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Lilly Cao is happy for the chance to participate in a free initiation session on synchronized swimming at Saint Edward Swimming Pool in Kenmore. Southwest Pool swim instructor Chandra Wise helps Betsy Aurea Aparicio learn to relax and float. Jason Beckwith plunges headlong into summer at Colman Pool, which is filled with Puget Sound water that is specially filtered and then maintained at a temperature of 82 to 86 degrees. Two friends pose along the shore of Lake Washington around 1905, decades before the advent of local pools would offer recreational options and a kind of Petri dish for social change.
Outside the city, families enjoy public swimming holes like this one at Lake Wilderness Park in Maple Valley. Decades after his suburban summers and years after becoming a history professor at the University of Montana, Wiltse dreamed about the pool of his childhood. The iconic photographs show African-American children staring longingly through a chain-link fence at white children splashing in a pool. In the 1970s, when other cities’ pools were shutting down, Seattle built seven of its 10 currently operating pools with money from a Forward Thrust capital-improvement campaign that voters overwhelming approved in 1968. In swimming pools, race was not an overt issue, Ellis recalls, because of how the city and county were settled — different races, for the most part, living in separate neighborhoods. Mark Sears, a second-generation caretaker of Seattle’s oldest pool, Colman Pool in Lincoln Park, lived above the pool as a kid and still does. Talking about race and swimming might seem irrelevant in a region where nearly 1 in 10 children is of mixed race. Even more startling: the wait lists to join private swim clubs on the east side of the city, even though they charge between $2,000 and $25,000 in membership fees. Drop-in swimmers complain when pools are rented out for birthday parties in prime time on weekends.
Le’s dad grew up by a river in Vietnam, learned to swim as a boy and also knew a lot of people who drowned.
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The plant section of the pond is around a foot deep, while the swimming area typically ranges from six-and-a-half to eight feet deep.

A recent study found that not knowing how to swim was especially dangerous for Asian-American children and adolescents. Like other pools, Colman is a place to observe the changing social and cultural mores of the times – everything from bathing-suit fashion to gender and racial politics.
Mark Sears literally grew up at the pool because his father was the caretaker, and now he, too, is the caretaker and lives in an apartment above the pool.
Smaller, older, indoor urban pools struggle to find the right mix of programs to attract a broad, steady clientèle.
The high cost of upkeep is one reason pools both private and public are often considered a luxury. At the Fifth Annual Polar Bear Swim on New Year’s Day, Carol Schmidt of Seattle contemplates her plunge into frigid Lake Washington. Then in the 1920s and ’30s, cities began allowing men and women to swim together to promote family togetherness. Parents have to figure out how to enroll and transport the children — a challenge for new immigrants, dysfunctional families, parents working double shifts.
There’s a 12-year wait list at Wedgwood Swim Club, five years at Sand Point Country Club.
The regeneration portion isn't just there for ambiance, it's also the pond's natural filter. Unheated natural ponds evaporate less than normal pools, don't have energy costs, and you save around $350-500 on chemicals and chlorine. Teaching kids to swim is just one of a host of competing priorities that public pools must manage.
When he woke up, the historian realized he’d waded into a provocative topic for research.
Swimming pools of that era were built by a Victorian middle class that had come to see dirtiness as a sign of disease and disorder.
Eventually, when black Americans gained equal access to public pools, Wiltse says, white swimmers generally abandoned them for private swim clubs, backyard pools, the suburbs. Growing up in Holly Park in the 1950s, she recalls hardly any kids of color in the wading pool or sandbox at nearby Van Asselt Park, even though so many African Americans lived so close.

Quan’s group printed bilingual brochures about water safety, proffered learn-to-swim vouchers and hosted pool sessions with Vietnamese-American lifeguards. Schools within walking distance of pools offer during-school instruction (that’s why they built the pools adjacent to schools 30 years ago), but over the years, the programs have shrunk because of budget woes, class size, a dearth of certified teachers. Mounger Pool in Magnolia, for example, turned away 58 youngsters who wanted to be in Summer Swim League and 80 3-year-olds who wanted lessons.
Three weeks into her first swimming lessons, 8-year-old Lena Le has already conquered nose bubbles, dunks and flipping torpedoes. They knew they wanted their children to swim, but working so much, it was hard to make time. Anecdotally, doctors noticed a lot of the kids were Vietnamese American, mostly teens who drowned while hanging out with friends at the lake, even though they didn’t swim well. No impact assessment yet, but Quan has already realized this: Swimming lessons should be marketed to the immigrant community as a safety issue. That’s the clamor of Project Seattle Pools, a neighborhood group that wants the city to build an outdoor pool east of the Interstate 5 corridor. Mounger had almost as many pool visits last year as Evans Pool at Green Lake and more than Rainier Beach Pool, which are open all year. Registration programs such as swimming lessons and party rentals charge enough to cover their costs. It has a shallow-water leisure pool with beach-like entry, a warm-water teaching pool, wheelchair access, a large main pool, sprays, a slide, a river pool with moving current and a hot tub.
There was Wiffle ball, showing off for pretty girls, trading baseball cards on the pool deck. Drop-in programs such as lap swim, water exercise and public swim are less profitable because attendance varies.

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