In July 1948, a swimming pool was officially opened in Springfield. The pool was built by Cecil and Inez Turner who moved to Effingham from Oklahoma.
Cecil was in the well drilling/construction business. Upon graduation from Effingham Academy in 1948, my father, Arthur Exley, took the job of digging and hauling out dirt on a spot south of Jack’s Branch on the north side of Springfield chosen for the Turner’s pool. He was also lifeguard for a brief time after the pool opened.
According to the Springfield Herald, June 17, 1948, the big pool, to open in about 10 days, was originally built 70 feet long with a concrete bottom at the shallow end and a wash sand bottom at the deep end. One side was walled in but left sloping and covered with sand forming a beach. There was also a toddler’s or wading pool adjacent to the big pool. Water from a flowing well was piped into the pool. A concrete block concession stand with a few rooms for living quarters for the Turner family was near the pool. There was an open air pavilion with picnic tables. They sold refreshments including candy, drinks and ice cream.
One of the first events chronicled in the Springfield Herald at the swimming pool was a 16th birthday party for my mother Ellen Hinely (Exley) and Bill Eleazor, hosted by my grandparents, Bruce and Mattie Lou Hinely. The September meeting of the Lions Club in Springfield was held at the pool pavilion, according to the Herald.
Somewhere along the way the pool was completely walled in. It had a diving board and a sliding board.
Monteen (Mock) Crawford remembers having to wear a bathing suit with the seat patched since she wore it out sliding. The Tebeau children (John, Lee Ellen and Jo) living nearby enjoyed their season passes.
After Inez Turner passed away, several different people ran the pool. Dollie Murphey (now Rahn) inherited the pool. She had married Billy Exley and they had several daughters to rear, so she could not handle pool operations herself.
Billy’s brother Tommy Exley recalls having worked there over some of the summers. Health department codes called for the pool to be drained weekly and the pool scrubbed down and cleaned before it was refilled.
Some who operated the pool were Milton and Mary Exley, Carlyle Exley’s family and Willie James Calhoun. According to the Springfield Herald in April 1953, “The Ideal Swimming Pool” was to open for the season acquired by Willie James Calhoun. Season tickets were on sale. Grace Zittrouer was hired to open from 1 to 5 in the afternoon and Willie James operated it from 6:30-10:30 p.m. with a competent lifeguard on duty at all times.
This place provided great recreation until about 1960, when the pool was closed down. There was at least one tragedy: Nena Pace drowned in the pool in 1955.
Tommy Exley fell heir to the property and still owns it. He recalls “scrubbing down the walls” not so fondly when his family operated it.
He also says, “The best thing in my life happened there. I met my wife Bebe there.” She was a friend of beloved Methodist Pastor Whittington’s granddaughter and swam there on visits to Springfield.
Although it was family property, perhaps Tommy is a bit sentimental of the site. As pictured last week, the pools are intact with the walls of both bathrooms standing. The stand for the diving board and the slide with steps are now adorned by a few vines. The algae covered green waters of the kiddy and big pools have been frog havens for many years. The concession stand and pavilion were removed for block and lumber was salvaged.
Isn’t it a shame that we do not have this pool today to enjoy on a hot afternoon? Although gone, many have vivid memories of good times in what was affectionately labeled by my uncle, the late John Wilson, as “Turner’s Waller” at Jack’s Branch.
This article was written by Susan Exley of Historic Effingham Society. If you have questions, comments or photos to share, please call her at 754-6681 or email: email@example.com