Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Camp Dodge Pool: Des Moines 1976

Camp Dodge was north of Des Moines, just outside of Johnston. It was big place where the Iowa national Guard was located, though I think it used to be an actual Army base. It had a huge pool--and I mean big big--that had been built for and used for aquatic military training during WWII (it was that big, larger than a football field). But it had been a recreational pool for some years by the time I moved to Iowa.
I'd gone to the Camp Dodge pool a handful of times with my Mother and brothers, my sister, but it wasn't until high school and I had set friends, when we could drive, that I went often during the summer.
It became THE place to go. Iowa does not have a beach or many lakes; there was the river (two rivers in Des Moines, actually) and there were two reseviors, Saylorville and Big Creek. But the natural--or naturalish--bodies of water were brown and sandless, though we went to Saylorville pretty often, the best place for swimming and sunning and seeing girls was Camp Dodge.
It was mainly me and Kevin, Larry and Bill. Others came too: Randy, Jim, Dave, Bob and such. But, as I recall, it became Kevin and I, Larry a lot, who habitually went to the pool in the summer--almost every day. Though I was working at Younkers in the summer, I'd sometimes go home for lunch then skip the rest of the day and go to the pool (and then return to work at the end of the day and pretend I'd been there all afternoon--yes yes, my bad). There was this older guy who ran the pool--was the head supervisor. he had a big nose and white hair and a loud voice. Kevin and I called him Foghorn. As time passed, Foghorn recognized us each day. the lifeguards recognized us and Foghorn began calling us The Golden Boys . . .
I guess we were golden. We mainly sat poolside along the deep end, sunned ourselves like reptiles, jumped in the water only to swim to the raft (it was big enough and deep enough to have a raft at the deep end) and sun ourselves some more. We were brown (except Larry, who remained white no matter what, Larry who would not swim out to the raft and would say, "I don't have to prove anything!" [I guess he was a bad swimmer]). Ah. Summer. Golden summer. We had no worries, really. No jobs of import, no need for great sums of money--but we were still wet behind the ears, so life was full of the usual turmoil, teenage turmoil. Still, at the big Camp Dodge pool, even that turmoil was mostly gone, life was but our place in the sun.
That was golden, too.
And when we left the pool, which was situated down in a hollow-like area with a big hill leading back up to the main road, we'd drive up the hill and I'd get out and stand on the car, surfing the car, doing "My Spiderman Routine". Yes, I crawled all over the car as it moved up to the main road--I have no idea if people watched me, but we all got a laugh from it.
I don't know. day in and out, swim and sun in a big pool in Iowa summers . . . a waste and yet not so much. It brightened my life, I think, I who was sad and foolhardy, a self-pitying teen. Camp Dodge was a bright spot. It was the only place in the world--since I had moved to Iowa--where I was a Golden Boy.

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