Poolside in the 1970s
by Cheryl Levine

When I was in junior high, my stepfather, along with his friend whose nickname was “Cookie” for some reason, dug a hole in our backyard with a borrowed backhoe and installed a large in-ground pool. By the end of that first summer, we could walk a few steps from the screened-in breezeway to the pool’s patio and jump right in.

My mother never learned how to swim and was actually a bit afraid of the water but loved to bask in a lounge chair in the hot summer sun, sipping iced tea after iced tea. My stepfather, the pool builder, was a freckled redhead with very fair skin; he avoided the sun. I never saw him actually swim in the pool he built for his acquired family. It was a generous gesture and so characteristic of him. And that backyard addition made for heavenly summers in the 1970s.

Cookie’s daughter, Sue, was one of my best friends. We worked together at a Howard Johnson’s restaurant on the Mass Pike during those summers and would joyfully strip off our turquoise-checked uniforms and leap into the refreshing water after work. Often joined by a gaggle of girls, we would take turns rushing down the blue plastic slide and practicing dives off the board at the far end. We stretched out on brightly colored beach towels and slathered on Coppertone tanning lotion. We would snack on Fritos and Cokes and then jump back in to wash off the crumbs.

When I was a sophomore, I started dating the high school quarterback. The team would have summer practice sessions during stifling August afternoons. “Have the team come over for a swim after practice,” I told John. They did. Often all of them. A horde of well toned and muscled high school boys would hoot and holler as they cannonballed into the cool blue surface.

Heaven for this teenaged girl.

PHOTO: A recent photo of the author at the beach, since she no longer owns a backyard pool.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Cheryl Levine lives and writes just outside of Boston.