Cruising Memory Lane: Munsey Pool, Paul Anderson, Bob Peoples

 I have many fond memories of patronizing Munsey Memorial United Methodist Church’s now defunct swimming pool and adjacent snack bar in the 1950s. It was the only indoor public pool in town, which meant you could go there year round. The cost was a mere $.50 an hour. I learned to swim at this pool from an instructor who wore a bathing suit but never got in the water, opting instead to tutor us from poolside. 

Don Sluder sent me several notes addressing this once popular aquatic attraction. He indicated it had been closed for quite some time because of decaying equipment and high cost of bringing it back to standards. For years, the area was used as for storage, but now has been converted to five new classrooms from the pool area and one large one in the big room.

“The pool opened in about 1950 when I was in Junior High School,” said Don. “Mack Sutherland, a Munsey church member and Junior High School shop teacher was in charge of the newly created recreation area. He hired me to open the pool after school and to assist at evening sessions. One of the most popular features of the new facility was the inclusion of basketball goals on each side of the pool. Every night saw heated games. The pool area also featured a snack bar where we served soft drinks, soups, candy and other items. The gym room at the end of the hall had a single basketball goal and usually found most of the Science Hill basketball players battling it out in half-court games most nights. Also popular was the weight room where serious weight lifters, both body builders and those after lifting records, could be found every night.”

Don recalls when Paul Anderson, Olympic weightlifter and holder of the world dead weight record, and other area lifters could be found working out at Munsey. He said they often did not have enough weights in the small area for the horde of musclemen who crowded into it. He remembered when Paul was a regular in the 1950s at Science Hill basketball games next door, always wearing a T-shirt that looked like he had been poured into it. His neck was enormous. There was another person of that era that inspired me,” said Don. “His name was Bob Peoples. My Dad told me about Bob and drove me by his house in the Central Community of Elizabethton. He and my Dad were about the same age and went to elementary school together.”

Don researched Bob Peoples and found that the stories his Dad told him were factual. Bob was also known as the “world's strongest man,” holding the record for deadweight lifting for many years. He became the mentor of Paul Anderson. Bob is recognized as the person who designed and built many of the apparatus used in today's modern gymnasiums. He did it in his basement that Paul referred to as the “dungeon” or outside on his farm. Bob was lesser known than Paul but equally impressive. Remarkably, the weightlifter weighed just over 180 pounds but could lift in excess of 700 pounds.

In 1949, Bob gave a weightlifting performance sponsored by the Red Shield Boys Club in the old City Hall auditorium. He became involved in civic affairs and served in several capacities. He received many professional awards for his lifting ability. Peoples was very scientific about his sport and wrote numerous articles and even a book. He called on his old lifting buddy, Paul Anderson, to write the introduction to the work.

Thanks Don for prodding our memories of Munsey pool, Paul Anderson and Bob Peeples.