It’s not really the time of year for thinking about swimming pools and swimming, but that’s what some volunteers from the Hellertown Historical Society have been doing.
Specifically, they’ve been thinking about the history of the Hellertown Pool, which celebrated its 80th anniversary earlier this year.
Built in 1939 as a Work Projects Administration project, the Hellertown Pool remains a beloved landmark in the borough, in which it occupies a unique place in the popular imagination of residents, both new and old.
That’s one of the reasons why the historical society stepped in to save hundreds of vintage “pool baskets” that were once in use at the facility; baskets which have been rejuvenated and are now for sale for $15 each. Proceeds from the sales will benefit the historical society.
Hellertown Historical Society president Stacie Torkos explains in this week’s episode of No Rain Date–Saucon Source’s podcast, which is now available to listen to on Spotify–that the metal wire baskets were stored in the poolhouse after it no longer became a requirement to use them.
According to an article about the baskets by the society’s Andrea Danner, during the pool’s early years use of the baskets was a requirement because the pool lacked a filtration system and had to be completely drained and cleaned every seven to 10 days.
“To help keep the water clean longer, people would change from street clothes into swimwear, shower and then dip their feet in a sanitizing solution, all before entering the water,” Danner writes in her article “Pool Baskets,” which is available to read on the Hellertown Historical Society Facebook page. “So as to have a place to keep their clothing, there was a basket room on the lower level of the pool, between the men’s and women’s changing rooms. Young ladies such as Betty McManus assigned you a basket and gave you a matching tag on a stretch band. Your belongings would be kept safely in the basket room until you returned your tag to the basket girl at the end of your swim to retrieve your clothing.”
Once a modern filtration system was installed at the pool–and as society rules of decorum became less strict–the Hellertown Pool’s basket system fell by the wayside, and the baskets themselves were stored in the damp interior of the pool building.
The Borough of Hellertown recently decided to dispose of these relics, but historical society members recognized their value and accepted them as a restoration project.
As part of that restoration effort, rust has been sandblasted off the baskets, which retain some of their patina as well as the unique numbered tags that were once matched to the wristbands of those who left their street clothes in them.
Today, you might wish to use one for towel storage in your bathroom, or to organize reading materials on a bookshelf.
Whatever your plans are for them, the Hellertown Historical Society hopes you will want to purchase the pool baskets, which will be on sale at its Shopping at the Mill event this Sunday, Dec. 15 from noon to 4 p.m. in the Heller-Wagner Grist Mill at 150 W. Walnut Street in Hellertown. In addition to more than a dozen local vendors, there will also be refreshments and photos with Santa available at the event. The society’s model train display will also be open in the basement of the building next door.
Whether they swam in it all summer long this year or last took a dip in the pool decades ago, anyone with a connection to Hellertown should consider buying a pool basket and supporting the historical society. Hellertown is certainly richly blessed, not only to have a municipal swimming pool that is still stunning at the age of 80, but also volunteers who are dedicated to and passionated about preserving its history.