It’s the first day of summer, at least that’s what the sun feels like. The North Carolina air is humid, especially in the quaint town of Salisbury. But the pool house is covered with black suits that belong in a church. The suits are accessorized with colorful faces, most over the age of 50. The members of the Salisbury community have come together in order to honor one of their leaders, who passed away nearly a year ago. I watched as seats were taken while affectionate hugs were exchanged. Today, the community came together to uplifting the legacy of a man who trained up their children in more ways than one. This man was Fred M. Evans, who served as the assistant principal at Salisbury high-school, the driver’s education teacher and the local lifeguard.
The ceremony began with a speech given by a member of the town council. The speaker, Kenny Hardin, informed the crowd of their plans to rename the Lincoln pool after Evans. Applause ensued and the podium became available for other guests. One by one they came, each with a different story to tell about their childhood with the lifeguard. Some reminisced on his humor, while other’s remembered his standing devotion to justice. Members from the local church came to speak on Evans dutiful life. A guest mentioned that the pool saw zero fatalities under the supervision of Evans. Another asked the crowd to “show hands if Mr. Evans taught them how to swim”, immediately dozens of black arms rose. One of his greatest achievements had been teaching the colored children to swim, during a time when segregation was alive within American. Some of those children he taught continue to swim as adults now. A former lifeguard, was one of Evan’s swimming students, shared how he’s “competed in two Iron Man competitions, with swimming being his best time”. Evans didn’t only teach these children how to navigate waters, but the world as well. He instilled in each of his students, children and grandchildren the importance of selfless serving. Today his spirit lives within the community, which is why they unanimously voted to rededicate the pool in his name. Along with the name change, the pool also received a miniature library; where books could be acquired freely.
Fred M. Evans was a husband and a father of two children. His daughter, Ms. Janine Evans, spoke first of sharing her father with other children her age. “Everyday, when we finished school, we would go to the pool and spend our day there” she claimed. Her words echoed with many of the guests, who were also present during those past summers. Her brother, Mr. Fred M. Evans, decided to give an impromptu speech that would inspire the crowd. During his speech, Evans took a moment to honor his father’s legacy but also spoke of the shortcomings of the community. He mentioned a personal incident involving gunfire and his mother’s house, which rattled a few faces.The youth were running wild with no leadership or direction, partly because the elderly had written them off. The town was slowly being littered with issues that many members were neglecting. He tasked the guests with helping him restore the town to it’s former glory. His father’s name had brought the community together and now he would use that same name to bring about change. “Remember the legacy, but continue to do the work” he said in closing.
From the outside this is a standard southern pool house. There are stained lockers, bees flying around half-opened trash cans and white chairs with red umbrellas. But underneath the chlorinated water is a rich history. This was a place for late afternoon memories and summer love. Where children would eat watermelon and drink soda before diving back in for another hour of waterworks. The pool even stretched to the depth of nine feet, giving the older swimmers a challenge. The only thing missing was a diving board. Lifeguard towers rested along the steaming concrete and blue beach chairs sunbathed in the heat of May.
This pool would have been the best place for any child to be after class ended. Spending afternoons in the calming water, under the watchful eye of a great teacher. Even now, as the pool reopens for the season, children and parents have nothing to fear because they are now in the house of Fred Evans, the Life Guard.