Not many remember that there were problems 60 years ago when Beardstown was trying to get a swimming pool. Now it is that time again with the park director trying to get the town a pool. Not many recall that in trying to get that first pool, the Park Board was sued and the law case went all the way to the Supreme Court before we could build the swimming pool.
The History of the Park District isn’t completed, but those early years are ready for the printer, and for the next few columns I will use parts of that history.
It was in September 1953 that the Jaycees (Jr. Chamber of Commerce) had a huge membership. Actually, it was an amazing 144 members. All were young men under the age of 35 who for the most part were home from World War II, and had seen fighting in Europe and in the Pacific.
They were only home for seven years, and all had jobs or had their own business. They wanted to do something to improve Beardstown. Jaycee President, Brady Tremaine, asked the members to list what they thought should be done. When those lists were compiled, the No. 1 item by a big majority, was to get a swimming pool for Beardstown.
It was in the Jaycee, September, 1953 meeting, that I was appointed chairman of the Swimming Pool Committee. Those on the committee were John Musgrove, Art Gramann, Bud Knippenberg, Elmer Wankel, Bill Morrison, John Orwig and Woody Sudbrink.
That was the beginning of the move toward getting a pool. As we investigated, we found that we would need $110,000 (that would be $2,200,000 in today’s inflation) so we thought it best to get a Civic Committee in which three Jaycees would be members.
We knew who would be for a swimming pool, and the Jaycee committee suggested to the president of each organization who they should appoint to represent them. For the Women’s Club, it was Mrs. Charles Dutch; for the American Legion, it was Milton McClure; the Rotary Club, Dal Welbourne; the Business Men, John Glenn; the Newspaper, Mrs. Vivian Rodgers; the business ladies, Helen Andris: Woody McKnight from the factories; from the banks it was Howard Brannan, and from the Jaycees, Jim OHara, John Musgrove and Roy Roberts.
As things are supposed to happen, we read in the next week’s Springfield Journal that the Illinois State Park Association was to have a meeting in Canton in which the subject would be, “How to Build a Swimming Pool.” Mrs. Rodgers, Mr. McKnight and Roy Roberts attended that meeting and found that the first move to get a swimming pool was to form a Park District.
With a lot of publicity and ladies using their telephones, encouraging people to vote, the vote for the Park District was five to one with 1,095 voting for the organization of a Park District and 259 against.
The Park Board was elected at the same election with Bill Cowen, Dal Welbourne, Roy Roberts, Glen Massie and W. W. McKnight to be the first Park Board.
I was honored to be the first President of the Park Board and although the entire board was later being sued, it was my name as president that was always in the big print.
On Saturday, September 25, Beardstown was an exciting place. A large banner was strung across State Street that read VOTE YES FOR THE POOL. The scouts and their mothers placed green diamond tags on all door knobs the day before, the tags urging people to vote for the pool. The Jaycees had painted signs on downtown sidewalks urging the vote. There was a parade led by the B.H.S. band, followed by a lot of school kids carrying signs: WE WANT TO LEARN TO SWIM, and DON’T BE A FOOL, VOTE FOR A POOL, and WE WANT A SWIMMING POOL and many other colorful signs.
The Star office remained open that night to get the election returns; they had lots of calls from kids wanting to know if they were to get a swimming pool. The vote was approved 1,188 to 627.
To Be Continued...