Press Release (ePRNews.com) - WEST ORANGE, N.J. - Jun 26, 2017 - Dates are very important to history. It matters not whether a date marks a world-changing event or a local milestone. Unfortunately, Sunday, June 25, 2017, came and went without any recognition or celebration that it was the fiftieth anniversary of West Orange’s Ginny Duenkel Municipal Pool.
Thankfully, local author, screenwriter, playwright, and historian, John Dandola, chronicles the history of both the pool and of Colgate Playground, where the pool is located, in his newest book, Sun, Fun, and Pervasive Politics. Dandola served as the youngest and longest-tenured lifeguard and later the assistant manager. He trained there during the pool’s opening year and was a lifeguard from its second year of operation. He did three tours totaling ten summers: the late sixties to the early seventies; the late seventies; and finishing in 1990 when he was asked back to do a much needed restoration.
Although named for the very polite and very modest local high school girl who won multiple swimming medals at the 1964 Olympics, Ginny Duenkel Municipal Pool has always been mired in the politics of West Orange.
In his history/memoir, Dandola reveals the behind-the-scenes stories of how, while spending his ten summers enjoying the sun, the fun, and the people, he also had to endure needless and very intrusive political gamesmanship which was always kept out of the newspapers. This is all related with wit and charm by someone who kept detailed personal journals while he experienced all the highs, all the lows, and everything in between during the swimming pool’s most formative years.
The stories are countless and the goings-on range from uproarious to outrageous. There was the mayor who lost re-election due to his snide comments about voters in the neighborhood surrounding the pool. There was the summer when the town business administrator decided chlorine was too expensive so he wouldn’t allow it to be ordered thereby setting off a disastrous chain of events. There was the summer when that same business administrator wouldn’t pay the lifeguards on rainy days even though they worked on those days doing maintenance.
In short, Dandola’s book is that rare instance of a living person relating history from firsthand knowledge and experience. The many details and episodes he relates ring all too true as a result of his meticulously kept journals. It also winds up being a study in the influence of hometown roots. Had he been planning this book for a long time?
“Hardly,” Dandola confesses. “I did write two screenplays about my years at the pool and both were purchased although never produced. My mystery novels sell internationally so I’m in a career position where I can afford to undertake local projects that interest me. This was never a project about making money but rather one to set the record straight. I wanted to make sure that the proper people receive the proper credit. Working at the pool was a very important part of my life. Lifeguards did the upkeep. We were an entirely self-sufficient operation. We took pride in the place where we worked. I grew tired of people with political connections who did nothing—or worse yet, caused problems—being given credit while those who did the actual work were continually forgotten. I’m always motivated by historical honesty. My journals quash any attempt at the usual political spin.”
Among his many writing awards, Dandola is the recipient of the New Jersey Author Award for his 1940’s West-Orange-based mystery novels. He has also written histories of not only the town itself but of the police and fire departments besides working with museums both here and abroad.
Sun, Fun, and Pervasive Politics is 216 pages and contains vintage photographs from the author’s private collection along with countless vignettes about what it was like to work at Ginny Duenkel Municipal Pool. The book is to be placed, first and foremost, in reference libraries which specialize in local New Jersey history subject matter so that it can be used as a resource for future generations.
Inquiries regarding Sun, Fun, and Pervasive Politics can be made through the publisher by contacting Editors@QuincannonGroup.com.
Dandola’s next 1940’s West Orange-based mystery novel, which features Colgate Playground as a locale, will debut in mid-August. Three more West Orange-based mysteries will debut by the end of this year bringing the total of that series to nine books.
Quincannon Publishing Group