WWII-Era Pool With Views From Downtown To Catalina Reopens In San Pedro
Earlier this week we might have told you that the 70th floor men's bathroom at the newly-opened Wilshire Grand has the best view in all of Los Angeles, but—as of Tuesday—those sky-high urinals are getting a serious run for their money. Enter San Pedro's newly refurbished "Hey Rookie" pool.
Back in 1943, when the then-Gaffey Street Pool first opened on a harbor-adjacent hillside, America was entrenched in World War II, Donald Trump hadn't even been born yet, and color TV sets were still a decade away from entering people's living rooms. The gorgeous pool, located at what was then-Fort MacArthur Army base, served as a training and entertainment venue for American soldiers. The pool was financed through proceeds from "Hey Rookie," a live show produced by troops from the Fort MacArthur Garrison to increase morale.
In the decades after the war ended, the pool stayed on, becoming "a popular fun spot for the citizens of San Pedro and military families who lived on the base," according to Aqua Magazine. In 1975, ownership was transferred to the city department of Recreation and Parks. But despite its storied history and dazzling views (a 180-degree panorama that stretches from the downtown skyline to Catalina Island), the pool eventually fell into disrepair. It was shuttered in the early '90s, was stripped of its fixtures, and heavily vandalized.
Here's what it looked like in 2015:
Now, almost 75 years after it first opened, the historic Los Angeles treasure is restored and ready for visitors. On Tuesday, City Councilman Joe Buscaino joined the Department of Recreation and Parks and the Port of Los Angeles to officially unveil the renovated "Hey Rookie" Pool, as it is now known. Following years of work (and a few slowdowns—the discovery of an old military tunnel in 2016 stalled efforts), the Hey Rookie Pool has been reconstructed to match its 1940s predecessor, complete with amphitheater seating and aqua tiles.
“I never expected it would take 20 years [to restore the pool],” Steve Nelson, who directs the Fort MacArthur Museum and spearheaded the project, told the Daily Breeze. “It wasn’t pretty,” Nelson said of the restoration process, which began in the late 1990s. “There were fights. There were contentious points of view from a historical, architectural, landscape and practical perspective.”
But ultimately, it seems to have been more than worth it. “I would venture to say this pool has the best view of all the pools in the city of Los Angeles,” recreation supervisor Trish Delgado told the Daily Breeze. And as the person in charge of overseeing all of the city's 52 swimming pools, we reckon she'd know.
As L.A. Times columnist Lee Shippey wrote in July 1943, "Every member of the 'Hey, Rookie!' troupe can feel that his fame will outlast that of many a movie star. His name is to be placed on a plaque beside the big swimming pool and as long as Ft. MacArthur lasts it will be there."
Hey Rookie Pool is located at 3601 S Gaffey Street in San Pedro. The pool is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday through Labor Day . Admission is $3.50 for adults and $1 for children, seniors, and persons with disabilities. A Youth Swim Pass is $10. See more photos below: