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Under my hat: The Bungalow Babes

Community pools are important nurturing grounds.

They’re health-oriented venues to provide seasonal recreation.

At their very best, they go beyond for children and adults.

They help turn kids into great swimmers, championship divers, lifeguards, coaches, scout leaders and responsible adults.

In Tamaqua, the pool also spawned a valuable social network.

Nobody could have predicted it, but a strong, loosely knit organization happened to form over the years.

The Bungalow Babes is an all-important unit that has been around for decades.

The group defies description.

They’re not official in any manner. Not mentioned in borough records.

They don’t have formal structure. No officers.

But they’re an essential support group.

They patronize the Howard D. Buehler Memorial Pool at Tamaqua Bungalow Park on a daily basis.

Some swim. One member, Ingrid DeBellas, even does daily laps until she logs a mile.

Others prefer to simply get their feet wet. Or maybe to sit on a beach chair beneath an umbrella and read.

But all just want to be with one another and share time together.

“We look out for each other,” says Sharon Haldeman of Tamaqua.

And that’s important because not everybody has family. Not everyone has somebody at home.

Not everybody has a spouse. Not everybody has a significant other. Nor children.

Many folks live alone.

It’s possible that some might not even have outside contact without association with The Babes.

“Some of us are widowed at this point,” says Haldeman.

It all comes down to a sense of caring. Basically, The Babes is an ongoing, reliable support system of friends.

“If we see that someone hasn’t shown up here in a while, we become concerned,” she says.

Many of the original members are now deceased. But not all.

And the group continues to grow.

What was once a dozen or so in the 1990s is now 40 or maybe 50 strong. And expanding.

“There are the old and the new generations joining together,” says Haldeman.

Also, some women of the Lansford pool have been patronizing the Tamaqua site ever since their own pool became unavailable.

The Bungalow Babes welcomed the neighbors with open arms and consider them to be part of the group.

“We’ve gotten to know them and they’re the nicest people,” says Haldeman.

The group also hosts a gathering at closing day.

“We rent the pavilion and serve food, regardless of the weather. We do it even if the pool can’t be open on that day. But it’s closing day and the next day for us is always very sad.”

Still, in the off season, The Babes get together to attend events, visit one another, or maybe go out to dinner. Of course, some of the conversation is focused on looking forward, once again, to opening day.

The Tamaqua swimming site is 122 years old. It began as a 1900 mudhole fed by Farber’s Spring.

Today it’s a multimillion dollar facility that’s become a highly regarded recreational venue and valuable regional asset.

But even more, it provides a sense of warmth and belonging for many who’ve come to depend on those advantages.

All people, and all Babes, need somebody to count on, somebody to turn to. It’s just the way life is.

So a community pool is sometimes more than just a hole filled with water.

For some, it can be the essence of family and a way of life.

Contact Donald R. Serfass at dserfass@tnonline.com.

The Bungalow Babes, a decades-old, informal social network, provides a sense of bonding among women at the Howard D. Buehler Memorial Pool at Tamaqua Bungalow Park. DONALD R. SERFASS/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS