Editor’s Note: This is part three of a series regarding the old Carmichael Park pool, which was recently demolished.
Back in the early 1970s, when Richard Nixon was still president and bell bottoms and disco were the rage, a young college student named Don Haws began working at the Carmichael Park pool.
And although his overall time working at the pool represents a relatively short segment of his life, Haws, during an interview with this publication last week, said, “Those were some of the most memorable, pleasant and fun experiences of my life.”
But long before he became acquainted with the pool, Haws, 69, had grown up in Santa Barbara.
Haws recalled how he learned how to swim in that city during his childhood.
“When I was about 5 years, I got over my fear of water and the ocean and discovered my body was buoyant and I could dog paddle,” Haws said. “Then when my parents (Karl and Wanda) got a boat, it was mandatory that I wore a lifejacket on the boat until I learned how to swim. So, I decided to take swim lessons at a public swimming pool.”
While attending Santa Barbara High School, Haws was a member of the school’s football team, which won the 1960 California Interscholastic Federation large school, Southern Section championship at the Los Angeles Coliseum. He also lettered on the school’s swim team as a distance swimmer.
After graduating from high school in 1961, he fulfilled his general education requirements and played football at Santa Barbara City College.
In about 1963, Haws joined the Army Reserves, and from about 1965 to 1967, he served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Central America in a district that covered an area from Guatemala to Panama.
After returning home from his mission, Haws continued his education at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in pre-law and a minor in ergonomics (physical education) in 1970.
During his time at that university, Haws married his high school sweetheart, Holly Lyons, and they eventually had three children – David, Daniel and Shelly.
After graduating from UC Santa Barbara, Haws was accepted to attend the McGeorge School of Law at 3282 5th Ave.
Haws said that his time at McGeorge was a short-lived endeavor.
“After six weeks, I dropped out, because I decided that law was not the profession that I wanted to pursue for a lifetime,” Haws said.
In the process of changing his direction in life, Haws visited Carmichael resident Dr. Jerome Needy, a department chairman at Sacramento State College (now Sacramento State University).
Needy allowed Haws to become a student in the recreation and park administration program under the provision that he completed undergraduate classes prior to being accepted into the graduate program.
In 1972, Haws applied for employment at the Carmichael Recreation and Park District as a day camp leader at Carmichael Park.
In addition to his work as a day camp leader, Haws served as a part-time lifeguard at the park’s pool.
He obtained that position due to his American Red Cross lifeguard certification, swim team experience and his major.
About seven months later, Haws was hired as the pool manager at Carmichael Park by the district’s administrator, Dick Pollock.
In recalling his work as the pool’s manager in 1972 and 1973, Haws said, “It was a real reward for my service and it was an incredible experience working under a park administrator who was so well trained in the field of aquatics. He was a pro. You couldn’t ask for a better mentor. He was on the swim team at UC Berkeley and he was a great diver.”
Additionally, Haws expressed high praise for the pool’s lifeguard program during that era.
“I truly believe that we and other pools in the Sacramento area were the avant-garde of pool lifeguarding in the United States at the time,” Haws said. “At our pool, we were developing a pool manual for policies and procedures. Our lifeguards had to sign in for weekly training and were required to swim laps to keep physically fit. We ran a tight ship and we ran it well. That pool was spotless. We had some outstanding lifeguards, including Lori Worthington, Harry Powell, Linda McBeth and Marcella Payne.
Haws added that the lifeguards were quite attractive, as well.
“All of our lifeguards were attractive, even the men,” he said. “I don’t know where they came from, like modeling places or something.”
While serving as the pool’s manager in 1972, Haws began coaching the 13 to 17-year-old swimmers of the Golden Valley Swim League’s Carmichael Beavers Swim Team, which at that time held its practices and home meets at the park’s pool.
His assistant was Sharon Faulkner, who coached the 12 and under team members.
In discussing his memories of coaching the Beavers, Haws said, “It was a very fulfilling experience watching the kids improve their performances. We were fortunate to win all our dual meets. Unfortunately, I didn’t have them sufficiently prepared for the finals and I totally except responsibility.
“There were many great stories associated with my time as the Beavers’ head coach. The one that touched me the most was the only moment when I had tears in my eyes at a swim meet. It was a race involving the 6 and under swim team members. The starting gun went off and it was obvious that one of the boy swimmers was not yet a strong swimmer, and he would have to swim several strokes without taking a breath and then grab onto the lane line to catch his breath. All swimmers had completed the race about one minute ahead of this boy when he finally finished the race. During the last portion of the race, everyone in the stands stood up and applauded his diligent and heart-warming effort. As the exhausted boy was attempting to climb out of the pool, I reached down and pulled him out of the water and embraced him, as tears came to my eyes.”
Haws, who was a certified scuba diver, brought the most unique program to the pool during the summer of 1973, when he arranged for scuba diving classes to be held at the pool.
After his two years of working at the Carmichael Park pool, Haws, who was then in a wheelchair due to back spasms, was nonetheless determined to take a county test at the old La Sierra High School in an attempt to become the pool manager at Elk Grove Park.
Haws had the highest score on the test and was offered the position. But he never worked a day on the job, since it was discovered that he had testicular cancer that required an operation and radiation treatment.
Fortunately for Haws and his family, these procedures were successful.
During his time of recovery, Haws completed his master’s thesis, which he titled “A Comparative Analysis of State Lifeguard Training Standards.”
His thesis was considered a landmark project, because it admonished people responsible for public pools that mere lifeguard certification through the Red Cross was insufficient to insure public safety at swimming pools.
In discussing his thesis, Haws said, “State requirements for public pool supervision needed to be revisited and upgraded.”
After completing his thesis, Haws worked as the recreation supervisor at Arden Park for about a year, and then he worked for about two years as the recreation superintendent for the North Highlands Recreation and Park District.
In 1979, Haws returned to his hometown, where he was hired as the general program supervisor for the city of Santa Barbara’s recreation department. Among the divisions that he supervised was the beaches and swimming pools division.
Eventually, Haws was enticed by his brother, Jerry, a real estate attorney, to become a real estate agent – a position he has held for the past 29 years.
Although he changed careers, Haws, who also has a brother named Karl, said that one day he hopes to assist in his former field by helping to prevent tragic drowning incidents through some avenue such as public speaking, authoring a book or becoming a teacher at the junior college level.