In the mid-1920’s President Marquis initiated a school improvement program. One item on the list was the construction of a swimming pool. Plans for the pool were prepared by a committee that included Hugo J. P. Vitz, an industrial arts faculty member, J. W. Smith, P. E. McDonald, and L. T Millican, a contractor. This group visited pools in Dallas and Fort Worth to decided on the type of pool they felt would best meet the needs of the campus. Professor Vitz drew up the plans.
The pool was under construction in 1926 and was opened and dedicated on July 2 of the same year. Men and women used the pool at different times and all students had access to swimming lessons (beginners, advanced, and lifesaver training).
The college did not have formal swim teams, though the students organized swim clubs, the Dolphins for women and the Hobos for men. To become a member of the Dolphins club, students had to pass a try-out that included a 100-yard swim using two different strokes in good form, a fifty-yard swim on back, float, do a plane front dive, and retrieve an object in eight feet of water from a surface dive.
The Hobo Swimming Club, a competitive swimming organization, was organized by Francis Stroup, Gene Wilkins, and Bob Hutcheson. Francis Stroup would go on to UNT fame as the composer of the Fight Song (“Fight, North Texas”). The Hobos participated in diving and swimming events and meets. The members were good enough to earn a place in multiple state meets.
The Dolphins held an annual water carnival, or water pageant, at the close of the summer in the 1920s and 1930s. This could include demonstrations of diving, life saving techniques, swim races, or skits that involved story telling combined with swimming exhibitions. In some years the Hobos volunteered participate in the show.
In 1928, the show started with swimmers, each holding a lighted candle as they swam from one side of the pool to the other. The performance centered around a character called “Mr. Sinkeasy” taking his children swimming. The evenings entertainment included demonstrations of the crawl stroke, side stroke, log rolling, balloon races, and diving (as individuals and as a group). Mr. Sinkeasy spent the performance on a chair on one of the diving boards. He “finally became so engrossed in two flappers that he lost his balance and fell into the pool.”
The pool provided an important gathering and recreation spot for students. More importantly, having a pool on campus provided generations of students with swimming and diving skills that they could use for the rest of their lives.
Takes me back. I practically lived in that pool all summer in the early 1950’s.
M T Tabor
In May, 1955, I was a student at North Texas State College. I heard the Red Cross was offering a class on qualifying to become a lifeguard. It would be a class of several sessions and would be held at the campus pool. There was no charge, so I immediately signed up. Our class was required to swim the length of the pool and back. We had to find and retrieve a rock weighting about ten pounds from the bottom of the pool. I assume this rock represented a drowned person. We had to rescue a classmate who was dead in the water, and also rescue a drowning student who was resisting, panicking and fighting. We had to bring this pretend victim to the side of the pool. I thoroughly enjoyed this class, but the water was very cold, and no classes were cancelled. I received a cloth life saver patch which I sewed on my swim suit. I never worked as a lifeguard, but I was proud of that badge.
I graduated from North Texas on August 24, 1955.