GRANGER Granger’s new splash park will open Saturday at 10 a.m., and it should attract a crowd of youngsters. They haven’t had a way to cool off in town during the summer since about 2000.
If my memory serves me right, Granger’s swimming pool closed in 2000, after serving the community since before 1950. It had developed leaks for which the fixes were not cost-effective, and a new pool was out of the question. As the problems grew, the City Council became concerned with liability.
The pool was not Olympics-sized, as many larger communities have today, but it was big enough for the kids who went there. The pool had low and high diving boards. When I got the chance to stop by the central park, I enjoyed watching the divers.
But I never swam or did a swan dive in that pool. I did’t know how to swim and was afraid of the water, but the biggest reason was economic. I was either working or couldn’t afford it.
That’s crazy, you’re probably saying. It’s when you’re working that you can afford things. Yes, unless you were part of a farm working family in my day.
Ruben Dabalos, brother of my brother-in-law Tom, reminded me of that at dinner Monday evening. We happened to go to the same restaraunt, and we got to talking about the old days, hoeing sugar beets or mint.
“We had to give Mom all the money we earned,” Ruben said. “No argument; we just did it.”
Yes, but in our case, it was to Dad. That’s if we were working on our own. If were working as a family group, we didn’t have to. The farmer paid our family’s earnings with a check in Dad’s name.
That was the way things had to be. There was no controlled atmophere storage that extended the shelf life of apples, and therefore created year-around employment. There was no McDonald’s or Burger King to buy potatoes all year from French fry plants that created year-around employment. There were no monster dairies that hired hundreds of year-around employees
We had an earning window from May to October, exactly half a year, to make a full year’s living. Our parents knew we wouldn’t save, so they didn’t even allow us to see the money.
We’d start in the potato fields on the Yadao Farm north of the Roza Canal, way above Sunnyside, at 4 a.m. We’d finish about 11 a.m. We’d eat our lunch at the side of the field, rest 20-30 minutes, cross the canal on a rope-suspension foot bridge, scared as heck as it swayed sideways, and pick cucumbers until 5-6 p.m.
In addition to saving money, we saved food. After we picked potatoes in July and August and sporadically in September and October, we gleaned the same fields and stored potatoes in a big pit in the backyard.
Mom, often with Dad’s help, canned just about every fruit grown in the valley. She made cucumber pickles, relish, pickled hot peppers, hot sauces, jams and jellies of raspberries, grapes, strawberries, apricots, peaches and pineapple (purchased).
Mom could have won blue ribbons at the Yakima Fair if she had known what it was and had entered. A few years after she died, Pat and I found her last jar of pickles. They were the best-tasting pickles ever.
I never went to the Granger pool and neither did any of my four sisters. I think my three brothers, all younger, did just a few times.
It didn’t matter what day the pool was open, it did not work out with our schedule.
Neither did a lot of other things. Dad was training us to be productive. Sports were “a waste of time,” he often said.
That nearly kept brother Bob from being one of the best baseball players in Granger history. He asked if he could turn out every spring, and Dad said no.
Other kids who worked with us in the asparagus, finally got Dad to relent when Bob was a junior. Ray Maltos and Ron Alvarado begged Dad to let him play. They nearly had to beg for themselves.
Bob and his friends got to turn out because Dad calculated he had enough cutters for the after-school shift and they promised to work harder before school.
They won the Yakima Valley A championship in 1968 with Bob as the No. 2 pitcher and top slugger his junior year. They won again in 1969 with Bob as No. 1 pitcher and No. 1 slugger.
Ron and Ray were no slouches, either. Ron was one of the best left-fielders in school history. Ray was the school’s last four-sport letterman, doubling up in baseball and track.
The kids who go to the splash park this Saturday and beyond will have a great time. I certainly hope they do. They will not have to be afraid of drowning or the water.
They have no idea of the past, and they know not how life in this valley has changed.
Besides, they’ll have their own stories to tell some day of a town so poor it could afford only a splash park.
— Ted Escobar is the managing editor of The Daily Sun. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.