Pooling around in mid-20th Century Madisonville

Posted 6/16/20

Madison County Museum markets some items, including a small blue paperback entitled “Madison County Memories Vol. 1.” Published in 1994, it contains short essays that were submitted, including the following:

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Pooling around in mid-20th Century Madisonville


Madison County Museum markets some items, including a small blue paperback entitled “Madison County Memories Vol. 1.” Published in 1994, it contains short essays that were submitted, including the following:

“Bailey’s Pool, by Charlotte Barrett

When I recall Madisonville in the 1940s and 50s, I remember Bailey’s Pool. It’s there that so many young girls and boys were taught to swim by Mr. Bailey, who himself, I’m told, never learned to swim. He kept a long stick that he reached out to anyone who looked like he was in trouble.

The Baileys’ home (it’s no longer there) could be seen from Highway 21, and the drive that turned beside their home circled around the back to the swimming pool and a lake that was known to be the home of a good many alligators.

Sunday was probably the busiest day at the pool, partly because the water was not quite as frigid then as it was early in the week. Because the pool was closed on Mondays for cleaning and refilling, the fresh water was always icy cold on Tuesdays through Thursdays.

My sister, Jackie, and I, along with my mom and dad, started going to Bailey’s on Sunday afternoons when we were about five years old. Our first or second visit, Mr. Bailey offered to teach us to swim.

So, it became a regular Sunday afternoon “thing” for us to go to the pool for swimming lessons. We would get to stay for about two hours, and before we left for home, we were allowed a snack. My choice was always candy with coconut called a “chicken leg.” I’m not sure I’ve seen that candy anywhere else since, but my mouth still waters when I think about how good it was at the end of a swim.

My husband, Ellwood, reminisces about how he and his brother, Buddy, and his friends would often hitchhike out to Bailey’s Pool to stay all day swimming in the lake and the pool.

At the edge of the lake under a huge tree, there hung a tow sack filled with old cloth or cotton dressing. The boys would climb up a ramp and swing way out into the center of the lake, drop into the murky waters, and then swim back to shore. It was a sign of true manhood. Ellwood and his buddies would snack on Cokes, cheese crackers, and potato chips, and then hitchhike home in the evening.

Ellwood also tells how Mr. Bailey had to spend a good bit of time periodically patching the holes that some of the more mischievous boys would notch in the wall between the boys’ and girls’ dressing rooms. He assures me that he wasn’t one of the guilty ones – he just saw the notches. That seems funny to me now, but I’m glad I didn’t know about the holes in the wall back then.

I have vivid memories of Bailey’s Pool. One was of my eighth-grade class end-of-school picnic, when we class members spent from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. swimming, snacking on hot dogs, and turning beet red in the sun.

Another was of a time when Carole Parker, my sister, Jackie, and I rode horseback out to the pool. We hadn’t swum very long when a storm blew in and we had to get out. We rode back to town in the rain, taking shelter once in someone’s barn along the way before we arrived home, rain-drenched.

Many other times, someone who was old enough to drive picked us up and took us for an afternoon suntan at the pool. Often, Jane Colwell, Rita McMahan, Angela Farris, Beth Burtis, Jackie, and I arrived at 1 p.m. when the pool opened, and played bridge or hearts, swam, and visited other buddies until the pool closed at 8 p.m.

I think Bailey’s Pool closed early in the 1960s, replaced by the ‘new’ pool in town (the one on Highway 75 North) and the pool where Mr. Bailey spent many Sunday afternoons modeling swim strokes has now been filled in for cattle grazing.”

Mrs. Barrett’s words take many of us back to slower and simpler times! Please keep in mind the fact that Madison County Memories Vol. 1 came out in 1994. Volume 2 is just a pipe dream. How about it? Your submission doesn’t have to be a book nor your life story, just a piece of that life story. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Let Mrs. Barrett’s story inspire you to compose one of your own. It just needs to be written and turned in!

Madison County Museum is closed for now. Hopefully that will soon change. Call and check, 946.348.5230. The mailing address is P.O. Box 61, Madisonville, TX 77864. We have a Facebook page by that name that you might enjoy.