EARLY YEARS AT COVE POOL
Nestled at the base of a gentle forested hillside, Cove's warm springs pool is in an idyllic, almost Norman Rockwell kind of setting.
Still it has an explosive past pieces of which are still embedded in Cove.
Royal Borkgren of Milwaukie remembers this chapter in the pool's history well. He helped write it.
Borkgren and his father Martin built the spring-fed pool in the 1920s. The spring was just a large hole with sloping sides surrounded by willow trees before the Borkgrens went to work.
There were large boulders around the spring that the Borkgrens made short work of. They dynamited the boulders, sending pieces of rock flying throughout Cove.
"If you did a blast like that today they would put you in jail,'' Royal Borkgren said with a laugh. "There are still pieces of rock (from the blast) around.''
Breaking up the boulders allowed the two to build a pool 62 feet long by 55 feet wide.
Royal Borkgren assumed ownership of the pool in the 1930s. It was his life each year from April through September. He served as the only lifeguard 12 hours each day and then would drain and clean the pool. Borkgren also slept in the back room of the pool building, providing a measure of round-the-clock security. Sometimes it was needed.
Borkgren laughs when he recalls the time four young people hopped the fence around midnight and went skinny dipping. Borkgren shocked them by switching on the lights.
"I told them You walked in without asking me. Next time you go swimming stop and let me know,' '' Borkgren said.
The owner was stern with after-hours trespassers but he had a big heart when it came to helping young people. He offered children and teenagers the chance to use the pool whenever they wanted if they helped him with a few chores around the pool.
"They could have the run of the place,'' Borkgren said. "I always liked to be around young people.''
Borkgren had a big log suspended across the pool with swings and rings. He later took the rings and swings down because people did not use them properly.
For a portion of the time he owned the pool, state rules required Borkgren to chlorinate the water. As a result water draining out could not be poured into Mill Creek, which passes near the pool. Instead the water was sent down a culvert into a pond. Borkgren said the pond was a popular play area for children.
Running the pool was a family affair for the Borkgrens, who operated it through about the mid-1960s. Esther Borkgren, Royal's wife, sold admission tickets and rented caps and suits. She was also a nurse and treated people from throughout the community who came to the pool.
Their daughter Beverly, who now lives in Salem, sold concessions and their son Dennis, now of Oregon City, worked around the property.
Borkgren, now in his mid-90s, recently visited the pool. He was greeted by many people who had fond memories of growing up at the pool. Don Hagey said the pool was an integral part of his life while growing up in Cove in the 1930s and 40s.
"I grew up in the pool,'' said Hagey, who lives in Cove today. "I was in it every day during the summer.''
And why not?
A season pass cost $2.50.
Guy Hafer of Cove recalled that the pool has long been a favorite place for people in the community to congregate.
"It has been Cove's living room.''