An appreciation of Cumberland Pool
My earliest memories of Cumberland Pool go back to the middle 1950s. In those days water was fed into the pool with considerable force through two above-ground sculpted lions’ mouths on the pool’s east side. People of a certain age will remember ropes (as in “get off the rope”) at the north and south ends. But before the ropes there were chain-link fences in the pool separating the deeper from shallower water. During the middle and late 1960s I worked as a lifeguard and swimming instructor there.
We had rules covering just about everything, mostly dealing with what you could not do or must not bring (food, toys, suntan lotion, training equipment, reading material, and much more) into the pool area. Who remembers having to present your feet for inspection prior to emerging from the locker room?
The authoritarian atmosphere was restrictive and sometimes unpleasant, although with more than 1,000 swimmers in the pool on a hot afternoon, there was, perhaps, the need for more control than exists now. Although I miss watching skilled divers practicing on the long since-removed high (3-meter) board, I presume that change was made with insurance and liability concerns in mind.
But rather than pining for the good old days, I am so pleased with the operation of the 90-year-old pool as it is today. Manager Dan Budin and his staff run a tight ship. The place is safe and clean. I see lifeguards giving swimming lessons with skill and enthusiasm. The pool serves everyone from adult lap swimmers to youngsters who just want to cool off and have fun. Most remarkable, however, are the cleanliness, clarity and temperature of the pool water. The city employees responsible for filtration obviously take pride in the water quality, which can’t be easy to maintain in such an old facility.
In coming years, I hope to see a continued resurgence of the competitive swimming program at Cumberland and, starting this year, at the new Heights High pool. In my three years at Heights, our swim team was among the best in Ohio. Achieving that status again would be a lofty goal, but the infrastructure is in place for a new era in swimming in Cleveland Heights. Cumberland Pool, better than ever, should have a role to play. There are not many civic institutions about which one can say they improve with age, but the pool is one of them.
Cary Seidman is a recently retired Ruffing Montessori School teacher and a lifelong CH resident. A Heights High graduate and member of the 1965 state championship swim team, Seidman worked at Cumberland Pool 1965–1969.