Cranbrooks Gyro Swimming Pool
With the coming of the automobile social constructs and possibilities changed rapidly. Young people had much more freedom. Spontaneity became a possibility every day - "let's go swimming" no longer meant loading up the family, the tent and a week's groceries in the wagon, hooking up the team and leaving home for a fairly long journey. By the 1920's it was put together a picnic lunch, throw it in the back of the auto and pick up your girl, then head for Moyie, Wasa or Premier Lake - to name only a few.
Resorts started to develop that catered to the summer swimming and dancing trade. McBain's Lake, a beautiful little body of water situated four or five miles from Galloway, became a favourite for people from Fernie and Cranbrook. Camping grounds developed along the wooded lake front and the gravel beaches resounded with laughter and casual partying. Soon people were camping for weeks in the summer and a dance pavilion was built. The site became so popular that cabins began to appear.
A similar story unfolded at Green Bay on Moyie Lake, at the Moyie townsite, at Peckham's and Wasa Lakes, virtually wherever there was water. The Cranbrook Courier of July 28, 1922 said it best:
"The largest crowd of the season was at the beach Sunday, over two dozen cars of holidayers stopping at the lake to enjoy the bathing. Many foreign cars were noticed. To the disappointment of the crowd the concert was withheld owing to Manager Wintemute's unavoidable absence in Cranbrook. Mr. Sprung, his right hand man, however, took charge and put on a small program in the water. Demonstration was given of the famous Johnny Weismuller's racing strokes. Fancy diving and the odd life saving vest. Mr. Sprung demonstrated that he is equally at home in the water as on the dance floor. Plans are laid to hold a small regatta and water sports on the lake in the coming weeks."
Wasa continued to draw huge crowds of people and increasing numbers of automobiles as the year s progressed, and still does today. Again from The Cranbrook Courier of September 8, 1922:
"Another warm Sunday kept the bathing suits away from the moth balls and the lake at Wasa had an unusually large crowd during the afternoon. Many anxious to get a few more picnics in with the fine warm weather. The raft was alive at all times and the beach had its usual quota of bathers getting the last degree to the coat of summer's tan. The water despite the chilly evenings is still in fine condition and should be fine for at least two or three more Sundays. Several tourist cars were noticed on Sunday at the lake while many from Cranbrook and Steele found the way into the beach."
The full impact of the automobile as a force for change in recreational attitudes and access to water can perhaps best be seen in the Cranbrook Beach development of 1926. On a Sunday in July over 200 citizens of Cranbrook gathered at Smith Lake to swim, picnic and carouse. The manager of the burgeoning resort, Mr. P. Engbright, was quick to realize the possibilities. Smith, or Jim Smith, Lake was only a fifteen minute drive, by automobile, from Cranbrook. It was heralded as the equivalent of Vancouver's English Bay. Engbright discontinued the summer dances that he had been sponsoring in his large pavilion and, in 1927, hired J.G. Cummings to survey his property, dividing it into lots from 33 to 112 feet wide and from 100 to 160 feet deep.
"...quite a number who have spent considerable time at the beach during the past three years, have pressed the owner to sell building sites so they may erect summer cottages and have a place for the quiet enjoyment of themselves and families within easy reach of their work in Cranbrook. Now they may travel back and forth by car daily without having to rise from three quarters to an hour earlier each morning. It is the intention of a number of those who have spoken for lots to erect summer dwellings for use this season. [The Cranbrook Courier, June 30, 1927]
It makes one wonder why people still marvel at North America's love affair with the automobile. Local people can re-situate themselves, no longer having to live within walking distance, or quick horse-powered conveyance, of their employment. With the automobile they could realistically consider the appeal of water and more remote situations away from the press of town life.
As the summer sun hit 90° Fahrenheit and hotter, however, there were still all the Cranbrook residents and young children with out access to automobiles to consider. The town was hot, dry and there was no quick relief for the masses. The Gyro Club of Cranbrook, flush with money from all of their immensely successful fundraising endeavors, were urged by one of the members to consider the construction of a pool.
City engineer Philpot, with great ingenuity and considerable professional skill, proposed the possibility of excavating a portion of Joseph's Creek in the newly purchased Baker Park. In this excavation he envisioned a draw-and-fill style swimming pool that would bring succor to the masses. What a great idea!