Commentary: Sight of East Providence High School pool still evokes lasting memories

By Michael Pare
Posted 8/8/19

Summer nights bring me back to the sound of my father’s flip-flops as we walked from the car toward the high school — tightly rolled towels in our hands. Once inside, the unmistakable …

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Commentary: Sight of East Providence High School pool still evokes lasting memories

Posted

Summer nights bring me back to the sound of my father’s flip-flops as we walked from the car toward the high school — tightly rolled towels in our hands. Once inside, the unmistakable smell of chlorine meant we were close.
Isn’t it funny how certain memories stay with you? The mind is a bit of a trickster, I guess. The bestselling novel you read last summer — or yesterday’s lunch — fade into oblivion. Other memories remain vivid, surviving decades.
Tom Pare died a few years ago, at 91. He was both strong and gentle. I could not have asked for a better father. I am blessed with wonderful memories of growing up on Rosemere Drive, a dead-end at the corner of North Broadway and Massasoit Avenue.
There were nightly walks with the dog. We would pass Treglia’s Market and then walk along the highway that was never finished, near Orlo Avenue School. There were endless games of catch and hours shooting free throws on the basketball court that remains in that yard today. My father always had time for me, the last of his four sons.
Oddly enough, a story in this paper about the construction of a new high school got me thinking about all of this — but mostly, about that pool. Though I never attended East Providence High School, I did learn to swim there in the early 70s. Alice Sullivan, a pioneer in high school sports, is standing on the pool deck. Dozens of us line up along the edge, shivering. At the sound of the whistle, we are to jump in and tread water! I am not sure what it means to “tread water,” but somewhere between the leap and coming up for air, I figure it out.
Memories of summer nights at family swim remain especially vivid. It was a simpler time, for sure. The rolled up towel was all we needed — no gym bags packed like carry-on luggage like people use today. I remember walking though that shower maze on the way to the pool, the water pre-set to “cold enough to keep us moving.”
I can still see my father holding onto the side with arms outstretched, kicking his feet. He always seemed content.
I know that pool has been closed for years. But even today I take comfort envisioning the large windows looming over the parking lot. The plans for your new high school look beautiful. It is time. The families in your city, the students, and teachers deserve such a setting.
So I’ll hold onto these memories, even when that pool is gone for good. I know some of them will never fade. Like the smell of that chlorine — and the sound of my father’s flip-flops.

Mr. Pare is an English teacher at LaSalle Academy. He also teaches a journalism course at Providence College.

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