By Evamarie Socha
The Daily Item
McCLURE — Sunday was a hot day to ride the hog, but nearly 70 motorcycles were off and running anyway, a refreshing dip in McClure’s Veterans Memorial Pool open to the bikers at the end of their two-hour cruise.
That was a fitting end to their day: The event was a fundraiser for the 53-year-old spring-fed pool, one of the few remaining free-admission pools in the state.
The motorcycle ride is one of three major events that help to keep the pool free of charge for patrons, said Adam Ewig, a member of the pool board of directors.
“People really dig that it’s free,” Ewig said of McClure’s pool, which sees more than 200 visitors on a busy day. The pool has been free of charge since it opened in 1950.
Community pools in the Valley vary in daily adult admission rates from $4 to $6. Operating costs, those for maintenance and equipment plus any needed employees, eat up most of their budgets.
The McClure pool is no different. Ewig said it takes more than $18,000 to operate the pool for a season, from early June to about the third week of August.
Yet raising the cash to keep it going with free admission doesn’t seem to be a problem. People there Sunday from patrons to the controlling board spoke of Veterans Memorial Pool with great affection and give accordingly. Most remember wiling away summer days of their own youths there.
“I spent so much of my time there,” said Phil Lash, a volunteer and former board member who helped grill about 550 pounds of chicken to feed the returning bikers.
He recalled a time when the pool was so full — almost 800 patrons in one day — that lifeguards had to clear it every 45 minutes and do a visual check to make sure no one was on the bottom.
“My own kids went there, too,” he said. “I just want to give something back, and I think that’s how most people feel.”
The spring waters enter the pool at a chilly 56 degrees, but with the weather the Valley has had in recent days, the water was in the 70-degree range.
“This has always been a very comfortable place,” said Frank Browne of Beaver Springs, who has been enjoying the pool for 16 years. There are two donation boxes located on the grounds, and “people give what they can. They need the donations, or they can’t run,” he said.
Again, that shouldn’t be a problem. Last year’s motorcycle cruise raised more than $5,000, and with two private donations of $2,000 already in place, this year’s ride was looking like a success, said board member Janet Will.
“Who does this anymore?” Will said of the free pool. “Who can survive? We make the funds we need, and a lot of donations come in to keep us going.”
There are some private grants that help as well, Ewig said, notably one from the Degenstein Foundation, though he couldn’t give the amount.
And people help in other ways. The Union County Sportsmen’s Club remodeled its kitchen and gave its used-but-still-good kitchen cabinets and some appliances to the pool concessions. Another company donated the new roof for the concession stand.
“People love to help the pool,” said Stacie Shambach, also a board member who recalled her heydays at the pool.