DescriptionStaying cool in a Phoenix summer has always been a challenge for its residents. Whether it was enjoying an ice cream cone, swimming in a tree lined canal, or swimming in the Riverside Pool, children and adults always found a way to beat the heat in the time before air conditioning. Barry Goldwater and other long time locals look back to the days of childhood thrills at the Riverside Pool.
Arizonans have always had to be creative when it comes to keeping cool in the summer. In times past, one way was to take a plunge into the pool at Riverside Park. Riverside Park had the city's largest freshwater pool. It was a desert oasis where families escaped the blistering heat and teenagers worked on their tans.
Lou Ella Kleinz:
It was extremely popular for a variety of reasons. It had the coldest water you could ever imagine; it was breathtaking. And it was a huge swimming pool.
Beautiful picnic area all around it.
There was also a 30-foot diving tower that provided a great opportunity for young men who wanted to impress the ladies, but the main attraction was the tall cement slide. That's where a young Barry Goldwater first showed signs of his competitive spirit.
I've had the record for going down the slide and then how far you could go out over the water. I don't know how many feet it was, but I got pretty damn good at it.
To truly master the slide, you had to know some tricks of the trade.
We'd roll our bathing suits up so we'd get our rear ends exposed. And you put a little soap on it. You'd just go down that slide like a bat out of hell. You go over to the rope, swim back, go up again.
Of course, there were other ways to beat the heat on a scorching summer day in Phoenix. Before the 1950s, air conditioning was a rare luxury and hardly anyone had a backyard pool. So kids turned to ice cream cones, the garden hose, or a dip in the local canal.
Oh, well, that was our own -- we thought it was our own private pool.
We had no fear of the canals. That's where we had our recreation.
Lou Ella Kleinz:
The way we learned to swim in those days was the older kids threw you in and said, "sink or swim," and you learned to swim pretty quick.
We had a ditch that went right by our house, a big one, and at night we slept outside and wet the sheets, jumped in the ditch and wet the sheet, and slept outside.
There was a time when canals were beautiful, tree-lined waterways.
There was a big, huge cottonwood tree that had a branch that extended out over the canal, and we had a rope on that tree, and we used to swing like Tarzan and then drop into the canal.
And then we would make our own boats out of galvanized tin and use tar and whatnot, and we would float down the canal, oh, two or three miles.
The canals were put to all kinds of creative uses. There were baptisms performed in canals. Some people even trapped beaver in them. But if you had a board, a rope, and a car to pull you, the canal was an excellent place to surf.
Lou Ella Kleinz:
Oh, yes, sure. Somebody held the rope out of the Model-A Ford, and somebody was driving, somebody else was holding the rope, often from the rumble seat of that Model-A Ford, and pulling that surfboard. You could get up to 25 miles an hour, and that was going pretty fast on top of that water.
The canals were truly an adventure, often exciting, sometimes dangerous, and always full of surprises.
We had to be very careful because there was always dead cows and stuff floating down it, but we'd -- we'd use any kind of water to swim in. Here we go.