The hotel magnates of Williamsburg created a major challenge for the kids who wanted a quiet place to swim. Believe it or not, some kids don’t want the craziness of a public pool or the social commitments of neighborhood pools. Fortunately there are more swimming pools in the ‘Burg than 7-11s, so there are plenty of places for the quiet kids to swim. Except, of course, for the aforementioned challenge put down by JAL Enterprises.
JALE was a company formed by Sicilian brothers who had a piece of just about all of the small hotels and restaurants in Williamsburg. Junior, who wasn’t really named after his father, was the oldest. Anthony, the middle child, was the momma’s boy. Luciano, the youngest, was not only smarter than his older brothers, he was also way meaner. Together they formed an enterprise that kept the tourists in cheap motels and sparsely used swimming pools for years upon years.
I was lucky. I grew up in an apartment complex and had access to a bean shaped pool. The hot and humid Williamsburg summers sure felt better with a chance to swim, so when my parents moved us away from the apartments I had some misgivings. A house is nice, but I missed the pool. Unfortunately, as I got old enough to drive and preferred to lounge by the pool like an adult, I had no where to swim. The way I saw it, I had my choice of pools.
JALE saw it differently.
The Sicilian trio had decided that only paying guests would be allowed to use their swimming pools. They posted signs proclaiming such and left it to the honor of us to respect their rule. Yeah, right… At first I started going to the pools alone. I never had a problem then. Once my friends realized what I was doing, they decided to come along. The hotel managers were quick to catch on and with the power of JALE behind them, they chased us away. Like every great development in weaponry, we devised ways of tricking the managers, so that we appeared to be hotel guests. We would get plain white towels and the plastic tags for keys from friends who worked in hotels. When the managers would see us, we would flash the “keys” to save them the trouble of walking out from the office. We also rotated our swimming to different hotels so that there was less of a chance of us being recognized.
Mondays were saved for the Sheraton on Richmond Road. The trick to getting in there was to pass by the desk around 10:00 because there people were checking out then. Sometimes we would set up at the indoor pool so we didn’t appear to be sneaky and then swim through to the outside. Tuesdays were tough because the Hilton pool at Kingsmill was a long walk from the parking lot. Our trick there was to go down to the racquet club, change, and then hit the pool after “working out.” Wednesdays were evening swims at the Holiday Inn on Capitol Landing Road. This place was chill because there was a lifeguard who let us come in. The rest of the days, we randomly hit hotels around town trying our best to be invisible.
Only JALE was on to us. Junior heard that there were some townies breaking the “No swimming” rule and convened his brothers.
“Let’s use this as a learning experience for Cornelio,” said Luciano. Cornelio was his son and he was in high school, although he went to a private school. The plan was for Cornelio to trail us and then get the managers of whatever hotel to kick us out.
Cornelio was the worst kind of arrogant. He came from a family that had worked hard to build their modest empire of hotels and pancake houses. His family had also made the mistake of spoiling him with whatever he wanted. Because of their love, he thought he was a powerful person. As he started tailing us, we had no idea who he was, so our normal routines were quickly busted. With nowhere else to go, a few of us met at Jamestown Beach. Cornelio followed us there.
“Who’s that guy with the red Corvette?” asked Joe.
“I’m not sure,” said Bob, “but he’s always following us.”
I said, “Yeah, I saw him at the Carolyn Court when we got kicked out of the pool.”
“He was at the Captain John Smith, too,” said Joe.
“I’m going over to ask him who he is,” said Bob.
Bob started walking towards the red Corvette and all of sudden the engine roared and the wheels peeled out. The driver had his window down and his middle finger up as he passed by. His license plate gave him away, “Cornelio 1.”
Finding out who Cornelio 1 was could not have been easier since my dad was a cop. Once we knew who we were dealing with, our summer became less about swimming and more about having fun with our budding resort kingpin. We would drive from pool to pool while he followed us never stopping to swim. After awhile he would get tired of following us and then he would zip off to whatever spoiled kids do during the day. Then we would go swimming. The rest of the summer went on like this until school started and the pools closed.
Winter was a different animal, though. There was one place with a giant hot tub that was the heart of JALE. The Econolodge on By-Pass Road had a dome and health club that was the pride of the family business. We were fortunate to have a friend that worked in the club and she was directly in Cornelio’s sights. When we found this out, we convinced her to get him to give her pool passes, something his father and uncles would never approve of. She worked her magic and got pool passes, which only cost us tickets for her and her boyfriend, David, to see The Police at William and Mary Hall. Once she got the passes, Mary quit because she really didn’t like working there anyway. We, however, were just getting started.
Everyday after practice we would head over to the Econolodge and sit in the hot tub. The water felt so good and we were so relaxed because we had passes from the Cornelio, the Great. One day while we were kicking back with the occasional condensation drops falling from the roof of the bubble, the elders of JALE walked in. Luciano recognized us.
“What are you guys doing in here?” he yelled.
“Relaxing,” I said.
“You’re not allowed in here. Can’t you read?” Antonio said while pointing to one their signs. At that moment, Cornelio walked in with a cocky smirk on his spoiled face.
“Yeah we are,” said Joe. “Tell them, Cornelio. You gave us the passes to swim here. Remember, we’re Mary’s friends.”
The elders looked at Cornelio and he knew that he had not given us any passes. He did remember giving Mary the passes. Either way he was screwed. The steam was really rising now.
“Did you give them passes?” Luciano asked his inept son. While Cornelio figured out what to say, we dried off, and produced our passes. Luciano simply pointed to the office and Cornelio walked away.
We didn’t see Cornelio again. When summer came around, we moved on from JALE and started scheming ways to get into the Colonial Williamsburg pools. The Motor House had putt-putt and the Inn had banging hot dogs. One day, we saw the red Corvette pulling into the Gazebo. Because we were ignorant dudes, we pulled in behind “Cornelio 1” ready to let loose with a barrage of smack talk that would have been well suited for the fields and courts of Quarterpath Park. All we could do, though, was laugh because Cornelio got out of the car with his restaurant uniform on. His dad looked our way and smiled as he tore off towards Richmond Road.