The Dick Kraffert pool at Burgess Park in Titusville, Pennsylvania is something that has meant a great deal to Titusville folk of all ages for over sixty-five years. Few lifelong residents are unable to conjure up a memory of when they first learned to swim at Burgess Park or got a summer job as a lifeguard or hung out with their friends and family poolside throughout the decades. However, it is also likely few people remember when and why the Dick Kraffert pool came about.
Dick Kraffert, full name Richard Chase Kraffert, was born in 1928. He was a bright young man who excelled at school and whose familial lineage could be traced back to the founding of Titusville (he was Jonathan Titus’s great-great-great grandson). Kraffert attended Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. In 1947 he was a sophomore majoring in mechanical engineering and his future was wide open. On February 23, 1947 Kraffert died in his sleep; medical examiners were never able to determine his cause of death (Titusville Herald June 14, 1991).
Devastated, his parents, Mr. and Mrs. B.F. Kraffert, Jr., as well as his sister, grieved young Richard’s passing, but were not content to see it go unremembered. In the late 1940s, the Krafferts and other donors teamed up to create a park and pool that the entire Titusville community could use. Donors could choose who to memorialize in each part of the park.
The Kraffert family gave $20,000 toward the creation of a community pool to be named for their late son and brother. When complete, Burgess Park and Kraffert Pool were to be turned over to the Titusville Recreation Commission for administration. In addition to the Kraffert’s donation, Mrs. Edgar N. Doty gave $4,500 for the children’s play pool in memory of Emma Burgess Kirkpatrick; the Titusville Herald staff gave $3,000 for the men’s locker room; Titusville Dairy gave $1,950 for the refreshment stand; and various other small donors gave money for certain places in the park (Titusville Herald December 17, 1949).
Before the pool could even be opened, child vandals destroyed a part of the new pool cement and drain pipes in late May 1951. A warning was given to community members and parents to control their children, as damaging the pool was a “darn shame” (Titusville Herald May 22, 1951). Kids were unruly, even in 1951.
Burgess Park was a place for “all the people,” declared the July 25, 1951 Titusville Herald
on the day of the pool’s dedication. Every park activity was free except for swimming which required a small fee. The pool was open seven days per week and offered free swim lessons on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday mornings. Wading in the kiddie pool was free. The original employees included six lifeguards, a cashier, and four bath-house attendants.
During its first year, the Kraffert Pool was open from July 25 to Labor Day, 1951. In those two short months 19,259 people visited and swam. Over NINETEEN THOUSAND. The average daily attendance was 481 people. The cost of pool maintenance, chemicals, and worker wages for that first year totaled $1,702.96 (Titusville Herald December 31, 1951). The original fees to swim in the pool were as follows: Children 11 & Under – 10 cents/day or $1.20/season; Children 12-17 – 20 cents/day, $1.50/season; Adults 18 & Over – 20 cents/day, $2.40/season (Titusville Herald May 22, 1951).
The Dick Kraffert Pool has been a mainstay of our community for decades. Beloved by many, it has not been without its issues. In 1987, the pool was on its last legs as a cement pool was only meant to last around twenty-five years. Money was put into repairing and maintaining the pool so that it could continue to thrive, though many fewer residents live in today’s Titusville versus the Titusville of yesteryear.
This article is not an argument in favor of or opposed to the future of the Dick Kraffert Pool. It is simply a retelling of our past. Whatever decision is made regarding the Dick Kraffert Pool, knowing our past lays the foundation for what will come and we hope the decision benefits Titusville in the best way – a way that respects the memories of those who came before us and the ever-changing progress that lies ahead.