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Change is Good: The Integration of Dreamland Pool

May 1, 2012

Dreamland pool

June 9th, 1961 Portsmouth, Ohio would see the tragic and senseless death of a young boy trying to beat the summer heat. 14 year old Eugene McKinley an African American living in a predominately white town had only one option for swimming in Portsmouth at that time. The local pool Dreamland which was accessible to whites only was not that option.  Blacks wanting to swim during the hot summer months could do so at the Scioto River

Scioto River

at their own expense. It was a dangerous occupation, and most black parents did not want their children to do so at the risk of drowning. That day Eugene McKinley took that risk, and paid for it with his life. The black community had tried countless times before McKinley’s death to integrate Dreamland pool, an every attempt ended in failure. At the time Portsmouth was not 100% segregated, and blacks and whites went to the same schools.

It was not unreasonable to suggest that they also socialize at Dreamland pool as well. The unfair and unjust drowning of McKinley was the straw that broke the camel’s back, and a detailed strategic plan was put in place that would break down the doors of Dreamland’s segregation, and allow people of all races to have access to the pool. Eugene Collins Sr. was 26 years old at the time, and he was a member of the party that helped desegregate Dreamland pool. He has given a detailed account of how it all came to play, and what actually went down when the pool was integrated. Once Dreamland pool was integrated, it eventually closed its door due to a sharp decline in business. Several years later a new pool was built for everyone, and in honor of 14 year old McKinley, the pool was named after him.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. David M permalink
    March 29, 2013 3:37 pm

    The Dreamland Pool in your picture is from the current pool by that name in Kenova, West Virginia. Both Dreamlands were built in similar fashion and resembled each other to some extent. Kenova’s dance pavillion burned in the 1970s and what is shown here is the new entrance that was built. You can find a great postcard of the original Dreamland in Portsmouth (which changed its name to The Terrace Club) at http://www.phs1955.com/html_55/Bierley_blaine.htm.

  2. bikevetter@aol.com permalink
    August 24, 2013 7:04 pm

    Tried out for little league baseball and I did not make the grade. Eugene McKinley however was a much better player and I thought he did make it. Moved to a different part of town and the next time I heard about Eugene was his drowning. A sad memory for all.

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