pool by no means re-opened. The shell of the pool sat empty for seven years earlier than it was lastly crammed in. The area was became an outside amphitheater, which has introduced households out very similar to the nice previous days of the pool’s historical past. We clearly nonetheless have Birdland Pool on the north facet of city and Ashworth Pool by Greenwood Park, however none of those have the colossal stature that Camp Dodge as soon as had.
In case you are a daily reader of this column, you realize I believe nostalgia could be a combined bag. We regularly miss the easier issues in life as a result of we have now allowed ourselves to develop into so busy, however dwelling on nostalgic recollections can even prohibit us from shifting ahead on this world. My feedback about hipster tendencies that try and deliver again the previous occasions of yesterday whereas charging a payment that’s 5 occasions bigger than what it was could also be considered as snarky, however I stand by these phrases.
Do we want a huge pool for swim-seekers in the neighborhood to flock to each summer season? Perhaps not. We do produce other swimming pools and seashores the place youngsters can cool off. Even so, I can admire one thing as grand as constructing one of many world’s largest swimming pools within the middle of a Nationwide Guard coaching camp and making it open to the general public. That’s one thing to be remembered. ♦
Kristian Day is a filmmaker, musician and author based mostly in Des Moines. He hosts the syndicated Iowa Basement Tapes radio program on 98.9FM KFMG.