The Demise of Bowman Pool and Roy C. Start High School as I Knew It

In 1965, the West Toledo YMCA built an outdoor, Olympic-sized swimming pool. I was ten. The pool had a shallow end, a deep end, a slide, an island, and a diving pool. It had Olympic race lanes where I swam many a quarter-mile.

I walked to the pool, Bowman,  from my house, which was half a mile away, pretty much every day that it was open. The neighborhood kids and I would watch the weather report or call Time and Temperature to make sure that it had opened on iffy days. One of the nice things was that even when the weather was chilly, if it had been warm for a couple of days before, the water was still warm. I remember swimming at Bowman one fall weekend and hearing the cheers from the the football field at Roy C. Start High School next door.

I graduated from Start in 1973. I have to admit that high school was not a favorite part of my life, but still, I spent a lot of time walking to and from that school, attending classes and going to football games and basketball games. My older sister was a member of Start’s first graduating class in 1965. She started high school at DeVilbiss High, from which our older brother graduated, but once Start was completed, our house was past the DeVilbiss line. She had to change schools.

Out of the two structures, I think I will miss Bowman more. It was a place to get away, a place where you could meet friends or be occupied all by yourself. The new, improved Start will have its own swimming pool. Will the kids who swim there hear echoes of the ones who swam at Bowman so long ago?


21 Responses to “The Demise of Bowman Pool and Roy C. Start High School as I Knew It”

  1. 1 Mark Simon April 21, 2008 at 9:42 am

    Just dropped by and read your blog about Start. I am a 1976 Start grad, and also miss the old School and Bowman. I used to DJ official parties at Bowman in the summer. It’s kind of ironic now…My fiance’s son is a Freshman at the new Start. Everything in life renews and starts over again at soe time.

    I was telling someone about Bowman Pool today…When I Googled “Bowman Pool” YMCA Toledo, your blog is the only thing to come up. How sad. Wasn’t it the largest pool in the country when it was built in 65, and yet today there is nothing but your blog on the Web to talk about it.

    A lost chapter in history? I hope not. Mark Simon

  2. 2 Becky April 21, 2008 at 5:55 pm

    Thanks for your comment. Like you said, everything in life renews. Bowman lives on in more memories than ours, I’d bet. I do wish I had some pictures, though.

  3. 3 Casey Toledo August 16, 2008 at 10:59 pm

    I was looking online just a couple of weeks ago to see if Bowman was still around… but it wasnt/isnt I see 😦 Makes me sad because that was a fun destination to go every summer when I was younger.

    Are there any other swimming complexes in toledo?!

  4. 4 Becky August 17, 2008 at 7:48 pm

    I no longer live in Toledo, Casey, but I’m sure there’s something around. Thanks for stopping by to share your memory.

  5. 5 Steven December 22, 2008 at 4:40 pm

    I, too, google’d ‘Bowman Pool’ to see what I could find. I moved out of the Toledo area to Sylvania when I was 8 years old. I went to Blessed Sacrament (right down the road), and fondly remember this pool.

    Due to my youth, it probably is not as big as I remember it. Everything as a kid is always bigger than it is as an adult. =] For some reason.. I was always afraid of the black race lines in the water. Dunno why?

    I don’t ever head out that way anymore. A lot of things I wonder about… North Towne Mall was another location I enjoyed.

    Such is life.

  6. 6 Jeff Palicki January 23, 2009 at 10:28 pm

    Bowman Pool…
    AH! When I was 14 my Girlfriend lived on California Blvd,
    near Detroit Ave. She’d pick me up on Sunset Blvd., and we’d walk the almost three miles up Eleanor Ave, cut through
    the park at the end, over the rr tracks, and to Bowman Pool.
    We’d stay the whole day, and walk back around 7pm.
    We’d Hold Hands all the way there & back.

    Us guys would “dare” to go off the 12 meter high-dive into
    the 12 foot deep well, everyone watching. On Hot days the Grassy Knoll that surrounded the entire pool was filled with Beach Towels, 100 Toddlers in the 6″ shallow end.

    My friend Al Vogel & I would walk around & around Bowman Pool, checking-out the chicks, eyes behind sunglasses,
    the Who playing over the loudspeakers. It was 1969!!!
    There were serious AAU Swim Meets held there also.

    Thanks for the Memories!!!!….Jeff

  7. 8 amy January 24, 2009 at 5:52 pm

    I fondly remember Bowman, sis. I sort of learned to swim there, went there, as you know, with our family until I was old enough to ride a bike there with you or by myself. It was a great social gathering place throughout grade school, high school, also at Start, and into college. The last time I remember going there was about my 2nd or 3rd year at UT.

    I do greatly miss it, I wanted to take the kids there and now that they’re all great swimmers, its not there anymore.

  8. 9 thecasualgameguy June 27, 2009 at 11:43 am

    My friends and I used to go to Bowman pool in the ’70s. I now live in Georgia, and my wife and I were lamenting how our local pools are only open during the hottest part of the day, so I told her about how I used to love biking to Bowman in the evenings for a cool swim. Made me nostalgic so I Googled it and found this blog entry. Thanks for posting it and keeping it up. Bowman was a great.

  9. 10 Linda August 12, 2009 at 11:37 am

    Was just talking with a my friend from DeVeaux Jr. High. We went there back in 1983. I lived on Algonquin so I was Devilbiss area and she was on Templar so she was Start area. I would bike over to her house all summer and then we would spend all day at Bowman lathered up with baby oil to literally get burnt to a crisp! I never did have the nerve to go off the 12 meter dive. It was a wonderful pool and it was huge! I’m hoping she has some pictures of Bowman…Thanks for the memories…

  10. 11 Bev Foster September 24, 2009 at 7:34 pm

    I worked at Bowman from 1973 until 1978 and it was the greatest summer job anyone could ever ask for! What a phenomenal complex. There were many days in the summer when we would have 3,000 people in the pool and it was an amzaing thing to behold. We could scuba dive in the flter room and vacuuming the pool bottom was the best thing to diving Toledo could offer. I was sad to hear it had been torn down, as well as Start – good memories!

  11. 12 Ned Wright November 4, 2009 at 11:19 am

    I grew up on Belmar Ave. near the Westwood theatre. I attended Longfellow and Start (’74) and have very pleasant memories of Bowman pool as well as Start. The pool was way ahead of its time in features(over 1/2 acre surface area)with a near “walk in” shallow area (1′ deep) all the way to low, medium, & high dives, and an olympic sized lane pool for meets. I used to get so frustrated at having to get out of the pool at the 45 minute mark each hour for 15 minutes of rest. If you were over 18 it was Ok to stay in the water for an “adult time” swim. Oh those were the days!

    I went to the pool mostly during ’69, ’70, & 71. The pool opened at 9:00 and I would get there right at the bell to practice diving since I could simply dive in and repeatedly get on the board without a wait.

    This pool died without a wimper. There was no uproar when the new plans were announced for Start and it was obvious that it was to be built over the current pool site. Not only wasn’t there an upraor but there were virtually no objections at all. By 2003 the demographics of the area and the world had changed. Kids no longer seek outside activities in the summer as their means to an enjoyable day. Today’s kids get enjoyment from video games surrounded in an air-conditioned environment. Working moms and day care also contributed to an attendance decline since mom’s couldn’t spend as much time with their younger children poolside.

    The city of Toledo only maintains five or six outside pools due to tough economic conditions. I believe these are Detwiler, Willeys, Collins, and maybe Highland. The rest are idle and decaying.

    I really don’t miss the old Start as much as I do the pool. The old Start will be forgotten so quickly it will make ones head spin. However, the memories of Bowman will live on since it was a unique time in our city and nations history when demographics, money, and interests conincided to make a large outdoor pool a popular and successful venue for families, kids, adults, and teenagers!

    Goodbye Bowman!

  12. 13 Chris Sobieniak January 30, 2010 at 2:04 am

    Having had cheap folks, I never had a Y membership, so I never did swim in that pool myself besides standing there at the gate wishing I did. 😦

    I also went to Scott for a couple years to take gym classes in the summer (so I could take something else during the regular school year).

    You outta see what that area looks like these days. Scott is ridiculously SMALL! And now that they’re renovating Scott High School right now, they shipped all those guys over to DeVilbiss for the time being. Oh well, they have the money to blow on this now, it’s their own fault. I’m glad I went to Whitmer where none of that may never happen thanks to being a smaller district!

  13. 14 Oz July 14, 2010 at 3:36 pm

    What an old memory. You write very well Becky. My wife and I graduated in 73 from Start. I played for the football team ; varsity three years.

    We probably know you.

    Bowman opened up a lot of us to a crossover of people in life and gave us a great place to stay out of trouble and kill the boredom when you look back.

    It really was a fantastic and socially responsible accomplishment for all of us at a very difficult time in many ways.

    Thank you for sharing.


  14. 16 Rick VanSice July 22, 2010 at 3:57 pm

    I grew up on Kepler and we had an in-ground pool at the time, but I surely remember all my friends and I who would go hang out around Bowman (never had a Y membership either)…went to Start in ’71 and eventually moved to Detroit area in ’73, graduating up here. BUT…the friends I had in Toledo were the best…and the fact the Start was being torn down was a sad sign of the times I guess. A shame that the pool is gone…but one of you git it right; the kids now want nothing to do but play X-Box or whatever inside!! WHAT A SHAME.

  15. 17 Erin October 3, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    Hi all!
    What great memories you all shared about our beloved Bowman. I grew up in Westmoreland, attending Gesu for grade school. Growing up our mom would drive my 5 siblings and I over to Bowman, we would run as fast as we could across the hot black top to the pool. Why we didn’t bother with shoes, I don’t know. We stayed the whole day swimming each summer day. Eventually my parents built our own pool and our Bowman summers came to an end, with the occasional trip with a friend.
    After I got married and had my first son, we became Y members and enjoyed Bowman for 3 more years. We were so sad when we found out Bowman would be torn down, but they sold us Y members on a new indoor/outdoor pool. They claimed they were losing money hand over fist trying to run Bowman. In the last years, it was old and in needing repairs, but we enjoyed it more than words can say.
    I have pictures of that last summer, the whale on the bottom of the shallow end, the frog slide, the high dive and racing slides.
    Now, my family and I enjoy those same racing slides at the East Y. Yes the East Y has Olympic length lap lanes, (which is great for the swim team) but it’s not even close to what Bowman was. The new West Y pool is great as well, but it’s totally indoors!

    We still lament the loss of Bowman but take solace in other decent pools we have around the city.

  16. 18 Rick Schoenhofer October 27, 2010 at 5:45 pm

    Had alot of fun swimming at bowman back in the late 60s and early 70s. Lived on Belmar Ave between Royalton and Eleanor Ave.We used to walk up Eleanor and cross Jackman into Dibble Park which I believe was owned by the Dupont plant. Anyway we would cut through Dibble, go through a hole in the fence, cross the railroad tracks,and then we would be in Bowman park. I spent alot of time in both of those parks. If we weren’t swimming at Bowman we were playing baseball at dibble. I only attended Start High for 2yrs, 70-72 and then we moved to Northwood.I now live in Perrysburg and don’t get over that way much anymore but the last time I was over there I didn’t recognize a thing. Kinda sad but that’s progress I guess.

  17. 19 Allyson November 11, 2010 at 4:10 pm

    I too, google’d Bowman Pool, after touring the new facility recently. Was sad to see it go, being that is where I learned to swim, and was a member of the swim team many years ago.

  18. 21 Ned November 18, 2010 at 1:07 pm

    Rick S.:

    I remember you. I believe you went to St. Catherines for grade school and then to Start as you state. You were a big kid for your age. We lived on the same street (Belmar) but different blocks and different grade schools. That’s a big barrier when one’s young. I played baseball with you several times at Dibble. I was semi-friends with Charlie Gilsdorf, the O’neills and the Mitchells from your block of Belmar. I didn’t hang out with them but knew them well enough. I was always on the playground at Longfellow doing all sorts of sports. I lived on that playground. Nobody logged more hours than I did.I lived in the first block near Sylvania. see my earlier post. I believe a kid from the second block ws my paper-boy – Olson(?). Yeah- I knew you went to Start and then disappered.

    Thanks for the post and the shared memories!

    Best regards,
    Ned Wright

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