Human InterestPersonal History

THE MIRAMAR CLUB

Who of you remembers the Miramar Club? I certainly do and very fondly. I bet, if you ever went there as a member or a guest, you remember it well, too. The “Miramar,” as the name was shortened, was the Indianapolis east side’s answer to the north side’s Riviera Club. For years, the “Rivi” had been THE PLACE to go swimming in the summer. It had a huge pool, a separate diving pool with a 10 meter platform, unseen at any other pool, and an elegant clubhouse and dining room. Swimming there was the envy of everyone. 

The only problem with the Riviera Club was it was a private club and expensive to join—at least the cost was beyond what my parents could afford. Plus, we didn’t live anywhere near the “Rivi.” It was on the north side, and we lived on the east side. It took us 30-40 minutes to get there. My parents couldn’t justify the expense and the distance. 

Then, in May of 1954, an idea for an east side swim club came about, and The Miramar Club was “incorporated.” A company, or group of investors, I was unable to find out which, formed a private swim club near east Washington St in Warren Township. What a welcome addition to the area! Memberships were sold at an affordable price, and if you were among the first 100 families to join you were designated a “charter member.” Next to your member number on your dog tags was the letter “C” to make note of your charter membership. Our number was 1414 without the “C” because, for my parents, membership was a stretch, and they had to think about it awhile. But they joined much to my pleasure. Of my neighborhood friends, most joined the Miramar. The Buck’s were charter members, but the Nichoald’s, Mayo’s, Alm’s, Leane’s, and Gilkison’s were regular members. The Bruney’s kept their membership at the Rivi, and the Elkin’s at Hillcrest CC.

I couldn’t find the actual date the Miramar Club opened, but it had to be in 1955 or 1956. I think that because Bill Haley’s “Rock Around-the-Clock” was number one in July, 1955, and the first summer at the Miramar it was played constantly over the loudspeaker near the sunbathing deck.

The Miramar was located south of Washington St and east of Post road at Bonar Rd. The entrance was immediately across from Memorial Park Cemetery, which in 1955 seemed like it was in the boonies. Our home was sort of close to The Miramar, but not that close. We lived 4.5 miles west and 2 miles north of the club, and it was a 20-minute drive on either 16th St or 10th to get there.   

The pool was a huge rectangle. The width was 50 yards or meters (I can’t recall which) and at the west end there were 6 or 8 lanes painted on the bottom for swim meets. The length was probably 100 yards or more. At the northeast corner of the pool was an attached 14-feet-deep diving pool with two one-meter spring boards, with a 3-meter “high dive” in between. It’s amazing there was ever any water in the diving pool because it was constantly being splashed out by crazy guys doing “can-openers” and cannon-balls” from the diving boards, especially the high dive.

There were changing rooms on either side of a central entrance where your member ID tags were checked. The men’s changing room was on the left and the women’s on the right. There were several rows of benches to sit on to dress and undress, but they were always wet. The floor was always wet, too. The changing room attendant gave us a basket to store our clothes. The attendant stored them on a rack behind the counter, and gave us the basket’s numbered safety pin to fasten to our trunks. Before going to the pool we were supposed to take a quick shower in the bathroom/shower area. I know of no one who ever did that. At the exit to the pool was a 6-inch-deep foot bath you had to walk through allegedly to clean our feet. Yeah, right! That water was never clean. In fact it was nauseatingly gross. I kept my shoes on and straddle-walked over the edges of the foot bath. Then, we walked out into the sun on hot, partially-wet concrete and started looking for our friends. 

At the west end of the pool there was a clubhouse with an attached snack bar. I don’t remember much about the snack bar because I wasn’t allowed to spend money there and avoided it. I did see it and walked past. That’s all. North of that was a large, terraced, wood-surfaced, sun deck on which were dozens of chairs and chaise lounges. You didn’t have to be in swim attire to sit there so my mother, who I can never remember ever getting in the pool, sat there in “street clothes” with her lady friends and other mothers while their children spent all afternoon in the water. I got out of the pool and talked to mom occasionally to check with her, say hello to the other mothers, and ask if she had brought anything to eat or drink.  

Most of the teenagers at the Miramar went to Warren Central High School. That figured because it was just a short distance north of the club. Scecina had a large number of kids, too, then Howe and Tech. The Warren kids were rowdy and boisterous because there were so many of them, and they all seemed to know each other. They were the guys who tried to empty the water out of the diving pool every Saturday and Sunday afternoon. I didn’t get to know any of them even though I was at the pool every weekend and 2 or 3 days during the week. 

My mom, Dorothy Southerland, or another mom drove us to the pool. Someone’s mom always stayed while we were there sitting for hours on that sun deck. If there wasn’t a mom available to take us, the Miramar had a old small school bus they painted white that made a circuit to pick up members and take them to the club. One of the bus stops was two blocks from our house. I don’t really remember ever riding that bus, but I know several of my friends did. I know my friend Jan Mayo rode it at least once. In later years, when we turned 16 and could drive, one of my friends would borrow the family car and drive us to the pool. Those were sometimes extremely fast, very harrowing rides. We were teenagers, after all!

The Miramar Club was a huge part of my adolescent and teen years. I loved it. One Saturday afternoon a radio DJ came and played music to dance and swim by. At the end of the “dance” he gave out 45 rpm records to whoever wanted one. But he didn’t just hand them out. He threw them one-by-one into the water, and we had to dive in and grab them off the bottom. I got Elvis Presley’s “All Shook Up.” 

The Miramar Club hired big time local athlete’s to work as lifeguards, changing room attendants, or front check-in clerks. One such athlete was IU and Olympic swimming medalist, and world record holder Mike Troy, a Scecina grad who also swam for the world renowned Indianapolis Athletic Club. Jan Mayo, Dave Nichoalds, John Leane, and I were at the Miramar often enough that we got to know him. One evening near closing time, we challenged Mike to a  race four lengths across the pool. Each of us swam a single 50 yard lap freestyle in a relay format while he swam butterfly all four laps himself. I don’t recall the stakes, but I think we wanted to stay past closing time. Needless to say, it was no contest. He beat us by the entire width of the pool plus another half length. After the first leg he was so far ahead there was no catching him. Why we ever thought he would tire out and we could catch him I’ll never know. We didn’t get to stay past closing, not because we lost, but because we were exhausted.

Summer teenage romances were a big thing at the Miramar. They would come and go lasting a few weeks, a few days, or a few hours. I had crushes on numerous girls I saw from a distance, but never had the courage to approach them or ask one out. So I never had a girl friend at the Miramar. A very good friend of mine, and his family, were Miramar members. He and I were 15 years old when he met a young girl at Howe. He liked her very much, and fortunately, her family were members at the Miramar, too. He and she spent a lot of time together in the pool, got to be really good friends, and progressed to becoming boyfriend and girlfriend. The only problem with that situation was she was “going steady” with another good friend of ours, and she was wearing his ring. Going steady with him was a huge obstacle in the way for this young couple. So she decided to break up with her “steady” right there on the spot. He was on the Miramar bus waiting to ride home when she removed his ring, and while standing outside the bus, gave his ring back to him through the bus window. That moment I have never forgotten because it was the beginning of a relationship that lasted over 60 years. The “steady” got over the disappointment quickly and had no lack of female companions during his life. 

When you reach college age and need the money you earn from working in the summer, places like the Miramar Club lose their importance in your life. In those later years, I rarely went there, and my parents felt membership was an unnecessary expense, so they dropped it. The only other memory of the Miramar Club came in 1966 when John and Nancy (Bowman) Leane had their wedding reception there. That was the last time I was there. I read on the Internet the Miramar Club Corporation was dissolved in November 1988. 

The pool, clubhouse, and surroundings have all been demolished and replaced by a strip mall. That’s progress, I guess. But that club served a purpose and had a memorable place in the lives of many folks on the east side of Indy. For some it was the “Rivi.” For others it was Hillcrest, Woodstock, Lake Shore, or Westlake. Whatever it was, it was a part of your life that was perfect for that moment in time and life was good because of the experience. 

I would like to thank Mr. Eric Alm and Tom Gilkison who have been great sources of information for this blog. E

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11 Comments

  1. For us Southsiders, it was Longacre. Kids from Wood, Sacred Heart, Beech Grove, Manual, and Southport all gathered there. Great memories..

    1. Before The Miramar came about we went to Longacre. I learned how to swim there. I remember the sand on the bottom of the pool.

  2. I was never at the Miramar club. I think my grandfather had a membership at Riviera club. I was there a few times. I have a few memories of that place. We later joined the Y on Shadeland. I was never in Ellenburger pool.

  3. Thanks for the trip down memory lane. My parents joined and we spent some great times there. Before the Miramar Club, I remember Longacre with the squishy bottom, and the Y on Shadeland. Took swim lessons at the Ellenberger pool, and the teacher Barbara Firestone terrified me.

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