Updating Legacy

 My home was built in 1955 by my wife’s parents. We purchased it from her dad 10 years ago to keep it in the family.

 My home was built in 1955 by my wife’s parents. We purchased it from her dad 10 years ago to keep it in the family. It’s on a nice piece of land with a wonderful covered back porch and an in-ground pool. We use the porch and pool extensively as the Cincinnati summer heat and humidity bear down. This spring, we undertook an overdue and significant revamp of the pool.

Completed in 1957, our pool had, to put it mildly, lost some of its original luster, as well as increasing amounts of water. But this is more than a story of a pool. It’s really a story of a family, like the story of many of your businesses.

Our neighborhood was very different in the ‘50s. Back then, working farms were the dominant business units as opposed to the fields of fast food and retail outlets today. Those farms were accessed by a two-lane road from the “city,” which was a mind numbing 20-minute drive away. That road is now four lanes, completely lined with a solid wall of establishments required with modern suburban dwellers. It’s an additional 30 minutes farther out from the city to reach the nearest farm.

When my in-laws built their house, a pool seemed like a good way to occupy their six growing children (five boys and one baby girl). In very short order, this tribe grew to eight with my wife being number seven.

So Tom, my father-in-law, had the builder dig a big hole in the backyard as part of the house excavation. What’s remarkable about this pool is that once the hole was dug, Tom and his elder sons built the rest by hand. Money being tight and a pool being something of a luxury in 1957, Tom’s contract with his labor pool (sorry about the pun) was simple—if you want the pool, you must help build the pool. The negotiations were closed and work began.

The plan called for a 20- by 40-foot pool 8 feet deep to allow for a diving board. The sides were cement block. Tom and the boys constructed the walls first, course by course, sunk re-bar through the holes in the block to secure the walls and later filled the voids in the blocks with concrete.
According to Sam, the pool guy we recently hired to re-plaster the walls and floor, “This is one stout pool. Fifty years and it is structurally as sound as day one.” He said this after one of his crew burned several drills boring holes through the walls to add jets for better water circulation. After all this time, the walls are still dry and very hard.

Tom had only put in one jet for water return. That jet, with the floor drain, comprised the circulatory system for the pool. That was the technology of the time. Once in operation, however, late season algae blooms, oblivious to technology, proved this system’s circulation to be inadequate. A skimmer was added later, but there was still not enough circulation, so we took the opportunity with this revamp to add some jets.

With the walls up, it was time to pour the floor. I love this bit of family lore because they say it was at this point the 8-foot-deep pool became a 6-foot-deep pool. Things don’t always happen exactly as planned, so adaptation is often the order of the day.

Tom and the boys prepped the bottom. They put the re-bar in place, plumbed the floor drain and with the block walls serving as forms, called in the cement truck. The exact number of yards ordered versus the number needed is lost in the fog of time. Suffice it to say, when the pouring was finished, so was hope for the diving board—6 feet is too shallow. But it created one very, very strong pool bottom. Nary a crack has appeared in 51 years.

I share this pool tale with you because it seems relevant to our businesses. Most businesses had their Tom who built the edifice that we inherit. And it was well built with care, concern and of the best materials and technology available. But like my pool, there comes a time to revamp and improve what is now ours. The idea is not to close a door on what came before, but to use the solid foundation that was laid. We brought Tom, who is now almost 90, to the house the other night to see the progress. He’s almost 90. His comment: “You should have done this years ago.”  