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Natatorium: 1938

Natatorium: 1938

British Mandate Palestine circa 1938. "Jerusalem Y.M.C.A. activities. Swimming pool on boys' day." Medium-format nitrate negative by the American Colony Photo Department/Matson Photo Service. View full size.


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Skinny Dippin'

Its good to see that others here enjoyed skinny dipping in school. We were not allowed to wear suits from 7th through 12th grade, (late 60s - early 70s in Wisconsin), and none of us grew up to be traumatized by it. Curiously, the only people who seem to have a problem with it are those who didn't do it. I've had odd conversations with younger guys who are shocked when they hear we swam in the buff. I found it to be a healthy activity in that it taught us that there is a wide range of normal and none of us had any reason to be ashamed.

We swam naked, too

When I went to high school in Chicago in the 1970s (Lane Technical, Class of 1978), we were required to swim naked, but had to wear bathing caps. The gym teachers told us we had too many oily substances in our hair that would mess up the water quality in the pool. Lane Tech had been an all-boys' high school for many years before I got there, and we still had gender-segregated gym classes in the days before Title IX. I guess things have changed since then.

YMCA Boys' Swimming Attire

Or lack thereof. My mom didn't like us to swim there because of that custom, still prevalent in my 1950s childhood. She was a very proper Midwesterner until her 1988 death.

Been there. Done that.

Back in 1989, I was swimming my daily mile most mornings at the Cedar Rapids, Iowa YMCA. I went to Jerusalem for a wedding and took a bus to the Jerusalem "Y". Apart from everything being in Hebrew Arabic and English, once inside it was just like any other YMCA. Screaming, running kids in "Y" t-shirts, racks of Xeroxed trifold info flyers on colorful Kinkos paper, the smell of gym socks and chlorine. Very ordinary. I presented my Cedar Rapids membership card and without a second's hesitation they tossed me a towel. I guess I hadn't paid attention to the decor, but when I entered the pool room I was stopped by the colorful and intricate mosaic. As it was the water was too warm and brackish and despite a cordon, the pool proved too small for lap swim and the two dozen summer camp kids. Thanks for the memory

Noting The Obvious

The word nattily as in nattily attired was clearly not derived from the word natatorium.

Jerusalem Deco

Completed in 1933, the Jerusalem International YMCA is notable for its romantic exteriors and highly decorative architectural features, such as the mosaics and ceiling stencils in the indoor swimming pool. Now known as the YMCA's Three Arches Hotel, the complex was designed by New York architect Arthur Loomis Harmon (1878-1958), a partner in the firm of Shreve, Lamb & Harmon, that also designed the Empire State Building. Here's a photo found online that gives some idea of the pool's colorful decor.

The "Nat"

The glorious name of our Depression-built swimming pool in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, and home of many great memories, especially the first time leap from the 20-foot board.

Just to let you know

I will NOT be colourising this picture :0

Hey! They're all naked!

It really is the Y!

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