A small mystery here, of no great consequence, but perplexing if you were suited up and ready to take the plunge…

What happened to the Delhi swimming pool?

Haven’t got a clue (or care) what or where Delhi is? Not surprising. For the record, Delhi is a tiny town that’s a couple of hours north of New York in the Catskills. It has, perhaps, 2,500 residents, all of whom mispronounce the name of town, invoking a phonetically hard “h,” which is contrary to its namesake in India.

Now Delhi, in what seems to be the single public works project ever undertaken there (a nearby New Deal-era school would be a notable exception), decided to build a town swimming pool back in the 1950s. This was, as I recall from my youth there, a response to the general use of a bona fide swimming hole, a healthy bike ride down the road. My dad was on the planning committee for the project, which culminated in his mis-spelled name on a metal plaque fastened on a rock near the finished pool.

It was a very big deal and immediately became the social center for kids of all ages, even though none of us could make sense of the word “expectorate” that was printed on a sign of safety instructions posted on a chain link fence surrounding the pool. “No urinating in the pool” we got, but did little to heed.

Four years ago I was in the area to visit old friends and was shocked to see the pool — now 50-some years old — in total disrepair and filled to the edges with soil that sprouted weeds of all sorts. Graffiti was everywhere (but the cautionary sign still hung on the fence). Clearly, maintenance was called for and maintenance had been denied for a very long time.

But it got worse. Last week I paid a return visit to the town, and discovered that the pool was gone. Completely. In its place was small field of mown grass that might support a couple of houses. The metal plaque was gone, the rock remained.

Some village cost-cutting perhaps? Disgruntled neighbors who’d had enough after how many years? The local bathing-suit market had gone dry? Maybe the thing simply could no longer hold water. Could be a snappy renaissance that’s led to a return to the old swimming hole (which actually is still there, I’m told). But now the pool had become a decided eyesore.

That may be  it. The town, in recent years, has morphed from a dairy-farming community to B & B’s and weekend escapes from New York for those with the resources. Multiple one-time family farms have given way to all kinds of restored frame houses, antique stores and gourmet (depending on your imagination) restaurants. The small town square, once the scene of summer night band concerts, now hosts culture and craft shows.

Different, but probably not that much, given that the overall look of the town has not changed appreciably in more than half a century. And the fact that the pool is missing.

For me, I should add, there is little nostalgia involved, and it’s worth noting that the vaunted pristine existence of small town living is typically a farce — even the owners of the house-in-the-country can only take it in limited bites. The description “small” has more to do with local attitudes than the size of the community. Still, not being aware of a plethora of backyard swimming pools there, I have to wonder why the town fathers at some point decided to pull the plug on the only one they had. Was that the discretionary spending that the new party in power keeps talking about?

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