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August 25, 2007

 

One last time in Moffett Pool

moffett pool

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
SUNY Cortland alumna Kathy Compagni, of Homer, gets ready to swim laps Friday in Moffett Pool during the last swim session in the pool's long history. The pool will be closing with the area to be remodeled into office space.

By IDA M. PEASE
Staff Reporter
ipease@cortlandstandardnews.net

Future SUNY Cortland anthropology students could get a lesson on the past right underneath their department as the Moffett pool is slated to make way for the sociology/anthropology department.
The last swim in the pool, which first opened in 1953, was Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. A ceremony to mark the closing of the pool will be held Sept. 14.
Not only a time for swimming, those gathered Friday also chatted in the water at the low end, where the water is 4.5 feet.
Dick Williams, a Cortland resident, said he swan in the pool with George Breen and Kenny Peters, both distance swimmers, as a young teenager in the 1950s.
Breen, who graduated in 1956, won two bronze medals in the 1956 Olympics (400-meter freestyle and 1,500-meter freestyle) in Australia. He won another bronze medal in the 1960 Olympics, according to the Olympic Web site.
James “Doc” Counsilman coached Breen, who continued his international career as a coach at the University of Indiana, coaching Mark Spitz.
“It’s sad,” Williams, who coached the YMCA Stingers swim team, which rented the pool two times a week, said of the closing of the pool.
He said lately there have been several times the pool has been closed for repairs, in particular to repair the concrete ceiling. He said a new lighting system had been installed and the pool was the first pool in the country to have an underwater window so swimming strokes could be observed and critiqued.
Leonard Cohen, a retired librarian, said he swan in the pool at least 30 years. “One of the swimmers here made me a bottle of Moffett Chateau,” he said, when he retired. He said another gave him a mounted faucet from an old shower. He said he was known as the captain of the Clandestine Swim Team.
Cohen said the recreational director at the time had wanted to promote the pool and asked Tom Bonn, another librarian to organize a campus swim team. Cohen said he ended up doing this. “That indeed was a fun time,” he said.
Cohen said he did not want to see the pool abandoned and had recently appealed to president emeritus of the college James Clark, who was a morning regular at the pool, on behalf of the 35 to 45 daily swimmers.
President Erik J. Bitterbaum had noted in his address to the college community Thursday that if the pool were repaired the cost would have been in the neighborhood of $1.5 million.
The camaraderie that had developed over the years was evident Friday. Charlie Yaple, professor emeritus of recreational and leisure studies, and Doug DeRancy, executive director of alumni affairs, alternated swimming and chatting. Cohen joined them in a chat and swim.
Changki “Vincent” Bahng, a graduate student, watched over the swimmers, as he had for the previous three years. He said the pool was open from 6:30 a.m. to 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. daily as well as from 7 to 10 p.m. Monday and Wednesday.
“I met a lot of great faculty,” said Bahng, a sport management major from South Korea. “It was an inspiring three years for me. It’s really a historical moment seeing this pool closed.”
“He’s the best lifeguard we ever had,” said Cohen, noting he never was distracted by bringing his cell phone, books or friends while on duty.
Kathy Compagni, a Homer resident and alumni, who graduated in the late 1960s, said she was the first female to be allowed in a scuba diving class.
“I was going to say last one out is a rotten egg, but I might be the last one,” Compagni said around 1:45 p.m. At that point only Linda Frank, a retired TC3 librarian and Cohen’s wife, was still in the pool. She said she graduated from SUNY Cortland in 1961.
“The water is beautiful today,” Frank said. “Those three guys — they made the pool what it is,” she said, of her husband, Bonn and Doug DeRancy.
DeRancy said the pool is great for swimming laps because so much of it is deep water. He also noted its convenience since the Institutional Advancement division moved into Brockway Hall on the upper campus across the road from Moffett after being in Studio West on the lower campus for 10 years. He called the pool the hub where a lot of friendships developed.
“For me for 30 years, it has been part of my daily routine,” he said, noting the pool has benefited his health. “It stood the test of time,” he said of the 52-year-old pool.
Frank climbed out of the pool shortly before 1 p.m.