Jean Carroll got the call on July 3, 1941.
It was an official from the City of Seattle Parks Department inviting Jean and her best friend Marie Blyth to be the first people to swim in the Colman Pool at the edge of Lincoln Park in West Seattle.
Carroll was 14 years old and Blyth was 13. They both loved to swim. In fact, Jean had been competing since she was 8-years-old when she took second place in the Dead Man’s Float competition.
Carroll and Blyth were tandem swimmers and they were going to perform at the opening ceremony on July 4 the next day. The park official wanted to give them a chance to test out the waters.
Colman Pool started out as the old Lincoln Tide Pool.
“Some people called it the mud hole,” said Carroll, who turns 90 in September. “It wasn’t really mud, just dirty water.”
She said water from Puget Sound would fill the hole during high tide on Sundays, and then life guards would block the water with a tide gate made of boards. When the tide receded, the water remained in the hole. By Monday morning they had a pool.
“We would have that water in the pool the whole seven days,” said Carroll, who still lives near the pool in West Seattle. “It was pretty nice.”
By 1940, the tide gate was in disrepair and the swimming hole was reduced to a puddle. That’s when Carroll’s mother and another woman from the Lincoln Park neighborhood started a petition to encourage the city to build what would eventually become the Colman Pool.
The Olympic-sized salt water pool was completed in the summer of 1941 and donated to the City of Seattle by the Colman family in honor of Laurence Colman, a civic leader.
Carroll says that that first summer the pool was very popular. The line of kids waiting to plunge into the salty waters snaked out the door and down the front path. Kids would have two hours to swim and then get out in order to let the next group in.
“It was just jam packed, every single day," Carroll says. “It was just a plain lot of fun. Just a good time. I had a great childhood.”