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Winnebago Community celebrates 50 years of swimming

By Staff | Jul 1, 2018

The Winnebago Pool has been giving its community some summer fun for 50 years.

According to long-time Winnebago resident Milli Hanson, “it all started with an idea for a pool by the local pharmacist, Ben Callanan.”

Local historians say the now 50-year-old community pool based in Winnebago was a coming together of local hands and minds of multiple communities. Those communities included Amboy, Huntley, Delavan and Winnebago who all worked together to fund the development of the pool.

“There was a large amount of volunteer labor to raise funds,” says Hanson. “Kids were doing a lot of that labor, too, with lemonade stands, book drives, Bingo parties, raking lawns. Everyone pitched in.”

Where the United Hospital District’s clinic is now, there was a large thermometer painted on the side of the building to see the community pool fund grow.

According to Hanson, who is a volunteer at the Winnebago Area Museum and a member of the Ladies Brunch in Winnebago (who have helped fund updates for the pool on more than one occasion since its beginning), says the Ladies Brunch is “the longest unorganized successful organization around.” Each Friday during the summer, local ladies would come together and take turns making brunch. Attendees were charged $1 and the funds were used to purchase items for the pool.

Stay at home mothers had the opportunity to get out of the house and commune with other mothers without their kids attached to their hip for a change though those same kids hung on the fence until the pool opened back up for free swimming time.

“It all added up from little to really big items throughout the years,”?says Hanson. “At that time, ladies had the pool to themselves from 12-3 p.m.”

The organization continues today, with a rate of $2 for brunch costs; consider it inflation over the 50 years. And the pool hours are now just from 12-2 p.m.

“It was started to raise money for extras needed at the pool. Things like swimming lesson equipment, and most recently, last fall the group presented the City of Winnebago with $421 towards a new lifeguard chair.

“It is so great to realize the excitement and laughing from the first summer of fun for all ages is still playing out after 50 years,” says Hanson.

Statistics from the most recent Winnebago Fun Fest free-swim day brought in around 500 swimmers.

At its beginning, more than one city council meeting was devoted to the plan, while multiple minds merged to bring together a great idea for an even greater community outreach.

Dr. Roger Hanson was also involved in the history of the pool. From deciding what area to place the pool to the type of pool to build, it was said Hanson was just one of very many who had a say in what went on.

Dudley and Evelyn Krause were also greatly involved and helped to finish the concrete around the deck of the pool.

“We had to wait an entire year to begin building our new home because of Dudley’s priority to the pool,” says Evelyn Krause with a fond remembrance of her late husband.

But it seems though this pool was built half a century ago, the memories are still crisp in the minds of many families that are from Winnebago. Though the high dive may no longer exist, the memories of overcoming the fear of the great height to dive in are still as fresh as the water today.

Families who remember, as kids, raising funds for the pool by raking leaves and selling lemonade; families who remember being lifeguards at the pool only to see their own children become lifeguards themselves; families who have not only invested time and money in their local swimming pool, but invested so many fond memories as well.

This is the pool that a community truly built. All hands on deck, all feet in water. A group of area families came together to use their voices and hands to put together something their community desperately wanted.

And now, 50 years later, a celebration is set to take place this Friday, July 6, to celebrate the Winnebago Swimming Pool and the many hearts and hands that dove into the idea of bringing the pool to life.

Beginning at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, all swimmers are welcome to attend for the Ladies Brunch price of yesteryear: just one dollar. And with that dollar, the Ladies Brunch group will be serving baked goods, hot dogs, chips, and root beer floats. Games and even an event regarding the history of Winnebago’s beloved pool will be happening as well.

And what will all of these funds go to?

The pool, naturally.