An Inside Look at a Pool Build from 1963

Photos courtesy of Beattie Master Pool and SpaPhotos courtesy of Beattie Master Pool and Spa

 

Now more than 50 years old this vintage pool remains in service — part of the American suburban landscape.Now more than 50 years old this vintage pool remains in service — part of the American suburban landscape.

Last summer, industry veteran Dave Beattie of Beattie Master Pool & Spa, a central Michigan builder since the late '50s, received a set of 50-year-old images of a pool construction project. When we saw the images — a handful pictured here — we were struck by how beautifully they reveal the process as it was a half century ago.

It was 1963 in Saginaw, Mich. My mom and dad were in the early stages of establishing Beattie Pools (later to become Beattie Master Pool & Spa) when they were hired to construct this simple backyard pool for a doctor and his family.

I was 13, the youngest member of the company, getting paid $1 an hour.

The project was like many my family's company would build over the years. We were "relaxing Mid-Michigan, one family at a time," as we used to say.

In this case, someone in the doctor's family, we don't know who, decided to take pictures of the construction process. Some 50 years later, last summer, his daughter found the images in a photo album and was considerate enough to share them with us.

They capture all the important stages of the project, from excavation to completion, and provide a haunting visual narrative of the way pools were built back then. For our family, they are a source of fond memories of a much simpler era.

SELF MADE

Backing up a few years further, in 1959, my dad was working for the U.S. Postal Service when he and my mom, Jane, decided they wanted a pool. My dad, being an inventive and daring guy, decided that he would do it himself.

Back in those days, pools were becoming more and more popular, and it wasn't long before he decided to start building them in his off hours after work and on the weekends. He enlisted some of his fellow U.S.P.S. co-workers along with a bunch of neighborhood kids, dove into the process and never looked back.

By the time we built the pool pictured here, my parents were right at the point of transitioning into taking on pool design and construction full-time, learning by doing, always standing behind their work.

In addition, we were transitioning from liner pools to all-concrete work. Working through an equipment supplier, my dad came in contact with Max Deason from Tucson, Ariz. Max supplied us with reusable forms that were made from scrapped airplanes. (Deason's family would later go on to found Mortex and create, among other products, Kool Deck.)

NOT LIKE THEY USED TO

Perusing these images reminds me of how far we've come as an industry. Back in those days, we'd have 400-pound drums of chemicals delivered to our home and package them ourselves with labels such as "pH up" or "pH down" – all a very far cry from today's stringently regulated way of doing business.

This pool has a number of hallmarks associated with the era. It was made with poured-in-place concrete; we didn't switch to shotcrete until 1971. The plumbing was all copper, the pump was cast iron and, as I recall, this pool had one of the early D.E. filters. Plaster was mixed by hand and carried into the pool with buckets, truly back breaking work.

Also, as a sentimental aside, the truck in the photos was an old postal vehicle with the steering wheel on the right.

There were no building codes for swimming pools back in those days aside from the National Electric Code, which thankfully defined proper grounding and bonding measures. We didn't know much about hydraulics or soils reports, we never heard of or considered plaster problems and there was no permitting required. Yet, for as green and unsophisticated as the industry was back then, we produced some wonderful projects. For example, this pool still exists and remains in use.

Later, in 1967, we joined the Master Pool Guild and are proud to be part of the pioneering generation of pool professionals that laid the foundation for today's industry. Today, some 50 years after this lovely pool was built, and literally thousands of pool installations thereafter, we're still here relaxing one Michigan family at a time.

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