Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Loss of Indian Hills Swim Club Leaves Its Members like Fish out of Water Three Pools That Area Family Started Must Close, Owner Announces

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Loss of Indian Hills Swim Club Leaves Its Members like Fish out of Water Three Pools That Area Family Started Must Close, Owner Announces

Article excerpt

The wind was blowing and snow covered the ground on a winter day in 1963, but Joe Houska was determined to convince his neighbors that they should buy memberships at the swimming club he and his wife were opening in their south St. Louis County community.

"I went around through the neighborhood knocking on doors," Houska said. "It happened to be a terrible winter, so you can imagine how people reacted when they opened the door and I was standing there with a sketch of a pool and asking if they wanted to join."

Today, many residents near the Indian Hills apartments near Interstate 55 and Bayless Road would love nothing more than to have someone knock on their door with a plan for a community pool.

Last week, Indian Hills Swim Club members received letters from Breihan Properties, owner of the club's three pools, announcing that it was closing the pools that the Houskas brought to the area more than 30 years ago.

"The loss of the pool to the community is very bad, it's almost traumatic," said Harriet Smith, who works with the club's swim team and whose three children were frequently at the facility, 4210 Lasata Drive.

"There is nowhere around here for kids to go to," Smith said. "I never had to worry about my kids when they were there. It was a safe, loving atmosphere. There was a closeness of community there."

But that closeness of community couldn't keep the club afloat financially, according to Ernie Johnson of Breihan Properties. During the pool's best years, in the early 1980s, there were about 600 member families. Last year there were about 350, he said.

"We had been tossing the idea around for a long time as far as what the outlook for the club was," Johnson said. "But it pretty much came to a head when we looked at what it had done in the past and what it would do in the future."

Swim clubs today are having trouble competing with municipal pools that are often newer and less expensive to maintain. Many people also have their own pools or live at apartment complexes with pools, Johnson said. …

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