Memories from a Fishtown public pool that disappeared 50 years ago

Newt’s swim spot was a community hub.

17 2019-04-02 Newts020 by Roman Blazic3

Courtesy Roman Blazic

Roman Blazic was an excellent lifeguard. Almost all the time.

Back in his day, he protected kids at the now-closed Shissler Rec pool from broken glass and neighborhood gangs, he said. He taught them how to swim — even leading one Fishtown cherub to a gold medal for freestyle at the city finals.

Blazic was also known for letting kids jump into the pool from the roof of the rec center. But only sometimes.

The summer of 1970 conjures up fond memories for the Fishtown lifer. It was Blazic’s third year keeping watch over the former Front Street watering hole. In the last few days before the pool closed for the season, he brought out his camera and snapped some timeless images of Philadelphia summer fun.

The following year, the pool known as Newt’s would close up for good — leaving just a sprayground behind and sending neighborhood swimmers about half a mile away to the Lederer pool instead.

But Blazic preserved Newt’s memories in pictures.

12 2019-04-02 Newts013 by Roman Blazic1

Courtesy Roman Blazic

There are photos of Fishtown kids goofing off near the girls’ bathroom, and tossing their friends into the water. There’s a snapshot of civic duty — folks sweeping and wheel-barrowing trash from the street outside the playspace.

Also, a few pics of a youngster doing a front flip into the water.

“My god, this kid was incredible,” Blazic recalled. “I let him go up and do his thing, and I took a picture. I thought, ‘Who’s gonna believe this?’”

Blazic, a lifelong photographer, stumbled upon the pictures recently among his collection. He posted them online — and like glue they brought him back together with his childhood neighbors. Blazic found himself reconnecting over the memories shared at Newt’s.

“This went over big with a lot of people,” he said. “It just brought back a lot of memories.

“I had a lot of fun,” Blazic added. “You’re with your neighbors day in and day out. They were very supportive, and really a good bunch of folks to have around.”

The photos likely had a greater impact due to current circumstances. Fishtown’s only remaining public swim spot — the Lederer pool, aka Swimmo — has been closed for years waiting on repairs.

06 2019-04-02 Newts010b by Roman Blazic

Courtesy Roman Blazic

The Swimmo is now finally getting a tune up. But that doesn’t erase the three consecutive summers that the neighborhood went without a place to hang out by the water. It’s a community staple, as far as Blazic is concerned.

“Of course it stinks,” he said. “My kids grew up using that pool. It was a good thing. Kids learned how to swim.”

The Lederer pool will likely open back up to the neighborhood next year — and Blazic is glad. His nearly 50-year-old photos are evidence, he said, that a public pool can bring an entire community together.

“There are so many different crowds, different neighborhoods, different streets, different playgrounds,” Blazic said. “This is a common ground. There is no trouble there.”

02 2019-04-02 Newts004b by Roman Blazic1

Courtesy Roman Blazic

00 2019-04-02 Newts004a by Roman Blazic1

Courtesy Roman Blazic

08 2019-04-02 Newts006a by Roman Blazic1

Courtesy Roman Blazic

03 2019-04-02 Newts004c by Roman Blazic

Courtesy Roman Blazic

01 2019-04-02 Newts018b by Roman Blazic3

Courtesy Roman Blazic

04 2019-04-02 Newts008a by Roman Blazic

Courtesy Roman Blazic

05 2019-04-02 Newts008b by Roman Blazic

Courtesy Roman Blazic

07 2019-04-02 Newts005a by Roman Blazic

Courtesy Roman Blazic

09 2019-04-02 Newts011b by roman Blazic1

Courtesy Roman Blazic

10 2019-04-02 Newts013a by Roman Blazic

Courtesy Roman Blazic

11 2019-04-02 Newts011a by Roman Blazic1

Courtesy Roman Blazic

13 2019-04-02 Newts016a by Roman Blazic1

Courtesy Roman Blazic

14 2019-04-02 Newts012a by Roman Blazic1

Courtesy Roman Blazic

15 2019-04-02 Newts018a by Roman Blazic1

Courtesy Roman Blazic

19 2018-04-02 Newts020b by Roman Blazic1

Courtesy Roman Blazic

16 2019-04-02 Newts016 by Roman Blazic5

Courtesy Roman Blazic

18 2019-04-02 Newts020 by Roman Blazic4

Courtesy Roman Blazic