Cary Swim Club, Cary’s first swimming pool, celebrated its 50th anniversary May 19. R.O. Heater, the pools founder, and Bill Jones, founder and head coach of Cary’s first swim team, were honored for their contributions to swimming and recreation in Cary and the Triangle. Mayor Harold Weinbrecht spoke about his early memories of swimming at the club, and Councilman Don Frantz offered a proclamation for Jones during the ceremony.
Jones remembers the early days of the Cary Swim Club and the Triangle Swim Association.
“I met Mr. R.O. Heater as a rep for Phillips Petroleum Co. He had his office in Raleigh and was a customer of Phillips. When I was invited to his office, I saw several pictures of Golden Glove boxers, one who I had been in college with.
“I was pleased to see and hear of Mr. Heater’s interest in athletics and youth. I told him that I also had such an interest, that young people needed adults who could direct and guide them in sports.
“He asked my background, and when I told him I was a swimming instructor in the U.S. Navy, he asked if he could call on me if they needed help at the new pool they were building in Cary. Not only were they building a pool but also an entire recreation park with Little League baseball fields and tennis courts.
“I found Mr. Heater to be one of the most visionary men I had ever met. Later he called me and asked if I would help hire a staff to work at the pool. I did that and ended up managing the pool for the next four years.
“In the meantime Mr. Heater talked me in to buying a house in Cary.
“I felt as if I wasn’t doing enough for the youth of the town. Then one night I was suddenly awakened with the words, ‘Use the talents I gave you.’
“I woke the next morning and told my wife, ‘I’m going to start a swimming team.’ Later that morning I called Mr. Heater and told him. He replied that I could do anything I wanted at the pool.
“I started by having the lifeguards take phone numbers of kids that showed no fear of water. I then called parents and told them I wanted their children on a swimming team. Only a few balked, saying their child couldn’t even swim the width of the pool. I assured them that would be our job to teach. Hard work, time and a lot of help from parents enabled us to put a team together.
“Then the question became, ‘Who would we swim against?’ Mr. Heater started looking and found towns that were also starting pools or had recently built them. I started naming contacts and talked those towns into starting teams.
“With a representative from each town we formed a board of directors, had our first meeting, and named the conference the Capital Area Swim conference. The opposing teams were from Pittsboro, Fuquay, Smithfield, Clayton, Selma, Benson and Zebulon.
“I was elected president of the conference each year for 13 years. We later merged with the Triangle Swim Association.
“Our first conference championship meet was held at UNC, the next 12 were at NC State. At our first championship meet we had approximately 400 to 500 swimmers. In 2011, there were approximately 10,000 swimmers participating in TSA.
“I have always wished that entire park could be named R.O. Heater Park. I still wish so.”