Tuhey Pool Opening - Image from the Muncie Sunday Star, July 15, 1934

This history is an excerpt from here.

Records of the park known as Tuhey stretch all the way back to the Great Depression. The outdoor pool and surrounding recreation space were constructed in 1934, on the site of a former dump. In this lifetime, Tuhey provided a recreational relief to the stresses and pressures of the Great Depression on the Muncie community. The funds for this “leisure-time innovation”[1] came from Federal emergency financing, which provided federal grants for relief purposes.[2] The pool was heavily used by the Muncie populace. The park area was also used in combination with other play centers for supervised programs and games, such as softball, track and field meets, volley ball, tennis, a doll show, Junior Garden Club, and many other activities. Children attending these relief activities received free tickets to go to the pool three times a week.[3]

In the 1950’s, there was a major controversy surrounding Tuhey during the Civil Rights Movement. At the time, the pool was accepted for white use only. There was a pool designated for African Americans to use in a different part of town. Though there appears to have been no written documentation banning African Americans from entering this pool, it was socially recognized as segregated. [4] Following the rising sentiment of the Civil Rights Movement, African Americans protested this inequality.[5] The mayor of Muncie, Arthur Tuhey, calmed racial tensions by officially declaring that the pool was not segregated. The park and pool were then renamed in his honor.[6] In this incarnation, Tuhey was an agent of social change, but this dark time in the neighborhood’s history was not the only thing to define it. Along with the turbulent social and political climate, there was also a strong sense of neighborly connection between the families that lived in the RNC neighborhood.

It was around this time that the ice skating rink was implemented and utilized during the winters. During this period, Tuhey was more than just a pool, it was ingrained in the Riverside-Normal City neighborhood. It wasn’t uncommon for children from the neighborhood to participate in the activities and events at the park, like softball games, playing football, high jumping in a sandpit, tennis lessons, and of course, swimming.[7] Bob Hartley, a former childhood resident, used to attend church softball and pickup games at the Tuhey softball diamonds. “It was just something you did as an activity! There’d be streets lined with cars for games.”

This companionship between the neighborhood community and Tuhey continued into the 1970’s and 80’s. Kim Bowlling recalls her happy childhood there, “I grew up in that neighborhood in the 70s. We swam at Tuhey every day and attended Emerson. We played all over the neighborhood until well after dark.”[8] However, it was also during these years that Tuhey pool began to have a bit of trouble. The pool went through a series of closures due to lack of funding for mandatory upgrades and lack of sufficient revenue. In 1973, the pool was closed by the order of the park board due to its inability to generate enough revenue to pay utility bills. “…last month total revenue at Tuhey was $1,207 and the water bill was more than $1,200. [All the] receipts were barely enough to pay the water bill and left nothing for salaries and other expenditures.”[9] In 1980, the city of Muncie requested federal funding to help them renovate the pool. “Mayor Alan Wilson said the request for federal funds will keep alive city efforts to reopen the facility after three years of indecision over the facility’s future.”[10] In this manifestation, Tuhey took on the financial struggles of the city and came to physically embody the lack of funding through the deteriorating of the public facilities while it was closed.

Tuhey Park is a connection to our past that residents recall with perfect clarity. They are able to easily conjure up scenes from their childhood based on their experiences and personal relationships with the park. To them, Tuhey was a place of community, of social gathering, and of childhood adventure. Though no one can be certain what the future holds, one can hope that Tuhey will continue to be this place to the residents of the Riverside-Normal City neighborhood.

According to the City of Muncie website, this is Tuhey Park today:

Serving the Riverside/Normal City Neighborhood, Tuhey Park is located along White River Blvd. and White River Greenway on the north side of the High St. Bridge. North St. divides a small part of the park containing the parking lot, a picnic shelter, picnic tables, a playground, and informal openspace off to the north. To the south is a formal openspace lined with benches and trees, a historic bathhouse used for storage, a pool and splash pad, a new bathhouse with office space, snack bar and locker-room facilities, new playground equipment known as Tuhey Towers and informal open space. Initially, two of the tennis courts were converted into a skate park with multiple wooden ramps. Though this was a well used facility where skateboards and trick bikers mixed without incident, the area was locked and the ramps were demolished during 2008. In the next few years, all four tennis courts, the baseball diamond and fencing were removed. Tuhey Towers was installed west of the pool. Additional on-street parking and a bike lane were delineated along North St.

Tuhey pool is a revitalized city gem. It is utilized by thousands of residents every summer - children who ride the bus or travel by summer day-camp vans and families from across the city who drive, walk, and bike to cool off on hot summer days. The Tuhey Park playgrounds are places for children to play and families to gather. In the green space, dogs are walked, children run, kick balls, and throw Frisbees, and families picnic and play. Tuhey park is a gathering place for residents of Riverside-Normal City and beyond.

The Friends of Tuhey do not support the development of Tuhey Park by the YMCA of Muncie. What we DO want for Tuhey Park is to maintain the playground equipment and greenspace as-is. If the City of Muncie would like to institute improvements to Tuhey, we would like to work alongside the city to plant more trees, including fruit trees to develop an urban orchard. We would like to see more spaces where residents can play together, including a basketball court, tetherball courts, and tennis courts. We would like to see the splash pad open to the public outside of the pool’s fence.

We want a park, not a YMCA building and parking lot.

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