Don Bledsoe remembers earning day passes to swim at Springbrook pool as a youngster.
Usually his fingers were so sore from working, swimming was the last thing on his mind.
“When I was a kid, I used to work to get a pass to swim. They had marble slabs, and the weeds would go up in the cracks in them. They didn’t have weed eaters, you would pull grass for two or three hours for pass,” he said with a chuckle. “After you got through, your fingers were so sore, you didn’t want to swim.”
Circuit Court Judge and Alcoa resident David Duggan recalls swimming with his family at the pool the year before they all moved to Alcoa from Maryville when he was 8 years old.
“I can remember in 1965 and ‘66, when I was 8 and 9, high school students who would hang out there. My old law partner Joe Nicholson and some other kids would hang out, listening to the juke box,” Duggan said. “I remember listening to Bob Dylan’s ‘Rainy Day Women” on that juke box when it was hit.”
Just mentioning the Springbrook Pool conjures up good memories from both natives and newcomers to Blount County and the surrounding area.
Duggan said that he and his wife found pictures of him, his mother and her best friend sitting beside Springbrook Pool in 1963 or 1964. “I remember going there when I was 6 or 7 before we moved to Alcoa in the summer of 1965. There was not another municipal pool anywhere around here like Alcoa,” he said. “It was considered a phenomenal pool when it was constructed in the 1930s. It was popular place to go.”
Duggan said children and teens didn’t have as many organized, year-around sports, and there weren’t any computerized or video games. “If you were a boy, you played baseball, boys and girls could participate in Scouts, and other than that, the main activity was the pool,” he said.
Bledsoe said that before Parks and Recreation was created, the City of Alcoa Public Works was responsible for maintaining Springbrook Pool. “We used to take care of it ourselves until we turned it over to Parks and Rec. As far as dimensions, it hasn’t changed, it is the original size,” he said.
Bledsoe said there were four diving boards and that made for a fun afternoon. “We’d jump off ‘Red Top’ onto the third board,” he said. “It was every bit of 8 to 10 feet up.”
Bledsoe said the original diving board has changed quite a bit ,and there were features folks enjoyed in the early years that aren’t there now. “It had a water wheel on the side where you could roll it into the water. Out from the deep to the shallow it had a flat float with 55 gallon drums. You could climb on it and lay in the sun. There was also a top out there that you could get on,” he said.
The fishhead fountain built into the stonework between the two towers was situated beside Faraday Street and was original to the pool. “That fishhead, two men made that in the basement of their house and gave it to the pool, and it has been in there ever since,” Bledsoe said.
Duggan said then Alcoa city manager Victor Hultquist conceived, designed and supervised the construction of the pool and grounds and personally instructed them on the fish. “One of the persons we talked with about the history of the pool was Becky Darrell. She said when she was young, the fish’s eyes were aluminum green at night, and they had synchronized swimming there in the 1930s and 1940s,” Duggan said.
Bledsoe said the Springbrook Pool has always been a popular attraction across the region. “You would see cars from Knoxville everywhere and a lot of people bring church groups and people in the by the busloads. It can hold a lot of folks,” he said.
Some of the amenities enjoyed in the early years are gone. “You could play shuffle board, horse shoes and volley ball,” he said. “There was also a bowling alley. A gate went out of the pool area to the bowling alley. It was an old wooden bowling alley.”
Maryville Alcoa Blount County Parks and Recreation executive director Joe Huff said the Springbrook pool has been a good facility for Parks and Recreation, and it has historical significance. “It is a land mark for the City of Alcoa,” said Huff. “You have people coming from all over Blount County, plus we have groups bussed in from Knox and Sevier counties and from all over East Tennessee. It is well-thought of throughout East Tennessee as being a great aquatic destination for kids groups and for day use.”
Huff said that on a normal given day, 15 to 16 people are working on site, including personnel in the concession stand.
Daily admission is $4 for adults and $3 for students and season passes for families of four are $125. Individual season passes are $65 each.
“In the summer we attract between 43,000 and 46,000 people through general admission. We also have parties and swim teams also, so you’re looking at more than 50,000 people a year,” he said.
Huff said the facility brings in between $75,000 and $78,000 a year in revenue in admissions, $25,000 to $30,000 in season passes and an additional $45,000 to $50,000 in revenue for concessions. “That’s not profit -- it’s revenue. Anyone who operates a pool will tell you, they’re expensive to operate.”
Huff said personnel maintain and work on the pool year around, and it is only open 10 or 11 weeks out of the year. “A lot of man hours go into that, and we have a lot of requirements from the safety aspect of it with lifeguards,” he said. “There are a lot of personnel requirements to operate that facility.”
It was Circuit Court Judge David Duggan and Alcoa City Center director George Williams who discovered documentation pinpointing the exact anniversary of the pool’s grand opening 80 years ago.
In the course of doing research for a book on the history of the City of Alcoa, Duggan said he was at the city’s municipal building when came across an original press release written by then Alcoa city manager Victor Hultquist. “He had prepared it for a Sunday newspaper saying Alcoa’s new swimming pool in Springbrook Park would be open and dedicated at 1 p.m. on Saturday, June 13, 1931, which is how we found out we were about to hit the 80th anniversary,” Duggan said.
According to the original Hultquist press release, the grand opening was to be a gala day in Alcoa, and the general public was invited. “For the kickoff, they were promoting swimming, diving, races and amusements of various kinds,” Duggan said.
Duggan said that Hultquist’s press release stated that Jack Caughlin was hired as chief lifeguard and instructor and A.G. Courtney was his assistant. “The press release said Jack had wide experience with swimming on the Holston River and at indoor pools in Cincinnati. At a time, there was swimming in a pool inside at Maryville College,” Duggan said.
Duggan said the pool was described as being located at Springbrook Road and Faraday Street and was 275 feet long, 100 feet wide, and it was lined with concrete. “The 1931 press release also says central walls were built on each side. At least one is still there. These walls were described as being comprised of rubble masonry mixed with native limestone, Smoky Mountain quartz , Tennessee Pink Marble and colored stones, which gave the pool a scenic beauty that was out of the ordinary,” Duggan said.
Duggan said that during the 1920s and 1930s in periods of economic downturn when business would slow down for the aluminum company, the city of Alcoa would hire company workers to do municipal improvements. “They would keep the workers from being laid off,” he said. “We know company workers were used to construct the pool during economic hardtimes.”
Huff said the City of Alcoa has done a tremendous job of upgrading the facility over the years. “I know in the last 10 years, a lot of money was spent with the new building and a new filter system. That is what brings people back is the commitment of the City of Alcoa to keeping it up to daily and modernizing,” he said. “That is what keeps people coming back to that facility.”
On Monday, June 13, Maryville Alcoa Blount County Parks and Recreation will celebrate the pool’s 80th anniversary. While admission is normally $4 for adults and $3 for children, Parks and Recreation executive director Joe Huff said admission will $1 all day.
“Since this is the 80th anniversary, we wanted to roll back our prices a bit. We’re going to discounted concession items, we’re going to have drawings where people can win and one day passes to the pool,” he said. “There will be a DJ and we’ll have a real festive, party atmosphere for the kids to celebrate the 80th anniversary.”
The pool is open 12 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and 12:30 to 5:30 p.m. on Sunday.