40 Pools

Celebrating a Big Birthday with 40 Swims

#6: Poughkeepsie Middle School Pool

on January 25, 2012

Poughkeepsie Middle School poolLocation: Poughkeepsie, New York

Fee: Free as first-time visitor to FISH Masters, otherwise $10 workout drop-in charge

Configuration: 6 lanes of 25 yards

Total to Date: $50.33

Sometimes a swim is just a swim. Today’s was a lot more: walk down memory lane, inspiration to seek out an artifact from my teenage years, and meditation on a love lost and regained. With all these Deep Thoughts coming from what is just my sixth pool of the year, I wonder what else this project has in store.

The setting was the pool where I’d spent four fall seasons on the Poughkeepsie High School girls’ swim team, 1985-1988. The pool is totally recognizable from those days, and that’s not a bad thing—it was in good shape then, and it’s in good shape now. FISH Masters packed the place and was all business for the hour-long workout this morning.

Today’s swim buddy was Carolyn, who used to live in New York City and swim at Riverbank and now lives and swims in Poughkeepsie. She’s my opposite in that way but a kindred spirit in another: She is already planning to do the Hour Swim twice next January, as she is a fellow Capricorn and will be advancing into a new age bracket just as I did earlier this month. She helps organize the FISH behind the scenes, and I’m glad to have learned about this team from her during a chance encounter at the ‘Bank.

What can I tell you about the pool? It’s brightly lighted by numerous underwater beams. The temperature and water clarity were fine, and I wouldn’t have minded a bit more width in the lanes. The diving board that was in place for my first three seasons and then taken out of service because of a depth-requirement change has not returned. The locker rooms are spacious, the showerheads even lower than I normally encounter. Due to some roof issues, the pool will be closing for repairs later this winter, so FISH Masters may relocate temporarily to nearby waters. For me, their change could be an opportunity to log another pool.

Poughkeepsie Middle School pool record board

The two record boards I contemplated endlessly in my younger days are still in place, albeit with nearly all-new marks in the girls’ column. The record I coveted but never cracked is now about 5 seconds faster. Congratulations to backstroker C. Key, whoever you are.

Returning to this pool prompted me to reflect on the many benefits of interscholastic sports, and to see how consistent my current love of swimming is with my earlier self. Thanks to the swim team, I developed friendships with many people I would not have grown to know otherwise. Because not every school had a girls’ swim team, and Poughkeepsie’s student body was relatively small, we traveled quite a distance to compete with others in our league. We used to fill the time with stories about plunging off the Tappan Zee Bridge on our way to the far edge of Rockland County, and given the state of the bridge today I feel like we were prescient. The schools we competed against were for the most part considerably wealthier and more homogenous than our own, so we learned that Poughkeepsie was different in that regard. We learned about good days and bad days, that sometimes a loss can be as triumphant as a win, and what it means to be part of a team. Shockingly with the benefit of hindsight, we fueled ourselves with McDonald’s.

Pioneer Swimming notebook

My high school swim notebook. The Far Side cartoon caption reads, "And always--always--remember this: A swimmer in the water is worth two on the beach."

The local paper covered high school sports closely. I cut out the articles and compiled them into my own notebook along with annotations and certificates, and I dug this out of the closet at my mom’s house after my swim. Mom was surprised to see certificates from two spring seasons on the track and soccer teams, respectively. That’s all I have from those teams, which competed infrequently and lost consistently; I was not passionate enough to record the details. Swimming is a whole other story—I am certain that I have every Poughkeepsie Journal swimming article from my four seasons, and I annotated the results with details about my starts, turns, splits, and coach’s advice. If a Pool Tourism museum ever opens, this book would have to be part of the collection, as it logs what teams we competed against and in what pools, including one that I described as “disgusting.” (Peekskill. Consider yourself warned.) The meet results show that I swam 100 fly fairly often during my junior and senior years, which I have absolutely no recollection of and which makes my two-year-old effort to swim at least two laps of fly in every workout seem less heroic.

I swam in college for the three seasons that I was on campus, but my devotion to the sport faded. I was not as good relative to my competition, both in the classroom and in the pool, and I was not as socially connected with the swim team. My love of swimming was rekindled largely by NYC Swim open water events, and one reason I’m so enamored of those is clearly the fact that results are recorded for posterity on the web—no scrapbook needed.

With my love of swimming back at the fore these past several years, I’ve found that my times interest me less than they used to. Instead, I enjoy the ever-growing swim community more than ever and also like to undertake swim-related challenges, whether it’s the two-in-one-month Hour Swims, scenic open water events, or a quest to swim in 40 pools. My relationship with swimming may continue to change, but we’re going to be together for the long haul.

A 1988 clipping in my notebook reminded me of another pool important to my development. During the winter season at that time, this article reported, five high school boys’ teams all practiced at PMS (yup, that’s what we called it), and the schedule was inadequate. Some of them also used the Poughkeepsie YMCA, which cannot be part of this project because it closed three years ago. Just two blocks from the house I grew up in, the Y pool was where I attended gym-n-swim as a tot, joined my first swim team (Dutchess Devilfish) around the time of the 1984 Olympics, suffered pool withdrawal when it closed temporarily for asbestos removal, took lifesaving classes, and generally spent a lot of time. RIP, and may that pool rise again to ease the burden in this pool-deprived area so more potential swimmers can be introduced to this amazing lifetime sport.

Meanwhile, should you go to a 6:15 a.m. swim workout at PMS, you might wonder who would possibly bother the stuff in your saddle bag when you lock up your bike with plans to return by 7:30. If you thought that was a rhetorical question, you made a mistake, and the answer is that PMS opens earlier than it used to and thus you should not be surprised to find your 16″ inner tube, adjustable crescent wrench, and reflective cuff strap missing. Don’t feel sorry for yourself, though. Feel sorry for the person whose life is so lacking that going for cheap thrills by stealing other people’s stuff is the best they can do.

8 responses to “#6: Poughkeepsie Middle School Pool

  1. Jo says:

    Hi Hannah today is ‘Australia day’ (26 jan) so I must suggest that you come swim the most iconic Australian pool I can think of in Australia …..icebergs at Bondi! It is a sea pool and is in the most amazing setting- check out the pool cam at http://icebergs.com.au/ x Jo and Frankie

    • Hannah says:

      Jo, having been to Poughkeepsie, do you really think the Icebergs pool can top PMS? Happy Australia Day! Carolyn, thanks again for facilitating my visit. I look forward to more.

      • jo says:

        Hi Hannah,

        No I don’t think any pool will top PMS- you certainly can’t miss the markings on the bottom of the pool- no excuse for not swimming straight! Also am loving the stripey wall tiles! Go the stripey PMS. Loved your PMS post.

        x Jo

      • Hannah says:

        I think you actually could miss the lines on the bottom if you were in a lane by the wall and had all those lights shining in your eyes when you turned your head. Thanks for reading!

  2. Carolyn says:

    Great write-up! We were so glad to have you join us this morning at PMS! And I’m very sorry your bike got disturbed. Next time you come visit us, you are welcome to bring your bike into the facility through the back door.

    Also, I should have made the Devilfish connection! We’ve got a few Devilfish coaches on our team, including me! Let me know if you want to drop in with them in New Windsor. Or if you want to join me at the Tarrytown YMCA pool sometime. (Walking distance from Metro North!)

  3. […] aerobics chit-chat about the foolishness of building a pool in a middle school (pay no attention, Poughkeepsie), a first-person account of segregation at public pools (true to this book reviewed here […]

  4. […] zipped around in the other three. The pool somehow reminded me of my own school training grounds: Poughkeepsie Middle School. Perhaps it was the shape of the room, the position of the bleachers, or the corner door to the […]

  5. […] Posters around the pool evidenced much school spirit and a bit of confusion. Are the sports teams Penguins, Pirates, or Peglegs? Whatever their name, their records are much faster than my high school team’s. […]

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