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Ambleside pool fondly remembered on 60th anniversary
Many North Shore residents growing up in the '50s, '60s and '70s took their first swimming lessons at Kingsmen Pool in Ambleside Park.
Overlooking Stanley Park and Lions Gate Bridge, the outdoor pool was once a popular hangout on sunny days.
The photo above was snapped on a busy afternoon in 1954, the year the pool opened.
At first the landmark location was heavily used, but attendance began to decline when the West Vancouver Aquatics Centre was built nearby.
In 1977, less than 11 months after the new indoor facility was created, the Kingsmen Pool was filled in.
This year marks the pool's 60th anniversary.
The landscape has changed — a skatepark and basketball courts now take up the area — but memories haven't faded.
And there are calls to bring back an outdoor pool to West Van.
"[During] hot summers the pool was jammed packed. I remember some days there were so many people that we opted out and swam in the cold ocean instead," said Michael Arnold after The Outlook posted a vintage photo on Facebook.
"I'll always remember the hot days at Ambleside, eating fish and chips and hamburgers, the smell of food and vinegar and the strong smell of coconut oil."
Others remember learning how to swim during the summer when lessons were free. When they got older, the pool turned into a popular place to meet up with friends.
"I just about lived at that pool every summer," fondly recalls Sherry Mauro, who frequently walked the long route from her house in Norgate.
While many good memories exist, Robert Sayer remembers a painful day: "I also remember blowing a dive off the high diving board. Still hurts thinking about it."
Back in the early '50s, Kingsmen Pool cost $65,000 to build and was a collaboration between the Kingsmen's Club, the public and local businesses.
When the aquatics centre was built, the district deemed the pool too costly to operate — money was being lost due to the West Coast's lengthy rainy season despite the pool being heated — and, after 22 years of life, it was filled in.
"I loved that pool!! Bring back outdoor community pools to the North Shore!Vancouver and Burnaby have them," said Patty Clarke, noting the closest outdoor public pool to the North Shore is the New Brighton Pool in Vancouver, which is close to the southern end of the Second Narrows Bridge.
Unfortunately for those in support of an outdoor pool in West Van, the addition likely won't happen.
Demand is already being met by the new West Vancouver Aquatic Centre at 21st Street and Marine Drive, said Jeff MacDonald, spokesman for the District of West Vancouver.
"The numbers have exceeded what anyone thought they would be," he said.
The recently built facility is fancier than the 1950s-era Kingsmen Pool, with an indoor pool, hot tub, waterslide and steam room.
But would a new outdoor pool help revitalize Ambleside?
Drawing people to the waterfront community is one of council's Top 5 priorities for this year. The Ambleside Village Centre Strategy and Ambleside Market Study both outline the steps needed to revitalize the area.
While food carts, a farmers market and sidewalk dining are on the list, an outdoor pool is not.
"There are no plans for that right now," confirms MacDonald.