Medford city workers were putting final touches on Hawthorne swimming pool last week, preparing for its June 21 opening. - Bill Miller

Deja vu for Hawthorne pool?

It was early 1948 and the Hawthorne Park swimming pool was still only a gleam in the eyes of Medford's boys and girls.

"Dear Willie," wrote Mail Tribune Editor E. C. Ferguson in his editorial, "You ask whether there is any chance of you and the other boys of the town getting to swim in a swimming pool this summer."

As Ferguson explained to little Willie, prospects were bleak.

"You see, the main trouble in building swimming pools since the war," he said, "is they cost so much more than they did when the plans were first made."

At the time, Medford Mayor Jim Collins said the project was likely to cost well over $100,000, and the city didn't have the money.

The $62,500 bond issue approved during WWII, "would hardly finish digging the hole," Collins said, reminding residents that after paying for an engineering study and architectural drawings, only $56,000 was left to dig and equip the pool.

After rejecting three bids as "too high," and unable to negotiate for a contractor to do the work, the city council decided to hire a supervisor who would build as much of the pool as possible with the money on hand, hiring the labor and buying the necessary material.

Ralph Puddycomb of Shady Cove was chosen to oversee the simplified project that included a tiled pool and a small but functional bathhouse. Water would be chlorinated, filtered and heated, but all other improvements would wait until money was available.

Councilman Diamond Flynn suggested the council ask for volunteer help and material donations from local businesses.

"We should patronize home industry," he said, "and we want the cooperation of local contractors wherever we can get it."

The money ran out five months later, in November 1948. Until voters came to the rescue in a May 1949 election, the partially finished swimming pool stayed dry.

Even with additional money approved by voters, many of the originally planned improvements still had to be passed over. The two-story building with a "teenage room and auditorium" on top was cut back to one story, eliminating the need for a circular stairway or a railing around the rooftop sundeck.

Brick and other "beautification features" were history.

It took nearly a year, but on June 4, 1950, Flynn, now the mayor, cut the ceremonial ribbon, and with a rush, 60 years of squeals and splashing began.

In the last few years, the Hawthorne pool has begun to show its age. City officials say it leaks and its maintenance costs are growing.

Once again, outdoor water recreation has become a controversial issue.

The latest proposal is to abandon Hawthorne pool in favor of a water park, now called an "aquatics facility," to be located near the freeway off Barnett Road.

"That is where the matter stands at present," said Ferguson's 1948 editorial. "You may get to go swimming in the new Medford pool this year, Willie, but just to be on the safe side, you better not give up your regular Saturday night bath while waiting."

Anyone think that seems like deja vu all over again?

Writer Bill Miller lives in Shady Cove. Reach him at

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