Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXI, No. 29
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
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At the Community Park Pool Complex Larry Ivan Is the Man With the Answers

Linda Arntzenius

The man with the keys is also the man with the answers. Whether it's a lost child, mislaid eye-glasses, or the necessary equipment for a swim exercise class.

He's been the man at the pool since 1967 — that's as long as the pool, which marks its 40th anniversary this year, has been in existence. He's been manager for 34 of those years.

Besides that and prior to his retirement from the Princeton Regional School District in 1999, he taught for 42 years at Princeton High, John Witherspoon Middle, and Community Park Schools. He taught phys ed. and was department chair at the high school.

Nowadays, while the pool occupies his summertime, he officiates cross-country as a track official for the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA), the voluntary, non-profit that represents the state's high school athletics. "When I'm not here, I'm refereeing basketball," he said.

He's also President of the Capital Track and Field Association of New Jersey, which handles all of Mercer County track and cross-country meets.

"Because the state track championships are still going on in June, I usually start at the pool around June 13. I do basketball in the fall, track and field in the spring, and the pool in the summer. From the school to the pool," he laughed.

Pool Complex

By any reckoning, Princeton Recreation Department's Community Park Pool is a well-used resource. According to Assistant Director Ted Ernst, some 54,000 people pass through its turnstiles on average each summer. About 39,000 season permits are sold to Princeton residents, with an additional non-resident quota of 1,000.

The complex comprises three pools: a 50-meter swimming pool, a diving well, and a "kiddie" wading pool. There is also a snack bar, picnic areas, lockers, changing facilities, and a children's play area.

Water quality is checked every two hours to make sure it meets state standards that are evaluated by a state official usually twice a week.

A variety of aquatic programs are offered for all age groups, including instruction in swimming, diving, life-saving, and competitive team swimming. The complex opens each year on Memorial Day weekend and maintains a seven-day-a-week schedule from mid-June through Labor Day.

Mr. Ernst reports that the Recreation Department has 50 guards on staff, manning three stations in shifts: four in the main pool, one in the children's pool, and one in the diving well. Between six and ten are on duty at any one time, he said.

Currently, the main pool holds 352,000 gallons of water, with 281,000 in the diving well, and 13,000 in the wading pool. There are plans to renovate the complex in the upcoming years.

The Man With the Answers

According to Mr. Ivan, his typical day is full of changes with problems to solve and a constant barrage of questions to answer. "It never ends, and that's a good thing," he said. "People lose their cell phones, their eye glasses — I have a box full of those — starting with the master swimmers at 5:30 a.m. and continuing every minute of the day until we close at 8 p.m."

"People leave keys in their car, get flat tires, and they come to me to call the police department to help them out. We try to help them in any way we can. Thank goodness we have a great staff. Jack Roberts and the Princeton Recreation Department staff do a great job and we have a great maintenance team.

"The day is filled from the get go with swim team practice, water exercise classes, deep water exercise, shallow water exercise, aerobics. And there's set up for each class. I enjoy the people contact and I know a lot of them from when they were youngsters."

"It's my job to keep everything safe for every one. You have to be alert to what is going on and get on the public address system whenever there's a missing child, for example.

"The challenges are endless because you are dealing with multiple attitudes from a large cross-section of the public. Every one that walks though the turnstile is different, has a different attitude and you want to make them feel welcome, maybe snap them out of a bad mood from work, especially on a Friday; that's a touchy day," he said.

Besides the regular season ticket-holders and those who pay for day admissions, numerous summer camps use the pool. In addition to the Princeton Recreation department's summer camp, daily visitors include a basketball camp, a soccer camp, Camp Israel, and the Lewis School Camp.


Although his presence at the pool makes him familiar to many Princeton residents, Mr. Ivan is a remarkably private man who avoids blowing his own trumpet, even when prompted.

Born in Southern California, he moved from Los Angeles to Union County, in the 1940s, with his Dad Lawrence J. Ivan Sr., his Mom, Helen, and his brother Bill, now deceased. At Rahway High School, where he was a basketball and track athlete, legendary scientist and author Carl Sagan was among his classmates. Mr. Ivan recalls him simply as a "great guy and a nice man."

Athletics was Mr. Ivan's route to opportunity, as well as his passion. "My parents didn't have a lot of money for college so one way for me to get there was to concentrate on athletics and academics," he said.

He won a basketball scholarship to attend the University of Oklahoma in the fifties. "That was during the golden age of sports there," he recalled. "We had the best football coach in Bud Wilkinson, [College Football Hall of Fame, 1969] and the best basketball coach in Bruce Drake, also a hall of famer."

"I wanted to get into teaching and my adviser, Dr. Bush, told me to major in social studies and minor in phys ed., so that I had more opportunities. He was right. I really liked to teach and later I got a master's in phys ed. from Trenton State [now The College of New Jersey]."

After graduating, Mr. Ivan began teaching in Princeton while playing basketball with the Eastern Professional Basketball League. "I played with them for eight years and after being a player, I became an official and I've been involved in that ever since," he said, adding. "I gave professional basketball a shot. I didn't make it but you use your disappointments; if you enjoy athletics it gives you so much, whether practicing a sport or watching young athletes perform at their peak."

The Jefferson Road resident met his wife Bette, a native Scot from Musselborough just outside of Edinburgh, in North Jersey in the late fifties. The couple raised three daughters. Tracey, Laine, and Kristy played field hockey for Princeton High School and were active in cheerleading, said Mr. Ivan. Besides their daughters, the Ivans have seven grandchildren.

While his love of athletics encompasses almost all sports, Mr. Ivan is a boxing enthusiast, above all. "Occasionally I'll go to Atlantic City or to Philadelphia, to the Blue Horizon boxing club, one of the oldest in the world."

Asked when he might retire proper, Mr. Ivan laughed. "Nine or ten more years," he said.

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