(Editor’s Note: What follows is the initial installment of a summer long series examining Lebanon County’s community pools, which first appeared on Lebanon Sports Buzz in 2015.)
BY JEFF FALK
PALMYRA – Back in the day, swimming was summer’s past time. During an era when central air conditioning wasn’t universal, swimming was not only a way to beat the heat, it was also a way to be social, spend time outdoors and keep in touch with friends.
It was those social factors, during that particular time period, which gave rise to the concept of the neighborhood pool.
But now, in this more complex day and age of a greater array of activities, computers and social media, how has the community pool been affected? Have more residential pools popped up? Do less people frequent their hometown pools? Or are community pools making a comeback?
It would seem that all those factors have, at one time or another, come into play when the topic of conversation has been the Palmyra Community Pool. While it certainly has endured its requisite of ups and downs in the past, presently the Palmyra pool seems to be alive and thriving.
“There’s some kids who are here every day,” said Dee Morder, a Palmyra native who’s been the pool’s manager for the last ten years. “We call them ‘pool rats’. They get dropped off at 11:55 a.m. and get picked up at 7:55 p.m..It keeps them out of trouble. It’s very family-oriented.
“Parents know they’re being supervised,” Morder added. “You know where your kids are. Our lifeguards are very professional. It’s kind of neat.”
The Palmyra Community pool has been serving the western portions of Lebanon County since it was built in the 1950s. Morder has fond recollections of frequenting the same place while growing up, an undisclosed number of years ago.
“I came here as a kid,” said Morder. “It was like a hang-out. It was the place to be. There wasn’t much to do in town. We hung out and did fun stuff.
“I happened to be here for a baseball banquet and they said, ‘We’re looking for a manager'”, continued Morder. “I thought, ‘Hey, I’ll give it a try’. At that point they were talking about closing it down. I don’t want to make it sound like I turned it around. But it was my way of giving back to the community.”
Located at 1122 Park Drive in the borough, just west of Palmyra High School, the Palmyra Community Pool actually features three bodies of water – an L-shaped main pool that varies in depth from three to ten feet and is equipped with two diving boards and a curly slide, a competitive pool, which offers lap swimming and a wading pool. The facility is also home to the Palmyra Aquatic Club Sharks, and it offers private swim lessons and intense lifeguard training and conditioning.
“I think it should just be a place for people to go,” said Morder. “I just like seeing kids having fun. I think everybody should have fun in the water. I think everybody should learn how to swim and know how to be safe around water. I’d be really sad if this place ever had to close down.
“I think people come here for the recreation, for the swimming,” Morder continued. “You’ll see more people here on hotter days. The peak crowd is from noon to five p.m.. But there’s a second crowd who come after work.”
But there’s also plenty for bathers to do on the dry side of the pool. The facility boasts a modernized playground, a four-square court, tetherball, pavilions and an open area for pick-up games like soccer and tag.
“There were just open fields around us,” said Morder. “We added more more recreational fields. When I came here, it was more drab. We brightened it up. I think it’s come a long way.
“Swimming is pretty awesome,” added Morder. “You have no impact on your body. You can use muscles you can’t use on land, and muscles you didn’t even know you had, until after you got done swimming. It’s great cardio. Just from the resistance of the water, if you stand in it, you can lose weight because you’re burning calories.”
The Palmyra Community Pool boasts 300 family memberships, 150 individual memberships and about 100 senior citizen memberships. But the pool is also open to the public through daily fees.
“Most of our members are from the Palmyra Area school district,” said Morder. “We also have people from Annville. We do get some people up from Lebanon, and we have people coming from Hershey for swim lessons. You’ll see a lot of teachers here from the school district. It’s mostly Lebanon County. Other parents know other kids. It’s definitely a community gathering place.
“I’d say the majority of people we have coming in are members,” continued Morder. “But we are open to the public and we have more people coming in because some pools in the area have been closing. My highest was 500 family memberships. But that’s our goal, to add as many memberships as possible. And if we can’t grow our memberships, then we want to increase our daily use.”
The Palmyra Community Pool is open from noon to 8 p.m. daily, from Memorial Day through Labor Day, weather permitting.
“If you have facilities, you should be able to offer it and expand it,” said Morder. “I would love to see it become even more community-based. Palmyra is growing. There’s new developments everywhere. But I think we’re becoming more special and unique because there are pools closing around us.
“I would love to see a splash-water park,” Morder continued. “Just to add on. We’re going to have to grow if the community is going to keep growing.”
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