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Sunday, September 13, 2020

In the heart of downtown Kerrville: The Cascade Pool

The Cascade Pool, downtown Kerrville, probably 1950s.
Click on any image to enlarge.
The double blessing of cooler temperatures and several nice rain showers has improved my mood considerably, and I’m thankful for the respite from the blistering summer of 2020. I’m sure you are, too.
Even though we’ve got more than a week of summer to go, and even though the Harvest Moon is still almost three weeks away – I can already imagine life outside of the bubble of air-conditioning.
Trying to stay comfortable in the heat of summer is not a new puzzle, and folks here have been working on solutions for a very long time.
Kerrville's Cascade Pool
Cascade Pool, taken from
the Blue Bonnet Hotel
I’m not old enough to remember the Cascade Pool, which was in the 700 block of Water Street, on the bluff overlooking the river. The pool complex started near the theater section of the Arcadia Theater building, and extended to Earl Garrett Street, which in those days continued to the bluff above the river.
When the pool was under construction, in 1929, a startling discovery was made.
According to the March 21, 1929 issue of the Kerrville Mountain Sun, a fossilized dinosaur thigh bone and several of the dinosaur's vertebrae were found as workmen were digging the Cascade Pool.
Kerrville's Cascade Pool(Long-time readers of this column may remember my 2005 April Fool’s column, where I suggested a huge fossilized dinosaur was found under Sidney Baker Street, near the police station. That story was a prank. This dinosaur fossil was real.)
Excavation of the fossils was led by two instructors from Schreiner Institute, Hal Norman and W. P. Killingsworth.
"The thigh bone was 42 inches in length, 14 inches wide at the large socket end and weighed approximately 100 pounds. The portion of the vertebrae recovered was six feet long and about seven inches in width. The bones were found at a depth of 12 feet in a strata of gravel," according to the Kerrville Mountain Sun report.
Several theories about the type of dinosaur were given. "Some thought it was part of a blood-sweating dinosaur of the Paleozoic era, while others were of the opinion that it might be the goggle-eyed plesiosaurus of the Miocene period."
Kerrville's Cascade PoolI’m not sure what happened to the fossils – but I’d love to see them. Some say they’re still at Schreiner University.
The Cascade Pool celebrated its grand opening on Saturday, June 22, 1929. It was owned by the Kerrville Amusement Company, which also owned the Arcadia Theater. The pool was built by McCreary & Schott, a popular local contractor, at a cost of $25,000. An exhibition by “Famous Swimming Stars” was a highlight of the grand opening celebration.
One feature of the old swimming pool was remembered by many: “A spinning top in the center of the pool promises to be one of the most popular features,” the Mountain Sun reported. “It spins, spills, and thrills its load of human freight.”
Most people remember it was also likely to break your arm if you weren’t careful. The spinning top can be seen in early photographs of the pool.
Kerrville's Cascade PoolThe pool was in operation from 1929 until the summer of 1959, when the Charles Schreiner Bank, which by then owned the pool and leased it to the City of Kerrville in the summer months, planned to expand their bank to include a drive-through bank. The bank announced in early October that the pool would not open for the summer of 1960.
Although it was never openly reported, the Cascade Pool was likely closed, in part, because it had always been a segregated pool, meaning it was only available for white swimmers. By the summer of 1959, such segregation was finally changing around the country, though not here, yet.
A hint of this can be found in the June 2, 1960 edition of the Kerrville Mountain Sun, where building a new municipal pool was being considered: Building a new pool to replace the Cascade Pool “would be a great outlay of money, with very meager returns on the investment. We would be for it, and so would many other people, but we should stop to consider that a municipal pool is open to ALL people and no segregation lines could be drawn.”
While many people have happy memories of the pool in the heart of downtown, its full story must include the fact that it was not open to the entire community.
Some such barriers still exist, I’m afraid, and I hope we work together to eliminate them.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who learned to swim many summers ago in the Guadalupe River at Camp Stewart for Boys in Hunt, Texas. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times September 12, 2020.

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  1. As a side note, that pool was filled in when they closed it, of course. Years later, when they tore down the old bank (grrrrr) to build the one that is there now, the Cascade pool had long been forgotten, and neither architect nor contractor had a clue of it's presence. Needless to say, the first major change order was written before the foundation had barely begun.


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