San Pedro: Gaffey Street Pool

Photo from Flickr

Gaffey street pool in San Pedro is tucked away on the side of a hill along Gaffey near 34th street.  It is in a part of San Pedro heading towards the coastline. I started going to this pool with my older brothers back in the early to mid 90s. They would go every summer almost everyday and come home dark! from the suns rays. When I got a little older I started going with them. I remember once you got to the pool area you literally had to go up some broken wooden stairs along the side of a dirt  hill. When one made it past the deadly stairs you would  then walk a few minutes through an overgrown dirt path onto where the decaying pool facility was located. Now that I think about it it could of been sort of dangerous having to do all that. Gaffey pool was also the place where I first learned to swim. My brother  tried to show me how near the shallow area and I got the hang of it pretty quick. He also threw me in a few times which was not that funny to me!. Gaffey pool was a trip though it was really blue and beautiful compared to the other local pools. The funny thing was that it was also COLD! it could be the hottest day in San Pedro but once you got to the pool it was cold because there was always a cold breeze being it was so close to the ocean. I remember you paid 50 cents and they gave you a netted bag to put your clothes in than you would turn in the bag to a person who than gave u a pin.  Unfortunately they shut down the pool in 1997 which is about 14 years ago now. It was unexpected to us back then, but it was in dire need of repairs. It was not the end to the pool though of course after the pool being abandoned for many years people started tagging and painting in and around it. It became the perfect graffiti yard; they even filmed an episode of Cold Case in the abandoned pool.

I loved Gaffey pool when I was a kid but I also appreciated it when it was abandoned. There has been no word on restoration, I called the department of recreation to find out but no response yet. It would actually be nice if it was restored to its original status. However, I am glad that my brothers and I enjoyed the last of the pool’s history.

Here is an article on the rich history of the pool.

SP military historians, community plunge into effort to restore pool It seems like everyone wants to save the Gaffey Street Pool. Daily Breeze (Torrance, CA) – Monday, April 24, 2000 Author: Donna Littlejohn

Longtime San Pedro residents love to reminisce about the sun-drenched summers they spent splashing in the aqua, blue-tile pool with an ocean view.

For local military historians, the pool in Angels Gate Park represents a priceless treasure from World War II.
But despite the pool ‘s many fans, bringing it back as a Los Angeles city community pool won’t be easy.
Facing up to $1 million in repairs, supporters of a movement to restore the historic pool and reopen it to the public acknowledge it’s an uphill climb.
“With its potential for public use and its historic value, this could all be neatly wound into one very cool community project,” said Steve Nelson, director of the Fort MacArthur Military Museum. “Everybody who comes and looks at it says what a great idea, but there’s no `sugar daddy’ yet.”
The pool , drained in 1997 when repairs were deemed too costly by the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks, sits empty , beneath the cover of trees in the park.
“The pool has historic significance and the community really misses using it,” said Phil Orland, Harbor District supervisor for the Department of Recreation and Parks Pacific Region. “But it’s very costly, and we’ve been waiting for some type of budget to rebuild the bathhouses. We’ve been waiting and waiting.”
Asbestos removal from the changing room bathhouses, and making the pool handicapped accessible complicate the prospects of rehabilitation.
So for now, the pool remains unused — except by vandals who chip away at its historic tiles and apparently warm themselves with bonfires at the bottom of the 10-foot deep section.
Graffiti mars one end of the Olympic-size pool .
An old stairway leading from Gaffey Street up to the pool recently was removed because it was unsafe.
Toni O’Donnell, city pool manager at Banning Pool in Wilmington, began her aquatics career as a junior lifeguard at Gaffey Street Pool at 3351 S. Gaffey St. in the 1970s.
“I’ve always thought that was the most beautiful pool the city has,” O’Donnell said. “I love that pool . It’s a pet project of mine.”
Nelson’s interest in the pool is historical. While he acknowledges it could take years, he’s launched a move to bring it back to its former glory.
The former World War II Army base pool was opened on June 12, 1943, and is part of the military history of Fort MacArthur in San Pedro.
In the 1950s, it was transferred to the city of Los Angeles, serving generations of residents as a community pool .
“This was one of the premiere pools in Los Angeles,” Nelson said.
Slowly, he’s piecing together the history of the pool that was built with funds raised from an Army road show — “Hey, Rookie!” starring red-haired actor Sterling Holloway, who at the time was stationed at Fort MacArthur.
Written as a morale-booster for the troops, “Hey, Rookie!” — an army parody — was featured in local performances at the Belasco Theater in Los Angeles and the Long Beach Municipal Auditorium (April 28 and 29, 1942).
“We had all original music,” said Ralph Fetherolf, 82, of Hesperia, who played clarinet with the show’s band. “There was a lot of comedy and a lot of parody, but there was some serious music, too.”
The original cast billed itself as “The Yardbird Club” and began as a mobile entertainment troupe along the West Coast.
“Troops were stationed all along there, from Huntington Beach to Malibu, and they were not allowed to wander around,” Fetherolf said. “So we went around and played shows for them and that evolved into the show they called `Hey, Rookie!’ ”
After an eight-month stint playing to packed houses at the Belasco Theater and other local spots, the entertainers traveled abroad for two years, putting the show on for troops in North Africa, India and Italy where some members of the cast came under enemy fire.
“I think we entertained more troops than any other one group during World War II,” Fetherolf said, noting that audiences in North Africa sometimes swelled to 11,000.
The road show raised $250,000, which was used to build the Gaffey Street Pool and a second pool that still serves military personnel on Fort MacArthur’s lower reservation — named Hey, Rookie Pool No. 1 and No. 2, respectively.
If the pool is restored, Nelson would like to see the changing rooms preserved as much as possible.
Among his ideas is recreating the “Hey, Rookie!” production as a fund-raiser.
Through contacts with former “Hey, Rookie” band members like Fetherolf and Andrew Ilnicki, 85, of Lawndale, Nelson has managed to collect the sheet music and several programs with photographs from the show.
Holloway, who went on to play on “The Life of Riley” television show from 1953-58 and appeared in numerous other stage, film and television productions, died in 1992 at age 87.
While he doesn’t have a script or film of the show, Nelson does have the 78rpm record albums containing all the show’s musical numbers with titles like “It’s Great To Be in a Uniform” and “I Met a WAC From Hackensack.”
A 16mm color movie was made of one of the performances at the Belasco Theater, Fetherolf said, but he doesn’t know where it is. He said Columbia studios bought the rights to the story and believes a motion picture was eventually made.
The play was viewed by Gens. George Patton and Dwight Eisenhower, who gave it an award.
“People who saw the show back then loved it,” Nelson said. “Would it work today? I don’t know. It was a simpler time and humor wasn’t as sophisticated.”
Nelson, who still has the pool ‘s 1943 dedication plaque at the military museum in Angels Gate Park, hopes someday it will be preserved along with other remaining structures on the old army base as a historic site for future generations.
“A hundred years from now, if this is all still intact, what an absolute gold mine,” he said. Anyone with information or memorabilia of the “Hey, Rookie!” production or of the Gaffey Street Pool during World War II can call Steve Nelson at 310-548-2631.Caption: 1, The once popular Gaffey Street Pool at Angels Gate Park in San Pedro has been dry since 1997. Restoration of the pool would cost an estimated $1 million. Steve Nelson director of the Fort MacArthur Military Museum, hopes to restore the pool to its former glory.

I was not able to locate any photos of the pool back in the days and for sure we never owned a camera. If anybody has any memories or photos I would appreciate seeing them.

I think I wrote this because it is really hot today!





3 thoughts on “San Pedro: Gaffey Street Pool

  1. You know for a fact that if a bunch of rich people lived around there it would get fixed quick. There is always money to keep rich people happy, for the rest its always “oh its expensive.”

  2. Yup! you are right Chavo that area is towards the nice part and am sure they could of helped fixed it but people con dinero are greedy most time!

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