Gerle's swimming pool, 1930s
Three diving boards on the tower at Gerle's. Note the lights strung above the pool.
Two girls pose poolside for a photo at Gerle's.
In the old days, North Platte had lots of places to swim, most of them shallow pits near the river.
The pools were a cooperative effort of private owners and city officials, and in one case, the help of a major shipper on the Union Pacific lines.
A city swimming hole was located in the northwest corner of Cody Park. That “pool” officially opened in 1919 and also served as an ice skating pond in the winter time.
But by 1925, a big new pool was preparing to open on the northwest corner of town.
On July 31, the newspaper announced construction of the Happy Hour Swimming Pool, located at 2400 W. Ninth, which at that time was seven blocks west of the city limits, near Buffalo Bill Avenue today.
The new pool was owned by Karl Gerle and managed by his son Rudolph.
The Gerle family immigrated to America from Germany in 1882 and came to North Platte in 1898, according to family history.
They must have liked to swim. The pool was 110-feet long and 75-feet wide. The baby end of the pool was 18 inches deep with a level bottom, and was separated by a concrete wall from the main pool. Like swimming pools of today, the main section of the pool started at a depth of three feet and sloped to five-feet deep, then, on the other side of a chain and buoy, the deep end of the pool reached 10 feet.
Surrounding the pool would be a 20 feet-wide sandy beach, the newspaper reported.
Gerle’s pool operated for nearly 20 years, attracting a wide variety of residents.
By 1940, the Daily North Platte Bulletin reported that the 45,000 gallons of water in the pool changed every hour and was heated by the engines at the Pacific Fruit Express plant not far away. The water was 65 degrees. The outlet of the pool took the water into an irrigation ditch along 12th St. and the water was used to water crops nearby.
Three diving boards, the tallest 13 feet, and a number of steps leading out of the pool were installed, along with a slide.
Two American Red Cross lifeguards were on duty at all times and the state department of health made regular inspections, according to the newspaper.
Also, three tennis courts were under construction to be rented to the public.
In 1937, Fred Weesner obtained a license to operate a swimming pool outside the city limits on the south side of town.
The pool was two miles south of North Platte and a half-mile west on South River Road, on Weesner’s property.
Water was supplied by a fresh spring that continuously flowed through the pool.
The pool included bathhouses with showers, sandy beaches, diving boards, rafts, a swing and a concession stand with ice-cold drinks, candy, hamburgers, hot dogs and ice cream.
When Weesner applied for the license, he told the county commissioners he would employ two Red Cross lifeguards.
In June 1939, admission was 15 cents a person, but children under 12 got in for 10 cents.
On June 29, 1940 Weesner announced he was also installing a water wheel.
“It’s my hobby, I like to see people have a good time,” Weesner said.
Other playthings included a slide, new diving boards, beach chairs and umbrellas. A picnic area was also built, complete with tables and brick ovens.
World War II
By 1942, WW II dampened activity at the privately owned swimming pools.
On May 7, North Platte Park Commissioner Bill Wood discussed the lack of resources on the home front but said, “You can quote me as saying that there’ll be some place to swim this summer, that’s certain.”
Wood said one possibility was to dredge out the old swimming hole in Cody Park, which by that time had closed. He said the hole would be only four-feet deep with no diving allowed, but people could swim there free throughout the summer.
Also, the city was investigating the possibility of leasing Gerle’s pool. The dressing rooms at Gerle’s had been torn down by then, and the projected cost to rebuild them was around $750, the newspaper reported, but Wood talked about making the Gerle’s a permanent city recreation spot until a proper municipal pool could be constructed in Cody Park after the war.
City officials promised to keep paid lifeguards on duty no matter what decisions they made.
Gerle’s pool had fallen on hard times and was never a big money maker, according to the report in the Daily Bulletin. With the unavailability of enough chlorine during the war, and the scarcity of funds to keep the pool in good shape, Gerle and the city eventually agreed not to reopen, according to a May 15 report.
But a few days later, on May 27, Weesner proudly announced his pool would open on Memorial Day.
Weesner said it was important for him to remain open since the Gerle pool would not. Weesner was also proud of the fact that there had never been any kind of serious accident at his pool. He said the facilities and had always been maintained and were in top shape.
Admission was 15 cents for children and 25 cents for adults.
Again in June 1945, Weesner announced in the newspaper that the pool was about to reopen, with repainted equipment and everything was thoroughly clean.
Advertisements in 1946 announced a bus schedule, along with the hours of operation at Weesner’s pool. Buses ran daily and fare was 10 cents each way, the ads said. The bus picked up and dropped off swimmers downtown at the McDonald State Bank.
In April 1950, the newspaper announced that Weesners would close for good at summer’s end, but by then, the new municipal swimming pool at Cody Park was under construction. Weesner indicted he was ready to retire. He said it would be a good time to stock his pool with fish and enjoy private fishing “a few steps from his front door.”
Among places to swim in North Platte before WWII was Wyman’s in the 1300 block of East Third.
“Grandad built the pool,” Paul Wyman told the Bulletin, “and dad (Howard) ran it when he was in high school.”
If kids didn’t have the nickel to get in, Howard would have them pull weeds for a little while before they went swimming. The pool was on the southeast corner of Wyman’s property, at Third and McCabe. It closed during WWII and never reopened.
Paul Wyman, now 65, recalls swimming in the 1950s a few blocks east, near Fourth and Welch, where Clarence Spicer had a pool. Spicer raised a big garden and used pool water to irrigate.
“I swam there a lot when I was a kid,” Wyman said, “but only after 2 p.m. in the afternoon, because everyone thought that it was best not to swim until an hour after a meal.”
Wyman said Spicer’s swimming hole must have closed in the late 1950s.
George Lauby contributed to this report.