On Monday, May 15, 2023, demolition began on the Sisters of Charity swimming pool. Dedicated on July 4, 1963, the Motherhouse pool and bathhouse have been a recognizable landmark on the Mount St. Joseph campus for 60 years. Due to challenges in repair costs and dwindling use, the difficult decision was made by the Community earlier this year to permanently close the pool before the approaching summer season.
Community members have considered the Motherhouse swimming pool a gift. Many Sisters and their family members used the outdoor area for relaxation, exercise and as a gathering spot. Their memories from that opening year to the final summer are fond and plentiful.
S. Annette Paveglio entered the Community in 1961 and said that her Band was among the first to get to use the pool. “I remember we had to write home to ask for a swimsuit to wear,” she recalls. “Of course, all were examined to see if appropriate for wearing, but my mother did a great job picking out the suit.”
Associate Mary Ellen Williams, a Novice at the time, has similar memories. “We were told to send home for our bathing suits in preparation for the new pool that was coming. When we received them, we had to ‘model’ them in front of S. Pierre Eymard Hanchon who directed us to sew ‘ruffles’ where too much was showing.”
The pool quickly became a popular gathering spot and source of entertainment. S. Cookie Crowley was a member of the Band of 1960. She reminisces, “In those days, as junior Sisters, we only had an hour to swim, and it was assigned. Our hour was usually later. Those were the days before air conditioning, when windows and doors were kept open to let the air in. One evening we were scheduled to swim from 5-6 p.m. and we were hysterically re-enacting the scene of the Grecian urns from ‘The Music Man’ while jumping off the diving board. There were about 50 young Sisters out there laughing and having the time of our lives. As I was on the board, the whole pool fell silent. Little did I know Mother Mary Omer Downing was standing by the steps. She asks, ‘Are you all having a good time?’ We, of course, said yes to which she replied, ‘Well, those of us in the chapel trying to say our vespers can hear you, but I’m happy to know you’re having a good time.’ And she left, so we went right on having our fun.”
Opportunities for fun and laughter continued throughout the decades. S. Mary Ann Humbert says, “I have a fun memory of our attempt at noodle races. We mounted our noodles like horses. The rules were you had to remain seated upright paddling with hands and feet. Lunging forward with a swimming motion resulted in immediate disqualification. The first one to make it from the shallow end to the deep end won. It resulted in lots of laughter!”
S. Joyce Richter recalls the many years that there was not a lifeguard on duty but the pool remained open for Sisters to swim. “One day the pool should have been open, but it wasn’t when I arrived that afternoon. So I climbed over the fence and swam. When I was leaving, the easiest way out was to loosen one of the slats on the wooden fence – next to another slat which was loose, and crawl through. However, nothing goes unseen!” she hints.
In recent years S. Joyce enjoyed receiving a phone call from newer member S. Tracy Kemme and meeting Tracy and a few of her house mates at the pool to socialize and swim. “We often had a fun and hilarious time tossing a ball from one to another and missing lots of times. We got lots of exercise retrieving the ball,” S. Joyce recalls. “When I saw how easily Tracy could jump out of the side of the pool, I thought maybe I could also. But no, my body was far from being that flexible.”
Many Sisters would invite family for summer gatherings, jubilees or reunions to Regina Hall and the pool. S. Dorothy William Englert tributes her love of swimming to her mother, an avid swimmer. Sister’s mom was in her teens when she competed in a marathon in the Ohio River, swimming from the old Coney Island to the Public Landing downtown. S. Dorothy herself would swim laps weekly during the summertime and says that her mother, “loved to come with me to the Motherhouse pool.”
S. Ruth Bockenstette remembers affectionately a special birthday party at the Motherhouse pool. Many relatives joined the fun, some even coming from Chicago, Illinois, for the celebration. To this day S. Ruth keeps pictures from the gathering hanging in her room at the Motherhouse.
The swimming pool also became a valuable community resource through the years. Shared with employees, their families and community groups, such as Girl Scout troops, high school swim teams and more, each individual or group was grateful for this generous gift of use.
S. Victoria Marie Forde recalls working with migrant camps north of Dayton in the early 1990s. She brought a group down to the pool to swim one afternoon. “They were absolutely delighted,” she says. “There were adults and children. None of them had swimsuits, but they still had a glorious time.”
Girl Scout troops from St. Jude, St. Antoninus, Our Lady of Visitation and St. Aloysius all accepted the invitation to bring their scouts to the pool. Some used it as a training tool for water safety, while others as a splash of fun during the summer months. Regardless, troop leaders were always appreciative of the gesture and opportunity to have their own private pool for an activity or gathering.
Whether enjoyed as a source of exercise, relaxation and fun, family entertainment, or community resource, the impact of the pool’s presence on the Motherhouse campus reached far and wide. The area it once occupied has now been seeded and will rest until future plans emerge. While it remains unclear what the future has in store for the land, one thing is for certain, the memories and joy brought to each Sister and guest will remain in their hearts forever.