The 50th Anniversary Issue wouldn’t be complete without insights from the magazine’s former president, Nancy Field. Along with her publisher husband, the late Jules Field, Nancy led Pool & Spa News until its acquisition by Hanley Wood, LLC, in 2001.
Jules Field purchased the magazine, then called Pool News, in 1961, shortly after its inception. Cited by many as a pioneer and visionary, Field was known for his deep commitment to the pool and spa industry.
Over the course of his long career, Field was given many industry honors. In 1988, NSPI’s Southern California Chapter presented him with a Special Recognition crystal goblet. And he received the NSPI Eagle Award in 1989. Jules died in 2008 at the age of 92.
Nancy and Jules married in 1970, and three years later she joined Pool News as production coordinator. She worked alongside him, ultimately accepting the post of president of Leisure Publications Inc.
Here are some of Nancy Field’s memories of that time.
Why did Jules Field want to buy the magazine 50 years ago?
Originally, a Los Angeles-based printer owned Pool News, and Jules worked for the company selling advertising. His employer didn’t follow through on some promises that were made, and Jules began legal
action, which led to the printer selling him the publication.
What did he like most about the industry, and what did he like least?
Jules always enjoyed his contact with people. He refused to have anyone answer his calls because he wanted to be easy to reach and accessible.
[As far as what he liked least], I can only think of one thing that used to catch him off guard, and that was ads with models in wet T-shirts, or ads that weren’t well thought out. (He used to read every ad top to bottom before it went into the magazine.) His contention was that PSN had no authority to censor an advertiser — the magazine was purely the messenger. However, he would always contact an advertiser to talk about the importance of presenting a good image to readers if he personally felt something was inappropriate. Jules generally got his message across.
How did you see the industry, and PSN, change over the years?
It seemed the pool business was about on the same low level as used-car dealers in the late ’60s, when I first started learning more about it. There were many builders in Southern California who dug the holes and then went out of business before they finished jobs. Over the decades, the industry became more sophisticated. Trade associations were formed, [and] safety became a bigger issue. More lawsuits caused more regulations. With a booming economy, backyard living was marketable, and renovation became increasingly important as pools aged. Smaller home lots caused spas and hot tubs to grow in popularity. ....
Science and technology entered the market, making less work for the homeowner. I suppose I could go on and on, as the changes certainly outnumber the only thing that has never changed: the weather.
Pool News grew as the industry grew. Jules often reflected on how we were “riding a wave.” When Pool News became Pool & Spa News in 1979, it was with much thought and planning, and the recognition that many manufacturers were already serving both areas. So we changed our name as well to better address the needs of a growing industry. With that growth came more employees, more trade shows to attend and write about, and more new products leading to how-to articles and special supplements. ... Computers gave us even more of an advantage when we brought many tasks in-house and were able to transmit most of the magazine to the printer a day or so before press time.
What are some of your favorite PSN memories?
There was one issue in the ’70s that I believe would be a collector’s item today. For some reason, Jules was out of the office and it was up to all of us to get the issue to the printer on time. We were so concerned about all the details inside, but missed the most important one on the front cover — the issue ran without “Pool” and only the word “News.” Not too many readers noticed, but Jules did.
I was always very proud of the PSN Buyers Guide [now PSN Directory], especially when I heard that a huge East Coast publisher used to hold up a copy at sales meetings as an example of what a directory should look like, and what they wanted from their own sales departments. Jules designed the original, and its format has been copied many times over the years by other publications.
What did you and Jules do after leaving the pool and spa industry?
After Pool & Spa News and [sister magazine] Aquatics International were comfortably under new management, Jules and I continued to oversee our other publications and acquire some new titles. ... Leisure
Publications sold its remaining title and its Los Angeles headquarters building by the end of 2006. We had been weekend commuters to Dana Point (Calif.) since the early ’80s, so it was an easy decision to purchase a home in a nearby retirement community. We moved to Laguna Woods in fall 2007.
What are you up to these days?
Retirement has allowed me to spend more time with family and friends, as well as volunteering with several clubs and charitable organizations. I find after working 12- to 18-hour days at Leisure Publications, it’s been hard to just sit by the ocean and read a book. I’m still busy working, but for free. For example, I co-chair From the Wings, the Laguna Woods Chapter of The Guilds of the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa. And the Garden Club of Laguna Woods keeps me so busy, I hardly find time to garden! In this group, I’m the vice president/programs, and in line to be president next year. At the 110 Club, I’m on the board as editor of the 110 Pen newsletter. And I’m a Saddleback Kiwanis Club member.
What would you say is Jules Field’s industry legacy?
He is remembered as a pioneer in the field. His philosophy was to make readers the most important people in the mix — if PSN delivers information that readers value, they’ll keep coming back for more — and everything else will fall into place.
His own values were built around honesty, integrity, accuracy, no excuses, no tolerance for mediocrity, never assume anything, the ability to listen and accessibility. Most of us knew him as tough to work with, but there was always truth in his critiques and substance to his methodology. He set an example and raised the standards for many.