Boomers loved to swim. Whether it was the ocean, a creek, a nearby lake or a chlorine-drenched swimming pool, when summer came, Boomers went swimming.
Today’s kids have so many activities that it boggles the mind. Even in summer, there are gymnastic classes, T-Ball, baseball, softball, lacrosse, soccer camps, day camps and the like, not to mention the myriad of electronic games and gizmos available.
For Boomers, if we wanted a summer activity beyond Little League Baseball, we went swimming.
Can you remember the first time you swam alone? What a moment. My maiden journey across the top of the water, rather than beneath it, was at Camp Lake Pocahontas in the mountains of western Virginia. The camp councilors were quick to teach us non-swimming campers how to navigate the waters of the Holston River. I could swim a little, if thrashing around like a drowning rat was swimming, but the councilors taught us free-style, the backstroke, the breast-stroke and the Australian Crawl.
After a couple weeks, I could do them all. Returning back to Beckley, WV, I talked my parents into springing for a $10 youth membership at a local public pool. My close friend and sidekick, Freddy Arnold, accompanied me almost daily on our five-mile bike ride across town to the local pool with goggles and rubber swim fins in hand. This was on a major thoroughfare and through city traffic and we were 10 and 11 respectively.
Any chance a modern parent would let a child ride a bike that far by himself in traffic – and without a helmet? Maybe when pigs fly.
But did we ever have fun. We swam, we dived, we raced, and we challenged each other to see who could swim underwater for the greatest distance. Sometimes we just sat underwater to see how long we could hold our breaths. We ate candy bars for snacks. They were a nickel each – Payday’s, Zero Bars and Butterfingers.
I also have great memories of going to Beaver Dam Lake outside of Beckley. It was a beautiful lake, surrounded by mountains and rolling hills. Many of the teenagers came to the lake to hang out and dance to the jukebox on the pavillion, but Freddy and I hit the lake and stayed in the water until our skin resembled dried prunes.
We often had family picnics at the lake, and church picnics as well. Ah, the church picnics! The church ladies always outdid themselves with ham biscuits, fried chicken, pimento cheese sandwiches, vegetables and casseroles of every description and, of course, homemade cookies, cakes and pies. After we ate, our parents insisted we wait the required 30 minutes so that we would not be stricken with cramps and go belly up when we hit the water. Sometimes we waited a half hour, and sometimes, if we were out of sight, we went swimming anyway.
Going swimming on a hot summer day and a picnic at the lake. How well Boomers remember those days.