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A brief history of

Harrisburg’s public pools. BY PAUL BARKER

“My hungry body’s burning for a swim,”

the Jamaican-born Harlem Renaissance poet Claude McKay wrote in his poem “Tirst,” from his 1922 collection “Harlem Shadows.” For city dwellers in the midst of a hot summer, there’s no relief quite as sweet as jumping into a pool. And yet, for the past few summers, Harrisburg residents have had only one city pool in which to swim. Tat’s expected to change this month, as the city plans to reopen the pool at Hall Manor after making some short-term repairs. Te Hall Manor pool, at the end of S. 18th Street in south Harrisburg, was closed in 2012 due to leaks, and, according to city engineer Wayne Martin, it will also require extensive concrete work and a new paint job before it can be used. Te necessary repairs, which began in July, represent part of an estimated $210,000 in renovations to both pools planned over the next year, to be paid for out of federal community development funds. Te administration of Mayor Eric Papenfuse announced the renovations in late June, shortly after the launch of its “Summer in the City” promotional campaign. “We chose the pools because we consider them critical to our public safety strategy as well as our summer enrichment strategy,” Papenfuse said, when asked about the project at a press conference in July. “We need two pools just to handle the demand. But also, we want to give kids and families something productive and happy to do.” Te other city pool is on N. 6th Street in Midtown, located behind the Jackson

Lick public housing apartment towers and the Ben Franklin School. Both pools were substantially renovated in the late ‘90s. Te initial investment will yield scant returns this year, as the Hall Manor opening, expected to be around Aug. 15, will only provide for two weeks of swimming before the summer ends. But, according to Martin, the repairs planned over the next year should extend the pools’ useful life by between 10 and 15 years.

“Te Hall Manor pool has been closed for years, just neglected and forgotten about, and we said, ‘No, we’re gonna make fixing it a real priority.’ And it looks like we’re going to be able to get it up and running,” Papenfuse said. “We think that’s a wise investment of city dollars.”

Harrisburg undertook the construction of its two pools in the spring of 1968, under Republican Mayor Albert Straub. “Big Al” Straub, whom the journalist Paul Beers, in a column in the Patriot-

News, once described as “a senior-citizen sex symbol with a square jaw and a silver mane,” had taken office that January. Not unlike the current mayor’s initiative, the Straub administration’s efforts formed part of a citywide investment in recreation. Over the next year, the city would pledge more than $1 million—including $150,000 from a private donor—towards constructing the pools and developing playgrounds at seven city locations. Te recreation project came at a time of change and unrest. Te city itself was

shrinking: the U.S. census reported a loss of nearly 10,000 residents in the 1950s, and another 11,000 in the 1960s. On April 4, three months into Straub’s term, Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated. Tat summer, the school district, having been cited for “racial imbalance” by the state Human Relations Commission, drafted a plan to bus black students into three predominantly white schools. Less than a year later, pupils at John Harris High would boycott an afternoon assembly on the basis of, as Beers later wrote, “inadequate recognition of the recent Black History Week.” Harrisburg’s race riot flared only a few months afterwards. Te Hall Manor pool’s construction was delayed one year, but the Jackson Lick pool opened on Aug. 9, 1968, a Friday morning. At the time, the Jackson Lick apartment towers housed families with children, and in the days leading up to the

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