For the third time this year, a Powell landmark is going down.
This time it's the old swimming pool and auditorium which is, as they used to say in old Westerns, biting the dust. Its destruction follows close on the heels of the Westside Elementary, a much newer facility than the natatorium/auditorium, and the disappearance of the old Powell High School gym earlier this summer.
These last two demolition projects don't seem to have raised as much of an emotional response among Powellites as the old gym's death did. I suspect that's because, once the old gym's fate became inevitable, people simply resigned themselves to the fact that time goes on.
I suspect, though, that there were more than a few twinges of sadness felt around town by people who had experienced moments of success, even glory, in the pool or on the stage that are rapidly becoming history.
One former Panther swimmer voiced some of that sadness last week when I talked to him at the new pool. Even my daughter, who, as a swimmer for another school often expressed intense dislike — well, actually, hatred — for the old Powell pool, looked at the picture I had e-mailed her and remarked that it was “kind of sad” to see it go.
I have to admit that, even though I'm a relative newcomer to Powell, I have been sad to see the gym and now the pool and auditorium go. My son won a couple of wrestling victories that were significant to him in the old gym, and I'll never forget watching the pure joy exhibited by the Lady Panther volleyball players when they won the regional championship in that gym a couple of years ago.
As for the pool, despite my daughter's lack of success in the water in Powell, I enjoyed watching her compete there, and I've had a lot of fun watching Powell's swimmers since writing about them became my responsibility a few years ago.
Personally, I was never in the water in the old pool, nor did I ever compete in the old gym. Aside from being a spectator, my only participation in any athletic contests in Powell was as a member of officiating crews at a few football games, when we dressed in the old gym building.
The auditorium is a bit different though, because I actually did appear on that stage once, acting in a one-act play during what used to be called the District Speech Festival back about 50 years ago.
I don't remember the name of the play, but I played the part of a stuffy preacher, and at the play's climax, recited some lines from Tennyson. What stands out most in my mind is that I had the experience of wearing a clerical collar for the role, which I found very uncomfortable. Despite the discomfort, I always enjoyed performing, so I have good memories of that day.
Those personal connections to the old buildings, minor though they may be, are enough to cause a little regret when I see the auditorium being turned into rubble.
But I've had those feelings before. All three of the school buildings I attended in Worland are gone, and just a few years ago, the old Greybull High School building — where I spent three decades of my life working — was torn down. I was sorry to see all of them disappear.
Despite those feelings of regret, though, I am well aware of the shortcomings of those old buildings, and realize that they did have to be replaced. Buildings have a useful lifespan, and changes in our expectations of schools, educational practices and technology require changes in the way buildings are constructed and used.
Those changes have come gradually over the years, and sometimes we aren't even aware that they are taking place. The demolition of a building is a dramatic and obvious change, but, in fact, the changes that brought its destruction have already happened, some of them years in the past.
But change is also beneficial, and the new pool is no exception. I am looking forward to the Lady Panthers' first meet with Buffalo, because, for a photographer, the light in the new pool is much better, and, more importantly, more predictable. As a result, I'm hoping I can finally get a really good picture of a diver in action, something I never could do in the old pool.
It's sad to see the past disappear, but looking forward to the new is pretty exciting.