Down in Miami Beach, with the sea lapping the shore a scant 20 yards away, an architect submitting sketches for a new hotel might as well leave out the kitchen as fail to provide for a blue-tinted, table-surrounded, chrome-appurtenanced, palm-shaded, underwater-lighted swimming pool. Where would the klaviatzh players, the horse players, the gin rummy players gather? Where would all the bodies go, burning there on the poolside settees like chickens in a Roto-Broil? Surely not to the beach. The ocean is obsolete.
Standing in the crashing surf off Coney or Cannes is old chapeau. The world has gone dunking in pools, pools that are not only shaped like kidneys, but also like pears, tears, fans, pianos and sick livers. A pretzel-shaped pool was commissioned in Litchfield, Connecticut. In Southampton, Long Island there is one fashioned like a cucumber. In Palm Springs, Calif., where a swimming pool really makes sense at a distance of a hundred miles from the sea, there is one that looks—well, like a swimming pool.
ROUNDED CORNERS AND LIMA BEANS
Perry Como's pool at Sands Point, L.I. ($10,000) has rounded corners at the deep end and is finished in a sweeping arc at the shallow side. Pat Weaver, president of NBC, chose one shaped like a lima bean, although in deference to everyone's esthetic senses it is referred to as reminiscent of a calla lily. E. H. Griffith, a newspaperman turned Hollywood director, has his Laguna Beach pool filled twice a day by the incoming tide. Irving Berlin relies on the gravity power of a cold Catskill stream, warming the tank with a flow heated by an oil burner. When the mountain water and the warmed water are in the pool, someone has to jump in and mix them around.
In the years between the wars, swimming pools were built for hotels, institutions and fabulous estates. They were expensive to install and difficult to maintain. When the war ended there were only 8,000 pools in the whole country. There are now about 40,000, half of them on private estates. Dade County, which encompasses Miami Beach, accounts for some 5,000, and there are more than 15,000 in Los Angeles County.
Some hotels, notably the Cavalier in Virginia Beach and the Normandie in San Juan, Puerto Rico, were so proud of their pools when they installed them some years back that they had them built into the lobby. Tipsy sailors on Caribbean duty during the war were prone to ascend to the third floor and execute swan dives into the pool below. The sport became so appealing that the pool was fenced in.
Now a pool is standard equipment for any resort hotel, and very nearly a necessity for any motel in a warm-weather area. New York's Welding Engineering Company, building 150 pools a year, finds business "very healthy." Says Chester King, its general manager, "Give me two to three weeks time and $6,000 and you're swimming."
What is causing the boom in pools and rendering the ocean obsolete is refuse at low tide, jellyfish, Portuguese men-of-war, sand in the hair, heavy traffic, improved pools and Hollywood. People seem to like to loll, eat, talk around a swimming pool. It's clean, comfortable and safe. Snarled traffic makes an hour or two of stop-and-go driving for a splash in the sea and sand in the sandwiches an unattractive notion for a summer Sunday. The development of new filtration systems makes pool maintenance a simple task. Says King, "Before filtration processes you were always cleaning and emptying. The water was very cold and by the time it warmed up it was too dirty to swim in. Swimming time was confined to the small period when the water was clean enough and warm enough." Now filtration sifts a pool's water every six hours.
THE NEW POTBELLIED STOVE
Show business, which long ago adopted the pool as a center for inspiration and congregation, made the pool desirable for everyone else. At New Hampshire's Lake Tarleton, summer mountain refuge of show folk, Red Buttons will try new material from a perch on the edge of the tile, while Bennett Cerf, Milton Berle and Abe Burrows tread water and count the boffs. Contemplating the maritime scene from his oil-heater-warmed Catskill Mountain pool not long ago, Irving Berlin was so moved by nautical notions that he wrote a number called A Sailor's Not a Sailor Till a Sailor's Been Tattooed. When business takes him to California for a long stretch, Berlin rents a house with a pool, takes up a waterside stand and waits for the ideas. Most of the picture White Christmas was developed while Berlin and Norman Krasna walked around the edge of the pool on an estate Berlin rented from Doug Fairbanks Jr. "The pool," says Berlin, "seems to be a meeting place and you don't have to be in a bathing suit either. You can be fully dressed. It's America's new potbellied stove."
DINNER IN THE WET