By Herb Meeker
News Report Staff
There were fist pumps and excited chatter from children when Effingham Kluthe Memorial Pool manager Pam Sawin swung open the front door last Thursday morning.
A little girl scampered inside, while the rest of the children and adults stayed in line. There was anticipation in the air that morning because these pool lovers, along with many other area residents, had been waiting for over a month for opening day at Kluthe Pool.
Serious water leaks required a shutdown for repairs at the Effingham Park District community pool before its traditional opening date on Memorial Day weekend.
Minutes later, 8-year-old Nathaniel Graves held out his arms and shut his eyes as his mother, Theresa Graves, applied sunblock to her oldest that morning as the thermometer was already approaching 85 degrees. Three-year-old Regan, a toddler with a mass of curly brown hair, was ready to head for the water, but her little brother, Corbin, just 11 months old, was quiet for his first trip to the pool.
“They were very excited today,” Theresa said. “They kept asking me all summer when the pool was going to open.”
Like many families, the Graves children jumped into a plastic pool in their yard. Many have talked about how there was a shortage of the mini-pools across Effingham after the Park District announced the postponement of the pool opening back in May. Others descended on the Lake Sara beach, the Richard Workman Sports Complex indoor pool or to relatives’ or neighbors’ pools.
Effingham resident Kylee Hewing noted the desperate need for hitting the water for her daughters, Jenna and Alli Koester, plus a sun-loving friend, Mindy Mahnke.
“It was a damper on their summer. My daughters have come to the pool every day before,” Hewing said.
So there were trips to the lake and Aunt Stacia’s pool to offer solace for the temporary closure of the Kluthe Pool. It also prevented the girls from going stir crazy.
Last week, the girls were offering babysitting support to Kylee, who was taking care of a friend’s daughter, 5-year-old Ava Schultz, of Stewardson. Ava and Mindy were wearing new bathing suits with fruity designs – watermelon pink for Ava and lemon yellow for Mindy.
After all, on the first day at the public pool a girl has to make a fashion statement.
“They’re fun!” Mindy said, shortly before plunging into the water.
As more children and adults gathered that first day, Sawin recalled how the public was anxious to know how the repairs were progressing the last couple of weeks.
“I was getting phone calls on when it would open. And people were stopping me on the street to know whether it would open this summer,” Sawin said.
The Park District also offered updates on its website, and Sawin used social media to keep her idled pool employees aware as well. The pool staff was lined up for opening day when the leaks were discovered.
“I kept the kids updated. Out of all the staff we originally started with, we only lost two” said Sawin, who has worked with the Effingham pool system for 35 years. She started out at the pool at Community Park. It was replaced more than 20 years ago by the Kluthe Pool in Evergreen Park.
When the repairs were complete, the Park District had to make a tough decision. It concerned painting over sections of new concrete on the deck and basin. That work was necessary to repair leaks in different water lines.
“If we painted, then we were facing a long wait before we could open the pool. So it was decided to wait until this season ended to scrape and paint. We wanted a season this year so we took the lesser of two evils and didn’t paint,” Sawin said.
No one seemed to notice the lack of paint. Kylee Hewing’s youthful posse was splashing around with Ava, who was laughing and giggling. Regan was finding a way to enjoy the pool without getting her hair wet. And a polka-dotted pixie in pink swim goggles was drenching herself and some of her young peers on the pool waterworks.