The Washington Post

When a Maryland pool was damaged, neighbors dived right in to getting it fixed

The Calvin Building at the Edmund Burke School in Northwest Washington. A newer Burke building is called Hobbes, making the two Calvin and Hobbes. (Alison Merow)

You would think that water and swimming pools go together like, well, water and swimming pools. After all, you can’t have the latter without the former.

But there is such a thing as too much water, as the members of the Robin Hood Swim Club found out.

John Kelly writes "John Kelly's Washington," a daily look at Washington's less-famous side. Born in Washington, John started at The Post in 1989 as deputy editor in the Weekend section. View Archive

“It was the perfect storm, if you will,” said Colleen Slear, president of the 46-year-old community pool in the Sherwood Forest development in Colesville, Md. In the spring, the pool was empty for cleaning. On May 1, the heavens opened with a storm like the one we had this week. Several inches of rain fell on the pool in a matter of hours. The water table pushed up from underneath.

“The hydrostatic valve, which is at the bottom of the pool, couldn’t keep up with the water,” Colleen said. “The pressure from beneath literally popped the pool out of the ground, like a balloon just floating up.”

Imagine an empty Tupperware container bobbing in a cooler full of water and you’ll get the idea. If the pool had been full, the weight of the water might have kept it intact. As it was, the deep end of the pool rose about 10 inches out of the ground, cracking the pool’s bottom and shattering the decking.

Colleen received a call from the man cleaning the pool. “I don’t think you’re opening this year,” he said.

And they haven’t.

For many suburban neighborhoods in the Washington area, the pool is the center of summer activity.

“It starts when your kids are at the baby pool and you say you can’t believe how hard this parenting thing is,” Colleen said.

Then your kids learn to swim and maybe even compete on the pool’s summer team, as do Colleen’s sons Willem , 11, and Peter, 12, and daughter, Grace, 9.

The pool is a place of barbecues and Popsicles and first jobs and adolescent romances.

Colleen and the pool’s board are determined to keep their community together. The West Hillandale neighborhood pool in Silver Spring was able to accommodate all of Robin Hood’s members. It’s also where the Arrows, as Robin Hood’s swim and dive teams are known, had their “home” meets over the summer.

Meanwhile, Sherwood Forest is raising funds to repair the pool. Members have raised money with a flea market and a pep rally. A benefit is planned for Sept. 21 at the Fillmore. They’ve raised $132,000 toward a goal of $250,000. Repairs may cost twice that, but Sandy Spring Bank has promised a loan. (Colleen said it’s still unclear whether insurance will cover any of the damage.)

They hope to reopen the Robin Hood Pool next summer.

“We miss our little pool so much,” Colleen said. She added: “At any time of any crisis, people either splinter or they come together. Our neighborhood has really come together.”

What’s in a name? Or two?

Two of Montgomery Village, Md., reader Chuck Connolly’s grandkids went to Edmund Burke, a private school in Northwest Washington. That’s how he knows that two of the school’s buildings are called the Calvin Building and the Hobbes Building, a tribute, he said, to Bill Watterson’s much-loved comic strip.

But could that be true? I checked with Alison Merow, Burke’s director of communications and marketing. She said the school’s original building didn’t have a name — and didn’t need one — until 2006, when a second building was built. Then-Head of School David Shapiro invited members of the school community to propose names. These he put them to a vote. The candidates:

Upton/Connecticut. (The streets the two buildings are on.)

Mooskin Roth Hall/Connecticut. (Jean Mooskin and Dick Roth founded the school in 1968.)

Burke East/Burke West. (Self explanatory.)

Classic Burke/Contemporary Burke. (Ditto.)

The Bengal/The Cub. (The tiger is Burke’s mascot.)

Edmund/Solomon. (Edmund Burke was the British philosopher for whom the school is named. Solomon Burke was an R&B and soul artist.)

Castor/Pollux. (The twins from Greek and Roman mythology.)

Siegfried/Roy. (The magicians from Las Vegas mythology.)

Finally, there was Calvin/Hobbes. It carried the day.

Wrote Alison in an e-mail: “It’s likely that the students were responding to ‘Calvin and Hobbes,’ the Bill Watterson comic strip, but the English teachers here like to launch into discourse about John Calvin, the famous theologian, and Thomas Hobbes, the philosopher.”

She said she’s just glad they didn’t end up with Siegfried and Roy.

Twitter: @johnkelly

For previous columns, visit


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