Paean for Pete's Pool

Photo and Article by PAUL GOTTLIEB
The Emumclaw Courier-Herald, Wednesday, July 9, 1997

These days Pete's Pool identifies a location in Enumclaw where high-schoolers play football and graduate instead of a place to swim.

The only enclosed water resembling a pool is a tiny wading area at the steps to the park fieldhouse, at the head of a parking lot that covers where one of the largest outdoor swimming pools west of the Mississippi used to be located.

Memories of the pool will come alive in Tacoma artist Dan Senn's multimedia "sound sculpture" and video oral-history presentation during the 1997 King County Fair, which begins at 2 p.m. on Friday.

Senn will set up his creation in a rolling grove of 40 towering evergreens next to where a spring-fed, mud-bottomed swimming hole grew into one of the Plateau's main gathering spots.

Senn calls his own creation a sound and video installation, a cutting-edge medium he's used at art festivals in Warsaw and Krakow in Poland, and in Minnesota.

"There will be a symbiotic relationship between what you see and what you hear," Senn said of what fairgoers can expect to experience along Highway 410 east of the 284th Ave. S.E. intersection.

The project consists of two kinds of sound: music and the spoken word.

Four pairs of parallel piano wires will be strung high above the ground in a giant shape within the 625-square-foot grove.

Two foot long pendulums and dowels will touch and brush against the strings, creating wind-chime sound amplified by resonators, a "percussive ringing," Senn said. The objects will be put in motion by whatever wind might be stir-ring, and by computer- controlled undetectable sub-audio pulses emitted from modified woofers.

A giant string instrument is what it is," Senn said. "[The spoken voices and the percussive ringing work well together in] the same way voices work so well with piano accompaniment.

In this case the voices will emanate from video screens amounted on concrete reinforcement [mesh] stationed at points within the Evergreen grove. Stories and recollections of the pool will be recounted by about 30 Plateau residents including Paddy Erwin, Louise Poppleton, Jake Thomas, Paul and Janet Dixon, Frank Manowski, Wynona Hasbrook and Valda Trahan.

The project was funded by a grant from the King County Arts tconimission, with publicity support by the Enumclaw Arts Commission. The longtime plateau residents so vital to the project were willing participants. "I'd set up one interview, and when I I'd get there it was like a Tupperware party," Senn said. "All sorts of people in Enumclaw have memories of Pete's Pool they want to talk about on tape," he said. About a third were farmers. "I had less work to do than I imagined."

The pool was named for Pete Chorak, a Yugoslavian immigrant who had a mountain spring along what is now Highway 410 enlarged into a rock bottomed pond around 1935. Local citizens raised money to purchase the 10-acre Ringard Farm, which was developed into a park with fieldhouse, baseball park and football grandstand with federal Work Projects Administration labor.

Later the park was donated to King County, and the Lions Club raised funds to pave the pool.

The pool was large by almost any standards, covering an area 150 feet by 300 feet along the edge of Highway 410, Sen Said. It comprised 45,000 square feet of water within an unfenced swimming pool-with emphasis on the unfettered nature of the pool. Those he interviewed said it was one of the largest pools west of the Mississippi, Senn said.

"It really had the effect of uniting Plateau people," Senn said, standing in the grove and waving his arm toward the parking lot.

Among the farmers he interviewed for the project, some recalled spending a day haying in their fields, then,driving down to the pool, getting out of their cars, and running right into the water.

"They would run into the water from any direction, with nothing stopping them," Senn said.

A fence erected by the county "sucked out" the life of the pool by limiting physical access, Senn and Plateau residents said. The fence stood where before, nothing separated the pool from the grass around it.

Hasbrook's three aunts and her husband Bert are on the oral history video.

"My kids all went to swim there," Hasbrook recalled. "It used to be the sparking spot. People would go down there and watch the moonlight off the pool. Farmers, everyone met there. Kids would run back and forth saying, 'watch me, watch me' at the begin- ning. They put the fence up, and it ruined it. ... They put too many rules and restrictions on it. It took away the beauty of it."

Hasbrook still has the old playground slide from Pete's Pool. We always got someone driving by who wants to buy it," Hasbrook said. Trahan remembers when the pool bottom was just mud, in the late 1920s and early 1930s.

"It was just like ice water, fed from a spring from the mountains," she said. High school girls would teach the younger children to swim. "We'd stand there and get so cold until it was our turn to swim," Trahan said.

After the county fair begins, mood music from a giant stringed instrument will provide mood music for those and other memories in grove of trees at Pete's Pool.

After the fair ends, the oral history testimonials, including unedited portions of Senn's interviews, will be donated to the Enumclaw Plateau Historical Society.