Looking Back: Going for a swim in Centennial Pool

A weekly column highlighting the rich history of Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows

Not even sunburns and chlorine could keep kids away from Centennial Pool during the summer.

“On a hot day, there was often standing room only in the pool, with lots of kids sun tanning on the lower deck,” described Susan Greenwell.

“When it was first opened,” Jaime Brown grinned, “it was a big hit.”

Centennial Pool, which was selected as the community’s B.C. Centennial project, cost $55,000 to build. Located behind the police station and on the land where Maple Ridge High School stood before the fire a few years before, the pool officially opened on July 12th, 1958 at 7:30 p.m. by the Lyle Wicks, MLA for Dewdney at the time.

A Gazette article quoted Mr. Wicks at the opening ceremonies:

“The opening of the Maple Ridge Centennial Swimming Pool marks another important milestone in the progress of Maple Ridge as a community … The hardy pioneers of but 100 years ago, if they could but see us now would be very envious, indeed; and yet they would be grateful to know that all their efforts in building our province, through numerous trials and tribulations, were not in vain.”

The outdoor pool, kept open even on rainy days, was heated by natural gas and had its water filtered on a constant basis. It was six lanes wide, 25 meters long, 12 feet deep at the far end, and had three diving boards: a three meter high board and two smaller one meter boards on either side in the deep end.

The facility included a small playground that had swings, teeter-totters and a merry-go-round, which eventually had to be removed after one-too-many overly excited children fell off of it.

Karen Reed Straker remembered the old pool tickets and admission booth: “Our family would go to the pool as often as we could. My parents would pre-purchase pool tickets for our entry. It was a small orange card with our family name on the top and then the list of kids either on the front or the back depending on how many names there were. I think the card had three rows of five squares and the lady taking admissions would just place an ‘X’ in the box for each entry until the card was filled.”

Straker even remembered the ticket booth attendant. “The lady at the admission booth had a great head of red hair and her name was Mrs. Kirkpatrick, I think. She seemed to know all the kids by sight and would have your card out and ready before you even had a chance to say your name.”

In later years, the arena and library were added to the pool complex, with unforeseen consequences for swimmers.

“The buildings were concrete block and came up to the edge of the deck on both the east and south sides. The sun would blast into the pool and because it was now surrounded by concrete block, the temperature on deck would skyrocket,” Greenwell said. “Course, when we got too hot, we would just jump into the water. Such a hardship.”

Centennial Pool was eventually replaced with the new Leisure Centre facility, which opened on Saturday, Oct. 24, 1981.

Sandra Borger is a researcher at the Maple Ridge Museum.