A Swimming Pool Fool
When I was a little girl, I was a swimming fool even though the pool in our little town left a lot to be desired. First of all, it wasn’t heated or filtered so they had to drain it every week and refill it with water they piped in from the South Pole. Not being a filtered pool, you’d think we would have all gotten a horrible disease like typhoid fever, leprosy or at the very least, Polio, but the water was either too cold to sustain microbial life or nobody could ever stay in long enough to catch anything.
The Magic of Turning Nine
Until I was in the fourth grade, all my summer mornings were spent begging and pleading with my mother to take me to the swimming pool. But when I turned nine, she decided I was old enough to go to the city pool on my own. So every morning I’d get up and kill time by playing hide and seek with the neighborhood kids until the magical hour of 1:00 o’clock when the city pool opened. My mother would fix me a tuna sandwich and make me wait half an hour before I could head out to the pool lest I get a cramp and drown. For some reason known only to 1950-ites, the most dangerous thing a person could do in the fifties would be to down a tuna sandwich and then dive directly into a body of water. You would get a cramp and you would drown. Period. End of story.
The Art of Towel Rolling
The towel you brought to the swimming pool said a lot about how well your parents had their acts together. The parents who had their acts totally together bought their children their own beach towels every summer with a cute picture of a whale or a beach umbrella emblazoned across its front. Other parents who didn’t have their acts quite as together didn’t mind if their child brought whatever towel happened to be hanging on the towel rack that day. And then there were the parents who didn’t have their acts together at all. These were the parents who were big believers in sun-dried kids.
My parents fell into the middle category. I would take some dingy towel off the towel rack everyday and fold it in half length-wise and roll my swimming suit up in it. Then I would put on my thongs (which is the fifties speak for flip-flops) and I’d head out across town to the city pool to join the small group of children who were also addicted to the swimming pool as much as I was.
Looking back on it now, there were about five of us who came every single day without fail. Most of them were sun-dried kids and for a while I forsook my towel to fit in. (I’d tell you their names but I’m not sure they had any.) Anyway, we would simply find a dry spot on the cement and lay there until we got hot enough to brave the frigid waters of Antarctica for another ten minutes of splish-splashing hypothermia.
Jackknifes, Cannonballs and Cutaways
Most of my activity at the pool was waiting in line to go off the diving board. My ‘go to’ dive was a jackknife. My friend, Susan Weber, was a whiz at a dive called the cutaway. While us girls worked on our dives, the boys were perfecting their cannonballs — a dive that never made any sense to me because why make a big splash if you can’t see it? But I do remember the boys who were a little on the hefty side being much better at the cannonball than their skinnier counterparts.
After Swimming Hunger
I have never been hungrier than I was in the fifties. Being a kid lends itself to a lot of hunger. The hunger you feel from only eating one bite of breakfast before school and counting the seconds until lunch. The hunger you feel after waiting for lunch to find that you are too finicky to eat hamburger gravy and sandy butter sandwiches. And then there’s the hunger you feel after school from being too picky to eat a decent breakfast and lunch.
Seven Bowls of Cheerios
But the hunger I felt after swimming all afternoon in the city pool beats them all. It’s the kind of hunger that only seven bowls of Cheerios swimming in a soup of sugary milk can satisfy. Sitting at the kitchen table, eating Cheerios with the late afternoon sun pouring through the window and knowing that after you finish your last bowl, the Three Stooges will be on. Does life get any better than that?
I think not.
Until next time . . . I love you