- Quality of Life & Wellness
Learning to swim in 1950s Minneapolis
One would think anyone growing up in Minneapolis, Minnesota would know how to swim. It should come naturally, but it doesn't. Minnesota is full of lakes. In fact, it is called the “City of Lakes. “There are lakes and swimming beaches in the city. Lake Calhoun had a popular beach that anyone could get to by bus or streetcar in those days. Speaking of Lake Calhoun I remember reading a news story about a man trying to swim across Lake Calhoun. I guess it was illegal to get outside the boundaries of the beach., so the police intercepted him and made him swim back..
What is really interesting is I met that swimmer many years later. We worked together at Rock Island, IL. He had been a student at a vocational school in Minneapolis at the time of the swimming incident. His home was Davenport, Iowa and he had been in Minneapolis on a scholarship. I learned about his swimming incident when it came up in a conversation . He told me about trying to swim across the lake. He said he was really tired after swimming about two thirds of the way across and back. I was impressed by his adventure since I never really learned to swim.
When I was a kid I wanted to learn to swim because there was not a lot to do back then if you didn't swim. A lot of recreation in Minnesota evolves around water, such as swimming, boating, and fishing. There was a swimming pool within walking distance of home and one that was a streetcar ride away. Lake Calhoun had beaches and was available by bus or streetcar. We also lived close to the Mississippi River. In high school I knew kids who grew up on farms near the Mississippi. It should come naturally, but it doesn't. Minnesota is full of lakes. In fact, Minneapolis is called the “City of Lakes. “ Speaking of Lake Calhoun I remember reading a news story about a man trying to swim across Lake Calhoun. I guess it was illegal to get outside the boundaries of the beach., so the police intercepted him and made him swim back..
Living in the City of Lakes you should be able to swim though. Right? I think that the schools there might have swimming pools now, but the ones I went to did not. I don't think Dad could swim very well. I think he might have tried to teach me when were were out to the lake. A Minnesota phrase: “go to the lake.” It basically means going on a vacation, usually to a lake, but not any lake in particular. One could get the impression that half the state goes to one lake and seeing all the cars pulling boats that impression would be reinforced. Anyhow, Dad didn't seem to do anything more than dog paddle. He tried once to teach me but it didn't work.
The neighborhood kids that I chummed around with during grade school days would sometimes go the the swimming pool. I think they were trying to help me learn, but I've never been sure. Anyhow two or three kids would grab me and throw me into the pool. Somehow I struggled out again. It was a theory back then that if one were thrown in the water swimming would come natural. Never worked for me. I am not sure how much the others actually swan or if they mostly just played in the water.
It might have been an early sign of diabetes but I always got chilly faster than other people. This was true in cold weather or cold water. So I had very little chance to feel comfortable in the water.
When I got in college I was considering the possibility of getting a degree in education and would need some PhyEd credits, so I signed up for a swimming course. The rule to pass the course was to go across the pool and back any way you could. I learned to dog paddle a bit, the dead mans float and to float on my back. I sort of learned the breast stroke. No matter what I always came out of the water shivering and my teeth chattering. The instructor told the class that I reminded him of Don Knots. Anyhow, I made the two laps of the pool, got credit for the course and never tried swimming since.
I don't know if there is any genetic connection but my brother in California would only swim in a heated pool after he got out of the Navy. He said it was due to having gotten Scarlet fever while in the service. I am not sure of my offspring in regard to swimming except that one of my granddaughters was working as a lifeguard this last year.
The conclusion is that nobody really taught me how to swim, including a PhyEd instructor. Maybe with a heated pool and a good instructor I would have learned. With my age and current health I don't think I would care to try. I figure I accomplished enough to say I gave it a fair try.