McKinley Pool opening May 27

May 17, 2013

Ryan Scott Ottney

PDT Staff Writer

Memorial Day is traditionally known as the unofficial start of summer and no summer would be complete without a dip in the pool. The Portsmouth Public Service Department reports that McKinley Pool in Portsmouth will open on Monday, May 27.

The pool’s history traces back more than 50 years, when blacks weren’t allowed to swim at Dreamland Community Pool on Kendall Avenue in Portsmouth. As a result, 14-year-old Eugene McKinley went swimming in the Scioto River instead and drowned on June 9, 1961. A group of individuals, including president of the Portsmouth NAACP chapter Charles Smith, and local athlete and civil rights activist Curt Gentry devised a plan to walk into the whites-only pool. City police, including the black police chief Ted Wilburn, were called to break-up the scene.

As a result of the two incidences, the current city pool now located on Findlay Street is named “The McKinley Pool” and is open to everyone. More than 50 years later, the city pool is still open and popular, while many other community pools are running dry. The opening of the 2011 swim season saw a record first-day attendance with 250 people.

“It could be because it’s owned by the city and the city always has money to maintain it,” said Bill Beaumont, assistant director of the Portsmouth Public Service Department.

The pool has three city employees — Katy Bender, Kristin Kraft, and manager Sean Garnett — and a team of volunteers getting ready to open this season on Monday, May 27.

Beaumont and will be open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. Admission is $1 for children age 10 and under, and $2 for older swimmers. Season tickets are not available, but the pool is available for private parties by calling pool manager Sean Garnett at 740-354-4681.

Ryan Scott Ottney may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 287, or rottney@civitasmedia.com. For breaking news, follow Ryan on Twitter @PDTwriter.