While the treasure hunting business was being formed in the mid to late 1980s, many things were changing. My parents had been running a very successful pool company when they first went on a dive trip to Haiti. Since I wasn’t born until 1987, the only stories I have of that time are from my parents. This week I had my mom recount her version of the early years of the treasure hunting company. She has been by my dad’s side since the beginning, and hearing her side of the story in addition to the side I had already heard from my dad helped make a more complete, well-rounded tale of the forming of what would one day become Sub Sea Research. It is also interesting to hear more of what my parents did before they ran Sub Sea, and to learn how those skills were cultivated for use in the business they are in now.
Aqua Pool Company, my parents’ gunite swimming pool business, was created in 1981. The company would operate between the months of April and November each year, with preparations for each season beginning in March. Every year my mom and dad would go to pool shows in the mall and other locations, looking for new customers. They would hand out brochures and show photos of the many beautiful pools they had already built. My dad had gone to chemistry school and was knowledgeable about PH levels and maintaining clean and sterile swimming pool water. My mom dealt more with customer service and keeping up good relations with new and old customers alike. In addition to building pools for people, they also helped service existing pools and spas. They had a shop on Congress Street in Portland, Maine, also called Aqua Pool Company. The store was small, but was a good place to attract new customers. My dad and his friend Ron Fawcett built a stunning stone wall on the side of the building, which still stands to this day, though the place is now a dive shop.
In 1983, my dad’s brother Matt Brooks came back to Maine from where he was staying in Georgia. He also worked on swimming pools, and so he and my dad joined forces to help their growing businesses. They changed the company’s name to Pool Creations, and the home base moved from Congress Street to St. John Plaza in Portland. The new store was larger and more elaborate, with a “backyard” decor. There was a hot tub, palm trees and wall designed to look like the back of someone’s house. My mom ran the store, testing pool water and selling chemicals needed to maintain the PH levels of the water. She also did payroll for the company and the small amount of crew members my dad and Matt employed.
Despite living in Maine, a state with long, cold winters which can sometimes mean the downfall for swimming pool businesses, Pool Creations was thriving. Their hard work was paying off each summer season. My mom and dad were making excellent money, and had extra for vacations each winter when the business would be shut down. They went to different places each year, like St. Marten and Key West. In the fall of 1984, they attended a presentation on diving spots worldwide at a dive shop. Friends of my parents, Mel Corey and Joe Cooper, showed some photos from their recent trip to Haiti. My mom says: “They had just come back from a trip to Haiti, and although it wasn’t a typical tourist destination, it became appealing for that reason and also because of the alluring photographs which enticed us. Every winter, after our swimming pool business had closed for the season, we would take a vacation, but traveling abroad to Haiti would be our furthest and most adventurous trip.”
This fateful decision is what led to the creation of what is now Sub Sea Research. In my next article, I will share my mom’s perspective of that trip to Haiti and the find of the first silver bar.