Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Time for Swimming

Time for Swimming
non-fiction memoir
by Greg Larson    

My mom’s rules were hard and fast.  It was next to impossible to negotiate with her, but I had to try.  My buddies were all sitting on their bikes in our driveway, spinning the pedals with their thong sandals and snapping their beach towels at each other.  They were getting impatient.

     “Mom!” I huffed, “The guys are waiting for me to go with them to the pool.”

     “You know the rules.” She replied coldly, “You have to wait an hour after lunch before you can go swimming.”

     “But there’s only ten minutes left!”  

     I was trying to be polite in my negotiations, so I toned down my voice, “It will take us that long to ride our bikes over to the pool, shower, and then get in the water.”

     She gave me ‘the stare’ and then she caved in to my logic, “Okay, but don’t get in the water until the next ten minutes have passed……..1:30 at the earliest.”

     I ran out the front door, and let the screen door slam behind me.

     “Geeaawwll, Larson, what took you so long?” asked my buddy Mike.

     Before I could reply, my neighbor friend, Roger, responded to the question with a sarcastic sing-song voice, “Larson’s mommy is afraid he has too much food in his tummy and he might sink to the bottom of the pool and drown if he gets in the water too soon.  HA! HA! HA!"

     I rolled my eyes and then checked to make sure a dime was tucked in the net pocket of my swim trunks.  I didn’t want to be without the money to buy a drumstick ice cream treat when we finished swimming.  The dime was secure, so we rolled out onto the street.  It wasn’t far to the Westlink swimming pool in west Wichita, and if we cut across the ball diamonds and the church yard, it was an even shorter ride.

     It was summer 1961, and time had very little meaning, unless it was part of some arcane rule established by my parents.  We usually lost all track of time when we were having fun at the pool.  We played every possible game, from diving for our dimes, and contests to determine how long we could hold our breath under water, to playing ‘tag’ in the water or just sitting on the bottom of the pool, blowing bubbles.  And we could always go to the diving boards for a change of pace.  Flips, dives, cannonballs and can openers were some of our favorite choices.  But all of us learned quickly that if it appeared we purposely splashed the lifeguard, his or her whistle would blow, and it would be an automatic ten minutes out of the eternity of time for someone ten years old.

     The rock ‘n roll station was always blaring on the sound system, except when the pool manager would cut into the song with the desk microphone and say something like, “The Witherspoons are supposed to go home now…..your mom just called.”  Our two favorite songs were ‘The Stripper’ and ‘A-hab the A-rab’.  We made up a rule that whoever was on the diving board when those songs were playing would have to act silly and wiggle and bounce while swinging their butt wildly just before leaping into the air.  My only concern when I was dancing on the diving board was that I had to quit laughing before I hit the water.

     It was hard to make a big splash, since I only weighed about eighty-five pounds, but I had to make the most of it.  We were always looking for new splash methods and techniques.  I watched an older boy dive off the low board. His entry was funny, though.  It was like an upside-down cannonball, and he tucked his arms, head and neck just as he hit the water.  There was an explosion of water and so much spray that you’d have thought a stick of dynamite had gone off underwater.

     “Mike, did you see that! WOW! What a splash!” I squealed, “What do you call that?”

     “They say it’s called a ‘watermelon’.” replied Mike. “We’ll have to try it!”

     We practiced ‘watermelons’ until we perfected the splash.  So much water was displaced upon entry that I felt an exploding 'thud' on the body each time I dove into the water.

     After so much fun in the sun, we were starving again, so we all went to the concession window to buy our treats.  Then we found a spot in the shade of the building to sit on our towels and devour the purchase.

     One Saturday while I was at the diving boards with my two brothers, we noticed my dad standing by the fence, watching us.  Uh-oh, I thought, what did we do now?  I ran over to the fence and asked Dad if he wanted us to come home.

     “No,” he said as he lifted up the movie camera with 8mm film, “I just brought the movie camera over here to see if I could get some shots of you guys jumping off the diving board.”

     My brothers and I got in line at the high board and we hammed it up a little for Dad.  I had learned to do a flip, so I did my best one for him while the camera was running.

     A couple of months later on a Sunday night, Dad set up the movie projector and the screen, and we watched our recent vacation movies.  At the end of the reel we saw what he had captured on film at the swimming pool.  It seemed unreal to be able to watch myself jump off the diving board and splash into the water.

     “We want to watch the dives, again, DAD!” we yelled.

     So Dad put the projector into reverse, and we watched ourselves on the screen in reverse; flipping up out of the water, wildly landing on the high board, running backwards, then braking to a complete stop.

     We howled with laughter!

     Then he would play the film forward, and once the diving board sequence was completed, he would reverse the film and repeat the process.

     I laughed so hard I was out of breath.  Mom and Dad were laughing with us, too. I thought, you know, my parents aren’t so bad, even if they do make us follow their stupid rules!


  1. Is this new, Greg? It might be quite dangerous to allow uncensorred comments. Ha! My folks had the same rules.

    Nice job on this piece. In my mind's eye I can see you traveling back in time as you were writting this. Well done.

  2. I was just thinking of the old days and the Westlink pool! What a great place that was. I was working outside sweating up a storm and thinking of how cool the summers were when we were growing up. It's because we spent the entire summer in the pool!
    We suffered the same "you'll get cramps and drown" rule except it took us longer to get to the pool than you. Mom would let us leave after we ate lunch. Our biggest problem would be the "chores" we had to do BEFORE we could go to the pool. NONE of us could set foot off the property until ALL of us (3 kids)had done our chores. If my brother or sister didn't care to work or did not want to swim then the others would have to help get their work done or wait until 12:oo noon to go to the pool.
    It was very unfair as I was the youngest and had less "chores" to complete so I was always ready to go early. Little did I realize what a great lesson our parents were teaching us.
    Fond memories always spring forward when I think of the Westlink pool. Thanks for the stroll.