As I posted about here, the SEC now has an account on the social media site Pinterest. Recently, the SEC pinned the odd photo below with the cryptic caption, "The SEC occupies a swimming pool in Philadelphia. Image taken on March 24, 1942."
(photo courtesy of www.sechistorical.org)
So ... why was the SEC "occupying" a swimming pool with its staff, desks, filing cabinets and typewriters in 1942? This is the type of photo that is difficult to understand on its own 73 years later, but thankfully the SEC Historical Society exists to document the agency's history--including its use of a swimming pool for office purposes in 1942.
The photo is from the Virtual Museum and Archive of the SEC Historical Society, a terrific resource that I have mentioned here before. In one of the many papers collected in the Virtual Museum, a former staff member named Karl C. Smeltzer, who worked at the SEC from 1936 to 1973, explains that the SEC ended up working at the bottom of a swimming pool when it moved from Washington, D.C. to Philadelphia to make room in D.C. for war-related agencies. Smeltzer says that the U.S. Information Service took over the SEC's building in D.C., and the SEC moved to the former Pennsylvania Athletic Club in central Philadelphia.
According to Smeltzer,
It was a large, solid building of thirteen stories, more like an older luxury hotel with athletic facilities than purely an athletic club, not made or very suitable for offices. A minimum of renovations were made. The swimming pool was boarded over and became a large file room. Exercise and meeting rooms became hearing rooms. There was a bathroom in each of the many hotel-type rooms, which were used by the SEC for individual offices, with two desks in place of the beds.
And that is the story of how the SEC came to occupy a swimming pool in Philadelphia!