When North Tonawanda opened the Payne Park Memorial Pool in 1947, its purpose was two-fold; to provide something fun for city residents to do and to pay tribute to those who fought and died in the Second World War.
On Friday, residents and community leaders celebrated the pool's 70th birthday with cake, official proclamations and a series of photo boards that capture the pool's history. Despite rainy conditions, several local children and their families came out to take a dip in the pool and escape the humidity. As Mayor Arthur Pappas joked, they were going to get wet either way.
"I only lived two blocks away from here when I was growing up," he said, recalling the role the facility played in his own childhood. "I was at this pool every single day."
The pool offers a variety of summer activities for the city's residents, young and old. From free swim to adult lap swimming to water aerobics, the pool caters to both North Tonawanda citizens as well as those from outside areas. Typically, swimming costs $2 for non-residents, $1 for North Tonawanda adults and 50 cents for North Tonawanda kids. On Friday, everyone swam for free.
While both Pappas and state Sen. Robert Ortt, R-North Tonawanda, were on hand to read proclamations in honor of the pool's 70th anniversary, Ortt emphasized the reason why the pool was constructed in the first place. Ortt, himself a veteran, called the attention of the children and families in attendance to the sacrifice made by WWII soldiers, particularly those that didn't make it home.
"We forget that it's called Memorial Pool," he said. "I just think it's great that we're here to remember why the pool was built. It's fun, it's great to enjoy, but don't forget, there wouldn't be places like North Tonawanda and you wouldn't have the chance to have the pool were it not for our brave men and women who go over and fight and serve in faraway lands."
The color guard from Stephen Sikora Post was also at the ceremony, the same guard that was present at the pool's original dedication 70 years ago. They were also at the 50th anniversary dedication in 1997. Several local World War II veterans were also present for the ceremony.
Pappas said the pool was designed by Wesley Bintz, a noted Michigan engineer who was known for his above-ground pools. His pools are identified by the oval shape with changing areas underneath or around the side of the structures. At the time of its construction, Pappas said the pool cost $125,000, or $1.4 million by today's standards.
Guests also got some history on the pool from Jill Caccamise, who served as pool supervisor for 24 years. She told the stories of the many employees who have worked at the pool over the years and have been key in keeping it well-maintained and for making sure related programming remained in place.
"We had, on an average, between 600 and 800 children a day," she said. "Our recreation programs were far exceeding many communities around us."
Today, the pool still draws countless members of the community for organized recreational activity, or, as on Friday, simply to escape the summer heat.
For more information about North Tonawanda's Memorial Pool, visitwww.ntparksrec.com