“A supreme effort”: Building Globe’s swimming pool

Courtesy Gila County Historical Society Globe’s Community Center pool under construction

If the City of Globe’s plans work out, a refurbished Community Center pool could be open to swimmers again next summer – and July 2022 will be the 60th anniversary of its original opening.

Fifty-nine years ago this month – July 5, 1962 – the Community Center pool officially opened to the public, welcoming swimmers from 10 in the morning until 9 at night throughout the summer. Residents had a three-hour sneak peek the afternoon before, during what organizers called Globe’s biggest and best Fourth of July celebration. It was also, declared the Arizona Record, a “victory celebration . . . marking the completion of the five-year project.”

“If you saw the new Globe swimming pool yesterday and were thrilled at the sight, you were in good company. Thousands felt the same way,” the newspaper’s publisher, John D. Seater Jr., wrote in a front-page editorial.

“Completion of the pool was no easy chore,” Seater added. “It took five years and a supreme effort on the part of some dogged, determined Globites . . .”

It all started in the summer of 1957 when 15 citizens formed a non-profit organization to create a community center, with the pool as their first enterprise. Initial funds for Community Center, Inc. came from the Globe Chamber of Commerce, which provided $1,055.29 to start a treasury. “In my opinion, this is one of the most exciting things that has happened to Globe in a long period of time,” said Reverend Ted Knotter, the first president of Community Center, Inc.

That November, after submitting a bid of $1 a year – they were the only bidder - the group signed a lease with the city on the land near Besh-ba-Gowah. “This will do something for Globe that has been needed since the community was founded. It gives us something to work together on instead of something to fight over,” said board member Paul McKusick.

Community Center, Inc. launched a site survey after receiving their first major donation, $1,000 from Globe Rotary in October 1957, and wasted no time in choosing a supervisor for the pool’s construction. The post was filled by retired Globe High School industrial arts and science teacher P.E. Vickrey, who had served the school for 40 years; Vickrey’s archaeologist wife, Irene, was instrumental in surveying and excavating the Besh-ba-Gowah ruins.

Plans for the new swimming pool, based on Prescott’s youth center pool, were drawn up by Brooks & Miller, of Los Angeles. The work, by Hagen Construction, began in January 1958. That fall Community Center, Inc. saw a leadership change. Rev. Knotter moved out of town and was succeeded by vice president Bill Merrifield, who also served as a Globe City Councilman.

“No other single individual deserves greater credit for the tremendous community asset we now have . . . than Bill Merrifield,” wrote Seater. “His self-sacrifices for the community have gone far above and beyond the normal call of duty that every citizen should answer.”

“We plan to show the people we intend to finish the pool if it takes 20 years,” Merrifield said in the spring of 1959. Getting there took a lot of contributions from the community; through the years a number of local organizations wrote checks to the project. The Miami and Inspiration copper companies provided concrete, as they had promised to do if the organization raised $15,000. Fundraising events also helped; by March 1960, according to the Arizona Record, an event was happening almost every week. These included a three-day radio auction, a ladies’ fashion show and a series of boys’ basketball games between teams from Globe, Fort Grant and San Carlos. 

By March 1962, Merrifield believed the finish line was in sight; only $10,000 was needed to complete the work. “There’s a good chance we can open the pool by July 4,” he said. The group had said it before, but this time the forecast proved correct.

On Independence Day, the weather threatened to dampen festivities. “The day began in gloom as the season’s biggest storm reeled into the city,” the Arizona Record reported. However, the skies cleared in time for the celebration that afternoon. Around 3,000 people turned out, and the sun beamed on a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the pool. As swimmers jumped in, carnival rides and booths opened along with displays of “firearms, motor bikes and items of local interest.” A free barbecue and the fireworks show rounded out the event.

“So now we have a pool,” Seater concluded his next-day editorial, “a pool we’ll stack against any in the state.”