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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Sunday Swimmers: 1942

Sunday Swimmers: 1942

July 1942. "Washington, D.C. Sunday swimmers at the municipal swimming pool." Photo by Marjory Collins for the Office of War Information. View full size.

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People are definitely heavier

I don't know the relative prevalence of fat shaming then and now, but it is definitely true that people are much heavier then they were years ago. Here's a link to a CDC study from 2004 showing how much things had changed from 1960 to 2002:

Americans Slightly Taller, Much Heavier Than Four Decades Ago

People got somewhat taller, but also "the average weight for men aged 20-74 years rose dramatically from 166.3 pounds in 1960 to 191 pounds in 2002, while the average weight for women the same age increased from 140.2 pounds in 1960 to 164.3 pounds in 2002."

The Human Experience

It's interesting (and a little unsettling, I guess) to think that almost all of the young, fit folks in this photo went on to experience war, love, age, and loss, and are now happily splashing in that Great Municipal Pool in the Sky.

On overweight

Let's remember a lot of these people had grown up doing physical labor on the farm or in a factory, had suffered some deprivation during the Depression, and were at this moment subject to wartime rationing. I am guessing that if we had the same thing going on today, our society would be a lot thinner, too.

Regarding why a lot of people are standing around and not in the water, that's exactly what I see in the water parks around where I live today. Lots of people sunbathing around the pool while a minority cools off in the pool. It's more a social event and a time to cool off from the July heat than actual swimming.

The Big Picture

Obesity comments have been made more than once in these pages. Here's one I remembered clearly:

-- with not one but two overweight comments.


Lack of overweight people is more likely the fact that people were thinner then. And many, if not most, of the men around the pool were in the army, which might also contribute to their trim physiques.

From this angle, the guy diving in might be the heaviest of the group. Maybe he's embarrassed?

Not everything requires a social justice rationale.

["The guy" is a doll. - Dave]

"Slim Jims"?

By that logic, this photo would be "evidence that people of color in Washington is a modern affliction."

More likely, social factors, including comments like GeeBax's, keep heavy people out of swimming pools. Legal and social factors kept people of color out of swimming pools in Washington in 1942.


How times have changed, both from before, and from now. I don't think that I see any male with a covered chest or thighs.

No blur

I think of all the early city scenes I have seen on Shorpy over the years with the moving ghosts. How the the technology changed to allow a person, just left of the lifeguard tower, to dive with no blur.

Standing room only

This is so crowded it's making me claustrophobic. Can anybody explain why they're all standing around? The ones in the back look like they're queuing up, but for what? My only guess is there are limits on how many people can be in the water at the same time.

Slim Jims

Interesting to note that there is not a single person in sight that would fit the description of "fat." Evidence that obesity is a modern affliction.

SHORPY OLD PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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