Monday, April 1, 2013

Nashville's Cascade Plunge


  Daddy took me fishing a lot when I was a kid. One day I was too close to the edge of the water and fell in. Another day daddy caught a huge fish and in my excitement I accidentally jumped into the water. He jumped in the water both times to save me because I couldn't swim. My brother Mark was like a fish and learned to swim on his own but I was scared of the water. After my brush with drowning daddy decided to enroll me in swimming classes given by the Red Cross at Centennial Park swimming pool. Most public and private pools were segregated in those days. Centennial and Shelby Park for whites and Hadley Park in North Nashville for blacks. I learned to swim around 1956 or 57. There were other public pools but I am not sure where all of them were.

  About 1960 my sister Donna, my cousins Roy and Alton walked from my grandparents house on Mckennie Avenue over to Shelby Park to go swimming. After they had been there for a time a group of black people tried to enter the pool in order to swim. They along with everyone else was ordered to leave. The city of Nashville ordered all public pools closed rather than see them desegregated. They never opened again. I loved to swim at Centennial Park and it infuriated me that the city closed perfectly good pools for such a frivolous reason. This was the insanity of segregation. The only places we had to swim after this was the lakes or private swimming pools. My favorite place to go was Cascade Plunge at the State Fairgrounds across from Fair Park. It was a 200 ft. by 80 ft. pool with two giant water slides. One was straight while the other had bumps. It had a 60 ft. tall diving platform. Two one ton Spanish anchors, fountains and a restaurant. Exhibitions included a fire diving water clown soaked in kerosene and lit. There were local music Combo's, which was the contemporary name for a band then. A ten ton ice pyramid and a Miss Iceburg contest.

  A story constantly circulating was that someone put razor blades on one of the slides and a girl was badly cut. This was a Nashville urban legend. Daddy was an expert diver and he would show off by diving off of the tower performing dives such as the swan and jack-knife. He would literally draw crowds to watch him. One day he hit his head on the bottom of the pool nearly knocking himself out. It took a long time before he was able to get out of the water. This was one of the places that I would take Debbie after we started dating. Cascade was finally desegregated in 1968 but was closed for good in 1974. The pool was filled in and all the buildings were demolished in 1975.

Hadley Park

Cascade Plunge

Centennial Park


  1. I used to ride my bicycle to the Shelby Park Pool from the Inglewood area of East Nashville back in the 1950's. I would usually make a day of it and have to pedal home in the dark, a sometime frightening experience for a young lad. The pool was segregated then but I gave it little thought as almost everything else was too back in those days.. I left home to join the military in 1960 and learned in Air Force basic training that living together with those of other races was no problem at all. When I returned to Nashville and found out that the pool had been closed for such a frivolous reason I was shocked.