A Coca-Cola, a pack of Sugar Babies, a frozen Zero Bar and a couple of Pixie Stix. Swimming lessons for a dime a day. The high dive. Miss Memorial Park. Dances at the Pav-A-Lon.
All those images conjure a host of recollections for many in Statesboro and Bulloch County. In a short time, however, there will be no visual memories of summers spent with friends at the Recreation Department’s swimming pool just over the railroad tracks.
In the first phase of the rehabilitation of the Statesboro-Bulloch County Parks and Recreation Memorial Park, dilapidated facilities will be removed. Those facilities include the large swimming pool visible from South Zetterower Road, the kiddie pool located farther behind the road and the Pav-A-Lon area.
On Thursday at 4:45 p.m., the community is invited to attend a time of remembrance and reflection that organizers Frank Hook and Donald Nesmith are calling: “Just One Last Time.”
“Anyone who has a heart or a memory for the Fair Road park – former staff members or participants – is invited to come and talk about the hours spent there,” Hook said.
The former Statesboro Recreation Department Director said the event will offer Cokes in old-fashioned bottles and peanuts and a time to share memories.
“So many people, their hearts are tied to that rec department,” Hook said. “It taught us strong values of growing up; we were safe. We learned Christian values.”
Hook said he started going to the park when he was about 6 years old, and as he got older, he “lived there from the time I could get there,” swimming in the morning, taking part in Little League games in the afternoon, jumping in the pool to cool off after the game, meet the adults to watch a softball game, and jump back in the pool in the evening.
“I came home at 10 or 10:30 and back down at 7:30 the next morning.”
Nesmith had a slight advantage over Hook: He lived just across the street from the park as a youngster and didn’t have to wait for someone to drop him off at the park.
“Frank and I were raised over there in the 60s and 70s. During that era, everyone was there,” he said.
“In the winter, we hung out in the Snack Shack, which was the small building where the administration building is now. It had ping pong tables, booths to play cards. It was a gathering point.
“We used the Pav-A-Lon more in the summer. Sat at picnic tables and talked for hours. It was a big time. It absolutely raised the kids in that day.”
Nesmith said he hit the basketball courts near his home first thing in the morning and spent most of the rest of the day at the park.
“A lot of people wouldn’t have turned out the way they did if it weren’t for that rec department,” Nesmith said.
The experiences of Hook and Nesmith with the park continued into adulthood. Nesmith was a paid worker for the Recreation Department for four years in college and, using the recreation degree he earned at Georgia Southern, he worked for two years following graduation. Nesmith worked mostly with athletics, while Hook worked mostly in the swimming pool area.
Hook managed the swimming pool beginning in 1972, and was the director from 1976-1979.
“We grew up in simple, simple, simple times,” said Hook, referring to some of the problems facing today’s kids and young adults. “The five worst things I had to deal with were: running around the swimming pool, breaking in line at the Pav-A-Lon, popping someone in the back with a towel, ducking someone under the water and splashing water in someone’s face.”
While reminiscing of days gone by at the Fair Road park, Nesmith and Hook had the idea for a night to “meet, greet and talk.”
Though he knows fond experiences of the past will be shared, Nesmith said of the evening, “It’s gonna be a sad day, ‘cause we got some memories!”
Hook’s eyes misted over a bit as well when he said, “Tears well up in my eyes just thinking about it. Other than faith and family and GSU, the Rec Department is the dearest thing to my heart.”
The public is invited to share memories “just one last time” on Thursday at 4:45 p.m. at the Pav-A-Lon.