Riverside. 1966. Her thin voice. She could barely hear it herself… It was always this way. She was mild. Meek. She kept close to her children and the home. They were growing up so fast. As soon as she bought them new clothing and shoes, another set was soon needed by all. There were holes in the knees, socks, toes and her husbands wallet. He jokingly referred to the kids as ” The money pit.” He flicked the edges of the newspaper, peering over the top of the Riverside Bulletin and she could see his eyes smiling. She knew that everything would be alright. With him around, it always would be. Nearly fifteen years had gone by since they had met during a hot summer in the valley. Long nights were spent in silence. The desert seeped into them. They’d sit under a zillion stars. A black blanket of diamonds drizzled above them. He had just come back from the war in Europe. She never knew what he had seen because he never thought it worth relating to her. Deep pain. Scars reopened and he was not allowed to understand. He would toss in his sleep, sweating and calling out. She brushed the matted hair away from his eyes and kissed him.
“Lois? The kids are in. They’re ready to eat.” His voice rumbling through the kitchen, pulled her from her reverie. The youngsters soon filled the kitchen with laughter and noise. Dinner. Family. Happiness was in residence. She set the crock pot of beef stew on the table and they quickly served themselves. The kitchen was the very center of their lives. A huge oak table spread out across the room. The kids would sit in a cluster at her feet as she read to them. Fairy tales. Persian poems. Grabbing a towel from the sink, she caught a glimmer from the water in the swimming pool outside. It was huge. When he had the rambling house built with government loans, he insisted on a pool because of the hot summers in Riverside. She protested the size of the pool. It was modeled after the Roman baths but only much larger. He took her chiding quietly. He gently put a hand on her shoulder, “We’ll just have to have more children.” Smiling. That was some years ago. Seating herself at the table, they all held hands and asked for God’s blessings.
The children were gone now. The last had married and moved out. The house creaked in the dry desert air. He had started coughing in April. “It’s nothing… just the dust.” He’d grumble and putter about the small building out behind the pool. His place. Tires and metal. A memory shed where he fingered old tools and machinery. It reminded him of when he was more useful. Chores and building. She knew that he was feeling old. His health wilted. She watched him falter. Things no longer were being attended to. They didn’t ask for help. It wasn’t their way. Pride. The pool water turned black and primitive once the pumps failed. Paint blistered and boards broke. His illness crawled from one long painful month into the next. By the following May, he was gone. She broke shortly after. Her children gathered. Concern. “We need to move her closer to us…”
The old house sat empty. It was rented in rapid succesion. Seasons rumbled past. Years. The pool became a dumpster. An old automobile salvage company employee began towing cars to the property. They accumulated. Oil and grease. Sun-faded metal soon took the place of green grass. Everywhere one looked, junk sprouted from the ground. Deterioration. The house quickly became uninhabitable. Neighbors whispered furtively. “Something has to be done.” The city moved. The house was dozed and most of the property stripped of its junk. Memories and happiness were long gone.
Riverside Ed pulled his car into the dusty driveway and shut the ignition off. He removed his sunglasses. Astonished. The house was completely gone. He had kept his eyes on the property for years. He knew that there was a huge pool at the back of the property but he never could get a look it it. It sat far from the road. He walked along quietly. Insects hummed. A dog barked a few houses away. He saw pool tiles through a broken wall. Standing at the edge of the pool, he could not believe what he was looking at. He raised his camera.
Ed quickly shared his find with a few friends. He pointed out the sheer mass of refuse, stinking black water and heavy junk clearly visible. It hadn’t been filled for its intended purpose in decades. There were some signs that it might be pretty good. We decided to drive over together. The deep end was virtually filled with garbage. One could readily see that the face wall appeared to be good. The rest of the pool was anyone’s guess. I took my toe and moved the trash and muck aside on the top shallow step. Paddock Pools. We both knew from past experience that Paddock Pools were notoriously good. They had great surfaces that held up. Though it seemed like a gamble, we agreed to give it a try. We could work hard for an entire day and find the bottom cancered, pitted or kinked. To my way of thinking, this was inconsequential. I knew I was going to clean it out as soon as I saw the photograph. It isn’t the end result that dictates my happiness, it’s the fact that we try. This is what matters most.
We decided to get into it quickly. Anna, Greg, Ed and I bought gloves and tools and stepped into the pool. Something monstrous was looming. Foul water, garbage and putrid things were everywhere. We cleared away the shallow area first. We wanted to see how the shallow end wall looked. If the deep end was as good as it seemed and the shallow was rideable, we’d be able to flow through the pool pretty well. As we removed debris, I saw intricate hand-painted tiles on the pools shallow floor. “Look at this!” Everyone gathered. We were looking at several porcelain tile fish and a bare-breasted mermaid. They were beautiful and we all were in wonder at how well-preserved they appeared to be. We pondered what other secrets the pool might hold. Once we cleared the shallow end, the sun was waning. Anna, Ed and Greg took a side to side shallow run. Happiness. It boded well. The walls seemed good.
The next day was the same as the last. Filth, sweat and grueling work. Ripperside Shawn came out. He is an old hand at finding, draining and putting in pool work. He drained his first pool as a kid in Riverside. No one showed him anything. He grabbed buckets with his friends, pedaled bikes to a nearby pool and drained it. Kevin came out too. He’s been in the pool game for many years as well. We pulled possums, spiders, rats, garbage and reeking refuse out until we thought we’d choke. We pumped out black water, oil and broken glass. Eventually, we won. The pool sat empty under the hot sunshine. The crew bought jugs of water for a final rinse. We rolled briefly that waning afternoon. Weary, we carved and smiled. It wasn’t easy. The side walls were steep, like life. One had to dig in and push to get to the top. The surface was grippy, like problems. They stuck. It made us work. We made plans for a proper initiation session.
A few days later, MRZ and the entire cleanup crew met up at what we were referring to as the Wagon Wheel pool. John Torchia joined us. We padded up and started trying to figure it out. It was tough work. There were kinks and bellies in the walls and everyone attempted different lines and approaches. It was awesome.
Shawn pulled frontside grinds, airs and ruled it. Greg did airs, Anna went over her first backyard pool light, Kevin grinded, Ed pulled wheelers in the deathbox, I fell pretty often and John Torchia pulled airs and grinds. Everyone struggled and everyone was happy. There was no question of it being worth the labor. We were just a couple of friends in love with pool skating. We needed to do what we did in order to be what we are.
Thank you to MRZ, AVB and the crew for everything. Skate- Ozzie