Memories of the Tietze Park pool

Photo by Ben Hager
Photo by Ben Hager

“Summer has set in with its usual severity,” once moaned English poet and albatross-obsessed Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Though a very large pond and a couple of centuries separate us from Coleridge, it appears he hit upon a rather fine slogan for Dallas in the summer.   Suffer through just a couple of days here in June, July or (horrors!) August, and you understand. What to do, short of cloistering yourself away in your air-conditioned abode? Tietze Pool to the rescue.

Live in this neighborhood for just a short while and you’re bound to discover the cool, splashy oasis that is our neighborhood pool. Ensconced at Tietze Park, it has played host to generations of neighbors seeking relief from 100-plus-degree days.

Before 1924, though, Tietze Park was pastureland, private acreage belonging to M. Boyd Keith and Charles C. Huff. They received more than $16,000 for the land, according to records provided by Willis Winters, director of the Dallas Park and Recreation Department, and John Slate, city archivist. The land was christened “Keith Park.”  Meanwhile, the park department had plans to develop “Tietze Park,” named after W.R. Tietze, floriculturist and superintendent of parks from 1896 to 1933. They entered into an agreement with Dallas Water Utilities to develop the park at DWU property on Mockingbird, between Matilda and Greenville (across from present-day Kroger). DWU backed out of the agreement in the eleventh hour, and the board decided that Keith Park would now be Tietze Park.

A “junior pool” — little more than a wading pool — was built at the park in 1930. East Dallasites also cooled off at the Fair Park pool and White Rock Beach. But “sanitary standards were substandard, even for the 1930s.”   Larger “community pools” began popping up around the growing city, and Tietze’s junior pool was replaced in 1946 with the pool we swim in today.

Rose-Mary Rumbley, popular speaker and author of several books on Dallas, including “A Stroll in the Park: 100 Years of the Dallas Park & Recreation Board,” remembers the very early days of the pool. She lived on Vanderbilt, not far from the park, which, back in the day, was known as Llano Park, despite its official name. “We all walked to the pool from our houses. There was no air conditioning, so the pool was it! The only cool spot in the neighborhood.” She laughingly adds, “There were swimming instructors, and we all took lessons from them because they were such cute boys.”

Rumbley also remembers a familiar — and handsome — face working there. “Mr. William J. Morris, physics teacher at North Dallas High, sold tickets at the pool — it was a summer job for the poor teacher. Teachers had to work during the summer so they could eat! He was so good looking, we girls went to the pool to see him.”

But Rumbley sadly recalls the summer the pool closed because of the polio epidemic: “Polio came and we couldn’t go swimming.” Dallas historian Sally Rodriguez confirms that all pools in the city were closed in 1952, mostly out of an abundance of caution.

Joe Jackson, lifelong East Dallas resident and longtime real estate broker, has memories of Tietze Pool as well.  And like Rumbley, he knew the park as Llano Park. “I had never heard anyone call it ‘Tietze’ until one day a sign appeared on the corner of Skillman and Llano, and it said ‘Tietze Park.’ “

Jackson says he spent many an hour at the pool, a mere three blocks away from his home on Palo Pinto. He has particularly happy memories of visiting the pool during the 1950s, walking or riding his bike there along with his neighborhood friends and paying the 10-cent admission.

Though it is long gone now, the concession stand at the pool sold quite a variety of items. “I remember in the hot summer,” Jackson says, “always buying a snow cone on my way back home after swimming. I noticed that in addition to soft drinks, candy, hot dogs, etc., they also sold packages of cigarettes. I saw the ‘older’ teens buying them and smoking in the pavilion behind the stand.”

Jackson enjoyed the pool, learning to dive from the high board as well as playing “dibble dabble” with his friends and doing “cannonballs” and “sliders” off the board. The last two, he says, “created a massive splash and, done properly, would be directed to the teenage girls sunning around the pool.”

A sign of the times — Jackson says he “vividly” remembers seeing at the pool one of the neighbor boys who had just returned from basic training. “He had a tattoo of a black panther or a wild cat at the top of his arm.” Body ink being a novelty at the time, Jackson says he couldn’t help but stare at it and soon realized that “the cute teenage girls were all intrigued by the tattoo and flirting with him.”

Times and trends have changed, but the “usual severity” of Dallas summers has remained a constant, no matter the generation. So, instead of bemoaning the heat, jump into Tietze Pool. It’s cool.


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