Marshfield, June 1934: Making a splash
Construction on Hefko Pool is completed
By Kris Leonhardt
The legacy of Theodore Hefko began in the country of Austria. The son of Ukrainian immigrant farmers, Hefko grew up to serve his country in the Austrian army.
Following his discharge, Hefko struggled to find work and headed to America with its promise of great work opportunities.
Like many in the early days of the country, Hefko remained in New York for a time gaining his footing. He then headed west to Wisconsin, where he later apprenticed under a Merrill florist.
With the experience he had gained, Hefko purchased a floral business in Marshfield and began delivering flowers by bicycle and Soo Line railroad service.
Over the next two decades, Hefko would expand and grow his business into the successful enterprise it remains today.
While building his business, Hefko became involved in civic affairs and, in 1928, was elected mayor of the city of Marshfield.
During his term Marshfield residents pushed for some type of aquatic venue within the city. As one of the largest cities in the state of Wisconsin not situated on a river or lake, something was certainly needed during the brutal summer months. The closest respite from the hot, humid weather meant a walk to the Yellow River.
At the height of the Great Depression though, there was little money to spare.
With the introduction of Franklin Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration, an opportunity arose. The relief program, designed to get unemployed Americans back to work, provided funds for the construction of highways, playgrounds, hospitals, schools, and airports around the country.
Hefko and his administration saw an opening and secured funds for the construction of a city pool.
The pool was completed in the spring of 1934 and was set to open on Memorial Day weekend. The finishing touches had been completed, a manager was in place, and enough lifeguards had been hired to accommodate the long summer hours.
However, coupled with the economic depression was one of the longest and hardest droughts in Wisconsin. The pool could not be filled.
Over the long, hot June weeks that followed, Marshfield residents grew restless waiting for the new pool to open. Weeks would turn to months before the anxious public would find some relief.
On Aug. 1, 1934, the new Hefko Pool would obtain enough water to open, launching an institution that would welcome multiple generations through its gates.
Kris Leonhardt may be contacted by mail at P.O. Box 51, Marshfield, WI 54449 or email at [email protected]