Fond memories of Bicknell's Pool
By Steven Hoffman
Judging from the standing-room-only crowd that turned out for the presentation, plenty of people in the Oxford area have fond memories of long summer days spent swimming at Bicknell's Pool.
Paul Andriole and members of the Bicknell family shared a few of their stories during an 80-minute presentation that was a part of the Oxford Area Historical Association's program at the Oxford Presbyterian Church on Sept. 13.
Andriole, a friend of the Bicknell family, explained that the origins of the pool trace back to Emilie and Elwood Bicknell. They held a get-together at their home for some friends and they first proposed the idea of building a pool that would be open to the community. Everyone thought it was a good idea, Andriole explained, so they moved ahead with the plans.
A PowerPoint presentation accompanying Andriole's speech showed the long process of building the pool. He noted that much of the hard work was done by hand, not by large machinery. It was a costly proposition. The construction of the pool, interest payments, and maintenance for first year amounted to about $6,000, but the Bicknells forged ahead and the pools opened in 1939.
Local residents were soon visiting the pool on Frog Hollow Road. It took about a day and a half to fill the pool. Water from a nearby creek was initially used, and later a pond was built to supply the water. The pool was 40 feet by 75 feet. The water was three feet at one end of the pool, and nine feet at the deep end.
The pool quickly became a popular destination for local residents, especially kids. A few days after it opened, the Oxford Press, reported that the visitors to the pool said that it was a great new activity available to local residents.
“There were lots and lots of activities at the pool,” Andriole explained. “It was a great place to be.”
He noted that Elwood put in a trampoline on the property. There was a nine-hole golf course across the road. The Oxford Lions Club would hold a special picnic each year that would offer free food for kids on that day. There was also ice skating on the pond during the winter.
People could buy memberships by the season, by the week, or by the day. One year early on in the pool's history, seasonal memberships were $5.50 for a person or $16.50 for a family. Individuals could by a membership for a week for $1.25 or 40 cents for a day. It cost 50 cents to use the pool on Sundays and holidays that year.
Programs were started at the pool to teach people how to swim and how to save lives in the water. The life-saving program was sponsored by the American Red Cross.
Generations of children in the Oxford area grew up with Bicknell's Pool as a part of their lives. Numerous people in attendance at the presentation shared their memories of swimming in the pool, playing tag, and spending time with friends and family on sunny summer days. It was a different time back then, a lot safer, and youngsters from all over would walk to the pool. It was usually pretty easy to get a ride to the pool as well because so many people were heading in that direction during warm days.
Andriole joked that children of a certain age will never forget the constant refrain of, “Walk, don't run!” at the pool.
Several people also talked about how the pool's water was always so cold, a fact that no one who used the pool regularly will ever forget.
There might have been 200 or more people in attendance at the presentation. When Andriole asked everyone who had spent an important part of their childhood at Bicknell's Pool to stand up, nearly everyone in attendance got on their feet.
Andriole said that Emilie and Elwood Bicknell were very unselfish people.
“Emilie and Elwood were incredible people,” he said. “They were a gift to me, and to the Oxford community.”
Today, although memberships are no longer available, the pool is still open for swimming lessons. Bicknell's Pool remains important to a lot of people.
Oxford Area Historical Association president Vernon Ringler said that the large crowd that turned out for the program illustrates the strong interest in the town's history, and the importance of preserving connections to Oxford's past.
“It validates what the Oxford Area Historical Association is doing,” Ringler said.
The Oxford Area Historical Association will be presenting an exhibit, Art, Architecture, and Archives, that will be on display at the Oxford Arts Alliance from Oct. 21 to Nov. 11.
Ken Woodward, the vice president of the Historical Association, said that there will be some unique pieces in the exhibit. The exhibit includes works of CX Carlson and his contemporaries, displays from the Oxford Area Historical Association archives, local history exhibits, and more. The Oxford Arts Alliance is located at 38 South Third Street. For more information, visit www.Oxfordart.org.