I love swimming! As far back as I can remember I have always loved swimming. I think I connect swimming with freedom. My earliest memory of actual swimming, is riding 2 miles to take swimming lessons at Humberside C.I. swimming pool. I know I was young, only 7 years old because that was the summer that my sister was born and I was allowed to go off more on my own. I am not sure if it was because it was normal in 1959 for children at age 7 to be independent or because Mom wanted one less worry as she cared for my baby sister.
|Oct 1957 - This is me on my fat wheel bike with training wheels. |
I am 5 years old.
I was 7 and 8 years old riding to Humberside CI
on the same bike minus training wheels.
I was ashamed to still be on a baby bike, but it was still freedom!
However I was horribly embarrassed because I was still riding my first bicycle, a small fat wheel starter bike. I was embarrassed by my bike because it was a small kid's bike and at nine years old, I thought of myself as a big kid, and because it had fat wheels and none of the other kids had fat wheels. I so wanted a new “big girl” bike but that was still 2 years in the future.
At Humberside C.I. that first summer I learned water basics and how to swim. I got my “width badge”, which meant that I had learnt how to swim and could cross the pool’s width on my own.
The following summer, still on my little kid bike, I once again made my way to Humberside C.I. once a week and earned my “length badge” meaning that I had accomplished the skill of swimming the length of the pool.
That was the end of my swimming lessons. The thought was, you know how to swim and so all you need to do now is practice. I practiced every chance I got and though that was not often, by the time I was 14 and entered high school I was a fairly good swimmer.
I loved swim class. First reason to love it, it was swim class! Second reason to love it, NO BOYS! We were separated into boy group and girls group for all physical education classes. I loved this because I was always being teased by the boys. So Phys Ed was my favorite class because there were no boys around to tease me!
I was always the first person changed so that I could 'quick walk' (no running allowed) to the pool and dive in. I was always thrilled when I was able to swim 2 lengths before the other girls arrived. That became my challenge every class.
I relished every lesson we had in that first year of high school. I felt at home in the water. I was the first one in and the last one out. While the other girls were rushing to get changed so they would have time to dry their hair before class, I swam one more length. I always made an effort to be at the far end of the pool at period end so that when teacher blew the whistle and called, “swim to the deep end of the pool”. This meant that while all the others were clamoring to be first out I had those precious moments to slowly swim to the other end. I wonder now if my teacher knew? She never scolded me for that slow swim. She never urged me to go faster. Did she know my love of swimming? Maybe that is why she invited me to swim team!
Then it was time to head to the dressing room and change as fast as possible. There never was time for hair drying and I always went to my next class with wet hair!
The next year tragedy struck. Bruce Leighton, a boy who lived just a block away from me died. At 15 it was my first experience with death and that was traumatic enough. Even worse was the way he died. He was the first boy in the pool. He was the boy, who like me, always wanted to be first in the pool. If that had been ‘girls pool day’ that would have been me, dead in the pool. Dead of electrocution! One of the pool lamps had a water seal failure and the electric wire came in contact with the water and the water became a big carrier of electricity. When Bruce dove in for his first length, just the way I did, he was instantly electrocuted.
For days I walked around in a daze. Not only was I mourning the loss of a childhood neighbor, I was also fully aware of my close brush with death.
Happily the pool was only closed long enough for repairs and safety upgrades to be made and then it was back to normal swim classes and fun in the pool. And yes I continued to be the first one in the pool, diving in for my first length before the other girls arrived!
Renate Dundys Marrello
My Facebook Reflections Page