The Scottsville swimming pool

Contributed by Evelyn Edson, President
Scottsville Museum

The Scottsville swimming pool is closed now for the winter but, come Memorial Day, the pool will resound once more with the splashes and joyful shouts of young swimmers.  The pool was constructed in 1961 as a private organization by a group of local citizens.  It is financed by members’ dues, today ranging from $270 to $575, depending on the size of your family. 

So far as we know the pool flourished through the 1960s and 1970s with little controversy, but in 1983, the Stout family applied for membership. Their family included five foster children, two of whom were Black boys. The Stouts were renting the former Tros-Dale Home for Boys near Keene and had changed its status from a home for boys to a foster home in 1981.  

The governing board of the pool initially accepted the Stouts’ application, but in the ensuing furor that board was voted out, and new members were elected who reversed the decision on the grounds that the Stouts were not a family but an “organization.” The community split over the issue, with those suppaorting the Stouts accusing the opposition of racism. Admittedly the pool had never had a Black family as part of the membership. Said one board member, “We’ve never had a Black applicant.”

In The Sum of Us, a recent book by Heather McGhee, one chapter is entitled “Racism Drained the Pool.” The author says that there was a burst of public pool building in the U.S. in the 1920s and 1930s. These pools were for White people only, and when integration began, especially in the schools, Black taxpayers wondered why they could not use the pools they had paid for. Some communities responded by converting the pool to a private club and some by closing the pool, even filling it full of cement and paving it over. In Scottsville some members gave up their membership in protest, but the pool was not destroyed.  

The Scottsville pool is now open to people of all races:  “We do not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, national origin, color, sex, age, or disability,” according to its website.  Twice a week, it plays host to children from the Scottsville Boys and Girls Club which has both Black and White participants.  I do not know when it began to serve everyone and would like to hear from you if you know more.

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