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Augustus Brown Pool to celebrate 40th anniversary

Posted: February 22, 2013 - 12:10am
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Inside the Augustus Brown Swimming Pool before 1980.
Inside the Augustus Brown Swimming Pool before 1980.

When Augustus George Brown passed away in 1949 at age 85 in Seattle, he left Juneau a memorial.

It came in gilt-edged securities and real estate, a legacy of over $24,000 that Brown’s will stipulated be “Used as a nucleus of a fund to be raised by the Juneau Fire Department for the building of a modern swimming pool in a reasonably accessible part of the town of Juneau. By reasonably accessible, I mean, not far from the business district, not in the residential outskirts and not in Evergreen Bowl. “

On Saturday, the Augustus Brown Pool will celebrate 40 years and host a day of open swims beginning at 11 a.m., with music, prizes, cake and fun.

“We are very excited about Saturday,” City and Borough of Juneau aquatic manager Kathrin Millhorn said. “The event is going to be fantastic, something Mr. Brown probably would have really liked to have seen.”

Brown came to Juneau in 1886 from Iowa, where his English parents had sent him to study agriculture. In 1891 he became a U.S. citizen at the federal court here. Just after that he and Juneau resident Mark Russell headed for the Klondike. Brown stuck it rich, sold his claims and prospected on the Nome beaches and Valdez. He returned to Juneau at the turn of the century.

Evergreen Bowl in Cope Park had been the site of the town pool since before its dedication in 1941, and would be enjoyed by the public until the beginning of the ‘70s. Brown’s will was written when the pool did not exist as anything more than a very large, water-filled hole, but Brown had issue with spending money on Alaska-Juneau property.

“To improve the Evergreen Bowl pool would be throwing away good money after money badly spent,” the will reads. “For as to patronage, the location is bad both in summer and winter. I do not think that a small town like Juneau can expect dividends, even from a centrally located pool, but is should nearly support itself if well handled.”

In 1955 the city voted to install a boiler from the Fire Hall to heat the pool and borrow $4,000 from the Brown estate. Augustus’ warm heart was still providing for the city he once picked berries in.

Various problems involving heating and algae and bacteria, the verbage of his will, and material arrivals, delayed construction. On Feb. 24, 1973 the Augustus Brown Pool finally opened. That year approximately 5,500 people participated monthly in swim programs.

Long-time Juneau resident Jim Carroll lived across the street when the pool was being built.

“I made the opening day,” Carroll said. “It was 10 cents to get in and I began using the pool on a regular basis, and the last 30 years even more so. I like the staff there and the sauna bath is one of my favorite spots. What ever is spoken there stays there, whether politics, religion or local news. I have a lot of good buddies who have gone faithfully for years as well.”

Bob Thibodeau was one of those swimming friends. When Thibodeau died last fall, his name was put above the door at the pool.

“‘Remember Bob Thibodeau’ it says,” Carroll stated. “A number of us have been coming for years. Names like Mike Graves, Neil Mackinnon, Tom, Dick and Harry. It has always been very nice. And I an not an avid swimmer.”

Carroll’s five kids used the pool as swim team members or for fun as they grew up. Amy (now 45), Jim (43), Joe (41), Christie (40), and Toby (35) could be one of many families in Juneau with such ties.

“When my eight or so grand kids visit they go to the pool,” Carroll said. “We all enjoy the company down there. I say to my wife it is not such a bad place to hang out, and sometimes I go twice a day.”

The pool still has something for everyone. And it will soon have more.

From aluminum to concrete, from movable bulkheads to solid, the pool continues to morph.

The city and borough’s Aquatic Facility Advisory Board recently received a $10,000 matching grant for an Aqua Climbing Wall and an Inflatable Fun Run. The board will be on hand Saturday with the news.

They will be standing among the plaques on the pool wall; swim records that boast N. Rutecki, C. Brunette, S. Cayce, T. Mickelson, K. Jones, M. Bogert, A. Carroll, D. Issak, K. Fox, J. Busch, J. Swanson, T. Beardslee, M. Ruffin, M. Shelton, C. Kelly, to name but a few.

“I love this pool,” recent Purdue graduate Sarah Bogert said. “This pool is home.”

Bogert moved to Juneau from Montana at the beginning of her freshman year.

Her name has graced Glacier Swim Club and JDHS swim team record books. She currently supplements her income with lifeguard duties at Augustus.

“I avoided life guarding all through high school,” Bogert said. “And now I love it.”

On Saturday, activities will began at 11 a.m. and last until past 5 p.m. Open swims, concessions, music awesome door prizes and cake. Free swimming in a pool that is the result of a man seeing the need for something bigger than a crowded swimming hole in the Evergreen Bowl.

Brown’s will went on, “If I delegate to you something more than you care to chew, perhaps, as in the past, you can find something to expend the few thousand on, that Juneau needs. A dam sunk deep enough at the foot of Evergreen Bowl to hold water in the winter time would make a fine large skating pond, three or four times as large as the old hole, which was always crowded. It is up to you, but anything but wasting it on the foolish location of the present swimming pool.”

As for Augustus George Brown, a man known for giving his entire record collection (over 1,500 platters) and again as many books to the Juneau Library, a man remembered for his friendliness, neatness and the way he shared the berries he picked, and who liked to dry his wet socks out the window, his memorial is the pool, for his will stipulated, and was carried out, to wit:

“That my body be disposed of as quietly as possible, either by cremation, sea burial, or in the woods, unmarked.”

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