ORINDA PARK POOL HISTORY
Orinda Park Pool is quite unique, and our community includes many families who've been members for 50 years or more. We thought you might enjoy the following sections on OPP's long, rich history:
1922-23, note island on the left with trees
1922-23, Peg Kirby in the middle
1922-23, Peg Kirby in sombrero
1922-23, a popular equestrian destination
1933, still a tree on the island
1950's, Jerry Kirby
1950's, Johny Kirby
The Matriarch of Park Pool
She's a legend.
Peg Kirby Harris is the gruff, but soft, matriarch of the Orinda Park Pool (OPP). She has been the dominant force at the pool for over 30 years.
"There would not be an OPP without Peg. Peg will survive longer than OPP," said Hugh Rieger. Hugh, and his wife, Marge have been OPP members since 1949.
"Peg has so many roles: mother, grandmother, coach, lifeguard, and confidant. . . and these all get rolled into one," he went on to say.
"Peg is OPP," stated Marge. She first recalls Peg in the 1950s even before Peg became a lifeguard.
"I was watching my daughter, Shelley, on the pool lawn. Peg's son John was a in a baby buggy right next to us. He somehow fell out of the buggy, but since he was strapped in, he wasn't able to go too far. I wondered, 'who's responsible for this child?'"
"Just then, Peg turned around. She matter of factly just put John back in the buggy. That's how I got to know Peg."
Peg's title is now Pool Supervisor. She still likes to work with the young six and-under swimmers. Marge talked about her daughter Barbara's first experience with Peg and the OPP swim team.
"Barbara was less than five. She had had just one workout. Peg was so confident in Barbara, that she put her in a swim meet the next day. She told Barbara that she had to swim the anchor leg on a relay and reminded her'remember, swim to the wall."
"Sure enough, Barbara took Peg to her word. She swam the length of the pool without a breath, and finished face first in the wall."
Marge was never ending in her praise of Peg: "I will be eternally grateful to Peg."
"I could never have done without her. She taught all my kids to swim. She is the salvation of swimming. I felt safe, knowing that we could go on a fanlily vacation . and be safe in the water."
"Peg has a heart as big as all outdoors."
Joyce and Joe Lipovac have been OPP members for 28 years.
Joyce remembers walking her daughter, Helgi, down to the pool.
"At first, Helgi would just scream at the cold water. So, I didn't force her to swim. She did watch another swimmer (Roxanne Eldred, now Roxanne Weiber) and tried to copy her strokes."
"Peg decided it was time for Helgi to get involved with the swim team and put her in a meet. Just before that first race, Peg said dryly 'I hope she remembers what stroke to do."
Joyce remembers how Helgi's legs used to shake on the starting blocks before the start of a race. She explained:
"Helgi was a shy girl. Peg helped her gain confidence through swimming. Youngsters trust Peg, they believe in her. She projects confidence to them."
"Peg is a grand lady," concluded Joyce.
Joe Lipovac added:
"There is absolutely no one who knows OPP better than Peg. If Peg were to leave the pool, she had better write everything down (about the workings of the pool) because we're up a creek without her."
"Peg is the Casey Stengel of swimming," observed Bob Bailey, OPP pool manager.
Bailey was a lifeguard at OPP in 1958 and coached the swim team in 1964 and 1965 when OPP won backto-back county swim titles. He has seen changes at OPP; Peg is not one of them.
"You always know where you stand with Peg."
"We had fewer coaches in those days. Peg, Jerry (Kirby) and I worked with the entire team. Most of the time, swim team workouts were posted on a blackboard. We used swim team time for instruction, the kids were really good about working out on their own. Sometimes, we worked out at Orinda Country Club their pool was heated."
"The six and unders trust Peg like their mother."
"She never pressures them; she only asks that they go as far as they can; she tells them 'dog paddle if you have to'."
Peg used to be the starter for the young swimmers. Occasionally, if one was late off the mark, Peg would not hesitate to give a quick push to aide the youngster along. She also gave encouragement to novice swimmers during the course of a race by walking next to them or signaling from the barrier.
"She's certainly a legend here," remarked Bob Haase, OPP head coach.
"Peg may be rough around the edges, but she has a heart of gold."
"She works really well with the younger kids. Heck, she's taught many of their parents to swim."
"Kids look forward to having her teach them. They love her, she loves them."
"She's good," chimed in Koss Marlowe, an OPP six and under. "She told me (to keep my) 'arms out on (butter) fly,"', as he demonstrated what Peg had showed him.
Dina Eldred swam for OPP for 12 years. She remembers:
"Peg and her son Jerry helped me across the pool when I was just getting started."
Married, now Dina Fiatarone, she now brings her family up to the pool.
"When my son Carlo first started to swim at age seven, Peg took him aside with the six~and-under swimmers. She helped him develop his strokes. This allowed him to break in easily and develop confidence. He was not forced along too quickly."
"Peg has always been there; she will always be there."
"She has a wonderful sense of humor; she's comfortable to be around; she's cool."
Tom Appelbaum was raised just up the street from OPP. His family were members. Tom was a lifeguard at OPP from 1969-1973.
Tom has come back to OPP with his family. He noted:
"It's a great feeling to see my daughter (Ariel, age 5) with Peg. Even though she is not yet enrolled in lessons, Peg takes the time to walk by and give her a tip like 'don't forget to keep your arms straight.' "
"That one little helpful hint every day is very meaningful. It goes a long way."
"In her dealings with the six-and-under swimmers, she can be simultaneously gruff and yet attractive at the same time.
Tom is now on the OPP board. He helps supervise the maintenance. He said, "Ninety-nine percent of what I know about the workings of OPP has come from Peg."
"You have to earn Peg's respect, you don't just get it. Peg knows where you are coming from."
"OPP is very lucky to have Peg. She is a grand ole dame."
Peg reflected on her tenure at OPP:
"I've not seen any real big changes. Things have stayed about the same. The membership is about the same. . . except now, everyone has kids."
She loves the wonderful OPP atmosphere:
"We've got members here who come from as far away as SF. Why? They've checked the pools in the city and Marin County, and they've found no pool that compares to OPP. They don't mind making the short drive across the bridge to come here."
In regards to the enduring appeal of OPP, Peg said:
"I think the main attraction of OPP has to do with its peaceful setting among the trees in the Orinda hills, plus the pool's unique construction."
Peg's main concern is always safety.
"I'm always concerned with the prevention of accidents. My most important job is to make sure that all the lifeguards are able to forsee an accident before it happens."
"I can never sit back. I am always worried that something might happen. It takes only a moment for an accident to happen."
Peg is proud of the disciplined and structured environment at OPP.
"We have never lost a kid here."
"I try to run a tight ship. The staff is great. . . I've probably taught more than half of them to swim."
"OPP is one of the best pools around. It's a total family pool."
There is a mystique that surrounds Peg. New members don't really know how to react to Peg when they first encounter her. She can be both gruff and soft at the same time.
Joyce and Joe Lipovac remembered "When we first became members, we were scared to death of Peg. . . but, once we got to know her. . . well, she's just a big pussycat."
Peg is emphatic that youngsters "DON'T RUN!" Just as quickly, however, a youngster with a scrape can "Come to Peg" or "Come to Gramma" and receive a comforting word, an embrace, and a therapeutic bandaid.
From The History of Orinda by Muir Sorrick, published by The Friends of the Orinda Library:
"...In 1921 deLaveaga began to prepare his property for subdividing. He built a small lake on the hilly property on the west side of the highway and put in winding roads - Ardilla, El Toyonal, Canon Drive, Vallecito Lane, La Madronal and El Rincon. The lake was called Lake Orinda, which was the name of the first deLaveaga subdivision and, later became as it is today - the Orinda Park Pool. To supply the prospective homes with water, an elaborate system of springs, wells, water pumps, tanks, valves, siphons, cut-offs, and trails was developed. The springs were given charming names such as: Fern, South Fork, Twin, Middle Fork, Quail, Toyonal, Coal, Rabbit and Current Springs. Every drop of water that could be found was used, and Lake Orinda was a catch basin.
"By 1924 the bottom of Lake Orinda had been cemented, the grounds had been converted into a picnic area, and a bathhouse built. The place was used for prospective customers to swim and picnic, as well as for the new residents who were now on the property. Not only could people from the city come to look over the new prospective subdivision in Orinda, but also could have a pleasant day in the country. Nearby was the subdivision office, and , on the highway that ran through the area, which would soon be the Orinda Village, a large sign with an arrow pointed the way up the hill to Lake Orinda.
"The pool became rather neglected after the financial depression of 1929. Then, in 1931, the grounds were leased to Joseph Wear. A small building was erected, the grounds were fenced, and he opened the pool to the public. Wear also built a dance platform. Sometimes during good weather, on Sundays and holidays, the crowds of people who came would be very large. After a few summers, homeowners began to be distressed by the numbers of strangers who came to enjoy the day and evening, increasing the noise from the pool area with its music and traffic.
"In 1937, Warren Harrold, A.W Elkinton and other neighbors, serving as a special committee of the Orinda Improvement Association, met with Ned and Dick deLaveaga who represented the owners of the pool. As a result of this meeting, the nonprofit organization, Orinda Park Pool, Inc., was founded. The pool was leased for a three year period. In the spring of 1938 the pool was opened as a private club with the grand opening on Saturday May 14. Dues were $20 per family per year or $10 for a single person."