Tuesday, May 11, 2010

story: end of an era

I chatted with Darwyn Hermann (Recreation Programmer for Mount Pleasant Community Centre) one day over the phone and he had some hilarious and thoughtful Riley Park memories.

Darwyn remembers being 5, 6 and 7 years old spending at minimum 3-4 days per week at the Percy Norman Pool. His Dad (Doug Hermann) was the pool's Assistant Manager and a tough guy water polo player (his words). Darwyn, the third youngest of 4 would play with his two brothers and one sister at the pool when his Dad worked. The pool was closed everyday for an hour or so which meant Darwyn and his siblings ran amok in the pool. They loved to dump out the entire box of kickboards into the pool and make a raft. It sounded like such a magic time.

When I went to visit him I recorded his memories, here is what he had to say:

"We used to run those hallways, the tunnels, and play tag in that building as kids, a lot of memories. We spent so much time there. We used to fight in the building with my siblings.

Going back to the mid 60's early 70's there were some really memorable swimming instructors...although
it was a very different method of teaching. One guy, Jack Lugrin, he was old back then and he walked with a limp…Jack would have this red pole and would say 'Jump to the red pole!' And the first couple of times he would pull you across while you kicked, and then he would pull the pole away and you would be fighting to get the pole! He would make you go a farther and farther distance until he wouldn't give you the pole for the whole length. So that is a very old school method of teaching, where now it is more a progression based system. This was the method back then, they didn't know any better. There were definitely some unique instructors over the years."

"There used to be days during public swimming where they lined up 200 hundred people deep and right out to Main Street. So, pool staff would let the maximum capacity in and an hour and a half later they all had to get out and the next bunch of people would be let in! That used to be regular on the weekends up until the 70's….because there wasn't so many pools around. Templeton, Britannia, and Lord Bing didn't come in until 1976. Prior to that there were less pools. Kensington didn't come until the early 80's. We only had Kerrisdale which was an outdoor pool and then you had Kilarney. Even the Aquatic Centre didn't come in until the 70's."

public swim at the Percy Norman Pool circa 1963

"There were days I remember walking from school to the pool. Coming down by the Kentucky Fried Chicken, Main and 31st, and coming in the back of the park by the back of the ice rink parking lot. One gang was in Riley Park, another in the parking lot with bats and chains, sniffing glue! I was about 7 years old when I saw this --probably early 70's. So very rough community growing up. It was a rough neighbourhood with the projects down the street.

We used to run the hallways and I can remember me and my brother were chasing each other around and he goes to take a drink from the fountain and I bonked him on the back of the head and knocked all his front teeth out! That was my little brother.

As kids not only were we in swim club, we also took judo. So 5 or 6 days a week we were in sports. Judo and swimming, Judo and swimming…so we used to fight with each other all the time whether we were in Judo or not. My little brother survived it though…there were 3 boys and one girl.

My sister worked at Percy Norman while she was in university as a cashier and lifeguard. My older brother lifeguarded at the beaches and the outdoor pools. When he was 19 years old he became a police officer. So, you see the influence. At one point, four of us worked for the City of Vancouver. My brother was the police officer, me and my Dad were working, my sister was working...so when the T4 slips came that said 'D Hermann' we had to look at the social insurance number…all our names start with D (Debbie, David, Darwyn, little brother Dillon and my Dad, Doug!) Five D's in our family!

I can remember one time a cheque came in the mail for 'D Hermann' and we didn't know whose it was so I cashed it. It was some retro for some contract settlement or something , but it was my older brother's …

The Vancouver Park Board system progressed very rapidly over a 30 year term. We went from 1 pool to 7 pools and we built them very quickly. It is interesting because how people view aquatics has changed. It used to be 25 meter box pool and dive board tank…now they build them with zero depth entry so they are more wheelchair accessible. Yet, Percy Norman always had those special needs groups in there but really had very difficult accessibility issues. They always struggled with accessibility, but still handled it….we had a hand crank lift. One of the people, Bonnie Friesen, a special needs aquatics specialist in Vancouver, has been really progressive teaching people how to work with special needs groups. Percy was always known for that."

photo courtesy of Percy Norman Pool, circa 1963

"In the new facility the bottom of the pool will raise up to the surface level, so you will be able to get people into the pool and then lower it again. It will also be zero depth entry into the leisure area, so there will be a lot more accessibility in this pool. We learned a lot from Percy Norman Pool.

There were some big events held at that pool. Nowadays, it is too small and you wouldn't be able to dive at that pool. I remember some guys that used to work there and they would double bounce on the high diving board and literally almost landed on the deck in between the dive tank and the lap pool!

The new pool facility will be different from what we already have in Vancouver, not necessarily competitive, our goal was to make it accessible to everybody and have it more leisure based. A far cry from the old Percy Norman!

It is kind of the end of an era.

interview by lisa g

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