Ernie Says - The Horseshoe Pool
2017 - Contributed by G. Ernest Heegard
Construction on the Horseshoe pool beginning in 1930.
1930 - Contributed by Richard D. Foot
The very early verbal history passed on to me by Chief Charlie Heistand, Scout Executive and purchaser of the property and builder of the initial camp. When Mr. Heistand was talking to the national council about his plans for building the Horseshoe Camp, he spoke of including a very large swimming pool. The national council engineers questioned, "Why spend the money for such a pool as you already have a wonderful stream all around your camp which would be ideal for swimming and boating?" His response was, "It might not always be great. We are building for now, but well into the future."
Owen J. Roberts, who had just been confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice by the Hoover Administration earlier that summer, was on hand to speak at the dedication of the Horseshoe pool which at the time was the largest outdoor pool East of the Mississippi River.
1930 - Contributed by John B. Rettew III
When I arrived at Horseshoe for my first 2 weeks at camp there in 1946, the first thing after checking in was to walk down the hill, crossing the Mason-Dixon Line, and was greeted by a large sparkling swimming pool surrounded by trees, and a large embankment covered with green grass. We checked in at the 'buddy board' and then were treated to what seemed to be cold showers from a battery of shower heads both from above and below. We passed by 2 impressive diving boards as we walked down the side of the pool on large black flagstone decking. We stopped at mid-point next to rustic life guard towers on opposite sides of the pool to begin our swim tests. Even more impressive were 4 fountains at the shallow end spraying water into the pool from fairly large pieces of pipe. A very impressive sight and a great start of the many hours I will be spending at the pool for years to come. These fountains are no longer there and were removed. (2 at a time). They created a great deal of back pressure on the circulation pump for filtration which was housed in a chamber below the diving boards. There were 2 such motors - one a spare, each requiring several strong staffers to lug them up one step at a time to switch them out for repairs. The damp conditions in the filtration room severely limited the motor's life. They were sent to Kennett Square and would be back just in time to switch out the other motor. This would happen several times a summer. The motors finally gave up around 1976 and a new filtration system was built next to the pool, but above the ground. This currently in use rapid sand filtration system is much smaller and more easily maintained than the below ground site. The old filtration system was removed which consisted of 3 huge steel tanks and when opened for the first time since they were installed, everyone was shocked to find that they were not sand filters, rather each contained graduated multi-layers of anthracite coal, each separated by brass screens and plates. The coal ranged from extremely fine to large rock sized pieces. But the bigger shock was that through frequent back-washing over the years, the filters were as clean as the day they were installed.
The Horseshoe pool in the early days. Note the flagstone deck and location of the life guard stands.
Contributed by Anonymous
George Cole was the second camp ranger. He was the son of C C Cole who was the first camp ranger, and father of Roy Cole, the next camp ranger. According to George, the first 2 years the pool was in use, the pool water was very cloudy and it was difficult to see the bottom of the pool. This was due to the inexperience with the new equipment and water coming from the Octoraro to fill the pool. In order to keep track of the swimmers in the 3 sections of the swimming pool, swimmers were required to wear colored bathing caps - white for non-swimmers in the shallow end, red for beginners in the center section, and blue caps for the good swimmers in the deep end near the diving board. C C Cole determined that longer filtration and by adding copper sulfate along with chlorine gas introduced through a bubbler system, would solve the problem. It was also found that painting the walls blue would produce sparkling blue water. These new chemicals, however, had one undesirable result with those who had blond hair. The long summer exposure to the sun, copper sulfate, and chlorine gas would produce a head of starkly blue hair.
Swimming attire at the Horseshoe Pool has gone through a full range of changes since its opening in 1930. There are numerous early pictures of the pool staff wearing the Victoria male swimming suit: tight fitting, scratchy knit wool full body suits with shoulder straps, much like wrestlers wear today. When I first joined the aquatic staff as boating director, (the boating area was just below the OA swinging bridge) I remember being shown an old trunk which was in the third floor attic of the White House. It had several of those old time swim suits in perfect condition stored there. I don't know whatever happened to them. They were probably eaten by moths and thrown away. Scouts during that period and up through the mid-fifties had the option during week-days and night swims of wearing nothing or a pair of swim trunks. Saturdays and Sundays, however, swim suits were required as Scouts and visitors, both male and female, shared the afternoon open swims at the pool. Guests were invited to use the first floor of the White House for a changing room and rest-room facilities. Regulations changed, and guest swimming was eliminated. By that time, swim teams were becoming popular and along with it, the racing style of swim suit also became popular. Today, by BSA standards, only the trunk suit is permissible.
Buddy Check at the Horseshoe Pool in the 1930's.
Contributed by John B. Rettew III
Chief Heistand was extremely proud of the camp he had built, most of which is still in use today. These include: a dining hall, although expanded; 5 camp sites constructed of cyprus wood and equipped with 4 bunk houses, a leaders' cabin, out-houses containing running water, 3 porcelain flush toilets and 2 porcelain urinals. A similar out-house was placed on the hill just above the pool. These bath-room facilities were replaced during the early 1960's when the expansion of camp challenged the water supply to service all the camp. On his last visit to camp, Chief Heistand complained about all the electric wires strung about through camp which he thought detracted greatly from the out-door experience that he had planned for the camp. (Much of the electric is now underground.)
Speaking of running out of water, one Sunday morning at the start of the final week of camp, we did run out of water. The large water tank was empty and only a trickle of water was being pumped in. The old cement reservoir next to the tank was still full and enabled us to get through the day. That afternoon, Mr. Slaw brought his drilling rig in from Oxford and began digging a second well. We were left with limited water rationing and the first well which was just below the White House came back enough to limp through the final week. Shortly after that, 2 additional wells were drilled, one near the Slaw well in Eagle Grove and the other near the shallow end of the pool. This had taken care of all the water needs at this point.
Throughout the time I have spend at camp as a camper, staffer, and director, spanning 1946 to 1988, the swimming pool was the most popular activity in camp. It included Sunday evening water demonstrations at the pool during the Scout Master Orientation Meetings prior to the Sunday night camp-fires. It also included large classes of instructional swim, swimming and life-saving merit badge classes. Also, very popular were troop swims available from 3:00 to 4:00 or 4:00 to 5:00, depending on the demand. We also added lights to the pool which gave us the opportunity for night swims on hot muggy nights. No one enjoyed the pool more than the Horseshoe staff. Every afternoon at 5:00, the staff would make a bee-line to the pool. Some were on foot and others jumped on camp vehicles to be there on time for the staff swim. Each staff member had his own style of perfecting the 20 second strip and plung into the on-going game of extreme pool polo. By 5:30, exhausted and barely able to make it to the trucks, the race was on to dress and be ready for retreat at 5:45.
The brand new pool
was a popular place to cool off in 1930 just like it is today.
1930 - Contributed by John B. Rettew III
Sometime this past year, Mr. Charlie Rogers, our current Scout Executive, mentioned he had come upon an old document which linked some kind of donation from Pierre S. duPont of Longwood Gardens with the Chester County Council and possibly to Horseshoe. This has sparked some thought that I had been toying with over the years. I now feel more strongly than ever that Chief Heistand and Pierre S. duPont did get together about our swimming pool at camp. There are numerous clues which I have listed below. See if you feel as I do that there is a link.
l. Charlie Heistand's answer to me when I asked if he had any difficulty raising money for the property. His response was, "I knew the board could not do it, but I could."
2. The close proximity to camp and Longwood Gardens
3. The timing - the late 20's when Longwood was also building
4. The size of the pool compared to the size of the camp at that time
5. The massive size of the plumbing and filtration equipment
6. The anthracite filtration system
7. The cedar pole and cement column pergola entrance to the pool
8. The four fountains that were installed and used during the early years
Being a member and frequent visitor to Longwood for years, I am now convinced more than ever, that Mr. Pierre S. duPont and Mr. Charlie Heistand did get together about the beautiful Horseshoe pool.