Lionel Marlow — Best in pool service!
In 1973, Lionel Marlow was an aerospace engineer, working at a time when the industry was going through a massive recession leading to large scale layoffs.
In a six-month period, he was laid off from three different aerospace companies, and found himself without a source of income. With three young daughters to help support, he knew he’d better start looking for a different career. Like so many others in the industry, he stumbled into pool service. Forty-eight years later, he’s still at it.
At the time, his ex-wife was dating a pool man, and she told him she thought he might like the job.
“I didn’t even know there was such a job – I’d never noticed a pool truck in my life,” Marlow said.
So, armed with a simple test kit, he began walking door to door, asking homeowners if he could test their pools. By the time his unemployment had ended, he had a service route of 40 customers.
For the next four years, he focused on building his route. But his dream was to open a pool and spa retail store. He’d been told that a service professional needed at least 100 pools to support a retail store.
“My grandfather owned a store and so it was always in the back of my head to
own one as well,” Marlow said.
By 1978, that dream was realized. He was making a good income, servicing pools and also running the store.
Marlow got involved with the Independent Pool and Spa Service Association (IPSSA) early on, when it was known as IPSA. That was in 1978. The association had much to offer and he made many friends and acquaintances over the years.
He was instrumental in the formation of Cal-IPSA, a group that broke away from IPSA in 1981.
1 11/23/20 9:31 AM
He remembers meeting Ray Arouesty at a delicatessen at about that time. When Marlow learned that Arouesty was an insurance broker, he asked if Arrow Insurance would insure the members of the new group Cal-IPSA. Arouesty agreed.
In 1988, Cal-IPSA and IPSA merged to form today’s IPSSA. Its members enjoy the benefits of a strong association that has spanned decades.
“When I first got into the industry, I kept going to libraries to try to learn about the job, but there were no books on taking care of pools and how to do it, and everyone had their own ideas,” Marlow said.
The meetings Marlow attended soon made it apparent that there was a real need for education in the pool and spa industry.
“The plaster and tile people kept saying the pool guys were ruining pools with the way they were taking care of them,” Marlow said.
Marlow was also one of the founding members of the Western Pool and Spa Show, which currently takes place in Long Beach, California.
He was friends with Don Wilson, the owner of HASA, a chlorine manufacturer.
According to Marlow, Don Wilson played a big role in organizing the early Western Pool and Spa shows.
“Don Wilson was a strong force and he knew how to get people together,” Marlow said.
Over the years, Marlow became very active within IPSSA, serving as the San Fernando Valley Chapter treasurer for nearly 20 years. In addition to meetings, the chapter members organized family picnics, baseball games, and even took a cruise from Louisiana to Mexico.
Marlow says those kinds of activities are what created the camaraderie that makes IPSSA still work today.
“If you go to a ball game together you get to know each other, so if one of those guys gets sick and needs route coverage, you know who you are helping,” Marlow said.
Indeed, Marlow found himself in need of sick route coverage after he was injured in a car accident. In 2000, he discovered he had sleep apnea after he fell asleep at the wheel and hit a tree. The accident left him unable to walk for about a year and a half.
“IPSSAsaved my route and they saved my store too. Elias Duran was president at thetime,andIowehimalot,”Marlowsaid.
It has been 48 years since Marlow entered the pool industry, and he still likes to keep a finger on its pulse,
Lionel Marlow at home in Southern California, 2020. attending IPSSA BORD meetings and officiating the new truck give-away at the Western Pool and Spa Show.
He likes spending time with other pool professionals who enjoy the work they do, and he feels fortunate that he made his career in the pool and spa industry.
“The pool industry has been good to me,” Marlow said.
He closed his store in 2005 and sold most of his route. Now, at 88-years-old, Marlow retains a single customer and the once weekly work makes him happy. “It gets me out of the house and I get to go to the supply house once a month. And I really do a good job on that pool.