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Letter to readers Pool and history

People often ask me where story ideas originate. Here’s the story behind the feature in today’s Connections section, a glimpse at the history of pools and swimming in McMinnville.

The idea began with Michael Hafner, an avid volunteer with the Yamhill County Historical Society who works part time for the News-Register, where he scans and archives photos and curates the weekly Vintage News-Register page. He spotted a 1947 picture of swimmers in the old pool on Star Mill Way — a summer-only recreation site built in 1934. Next to the pool is a remaining wall of the old grist mill.

Intrigued by the juxtaposition, Hafner — whose dad is swim coach Jason Hafner — started searching for more historical pictures of pools and other attractions in and around McMinnville City Park. He found hundreds, from a picture of the shallow wading pool built in the late 1920s with Soper Fountain at its center to numerous shots of constructon of the modern McMinnville Aquatic Center.

He realized McMinnville’s love affair with public pools dated back a century, to when the city improved a former duck pond to create a bathing area.

Maybe the photos could accompany a story about that history, he suggested.

Good idea, I thought, and that’s when I became involved. Aquatic center staff helped me contact several people who swam in the old pools, and I talked to them about socializing, swimming competitively and dealing with the water temperature — cold!

Their memories of unheated summer pools made me more appreciative of the facilities McMinnville swimmers enjoy today. Unlike residents of 1955 and earlier, we can swim all year long in water that’s clean and comfortable.

I’ll try to remember that when the aquatic center reopens Monday and I dip my toes in the below-body temperature water, preparing to swim laps. No complaining!

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