Venetian Pools in the '40s
Venetian Pools - Part of a great life
Growing up in Miami in the '40s was a great time and place for swimming. And Venetian Pools was one of the very best places to do it. We had the warm Atlantic Ocean at our doorstep, we had many rockpits, canals and the Miami River, and we had wonderful, warm weather most of the time. But if you were a teen in the summer, or on a Saturday during the school year, Venetian Pools was the place to be.
My folks never took me swimming, so I got a late start. I was in the Boy Scouts and we had meetings at the patrol leader's home, which was near the Miami River. Someone had hung a rope from a pine tree and the guys would swing out and drop in the water, where a large airplane inner tube waited for you to grab - for those of us who had not learned to swim. But you had to flail about a bit to reach it, and that was the beginning of how I learned to swim.
From that humble beginning, I went to the Snapper Creek Boy Scout camp, where you had to prove you could swim the length of the pool before they would let you jump off the diving board. It took me a long time to make it, but I did. My friend, Andy Chapman, who later became a lifeguard, walked along beside me encouraging me all the way. Without him telling me I could do it over and over, I am not sure I would have made it.
As a matter of fact, Andy may have saved my life. We were swimming in a rock pit - probably trespassing - when I went under water, and somehow got stuck between two huge pipes. Andy, who was out of the water, saw my precarious position and reached through the pipes, put his hand under my chin, and pulled me up.
After that, Andy and I and another guy used to ride our bicycles out to Matheson Hammock for salt water swimming, as well as to other rockpits, and the river. I remember once, swimming in a canal that ran into the river when I was bumped my a sea cow (a manatee). It scared me, but they are harmless. I should have been more worried about alligators, but we were kids and didn't worry about them.
Another time, it was a cold winter night, when we decided to swim in a rockpit. We were not in the water more than a couple of minutes when somebody fired a couple of shots at us from the other side. . I guess that was their way of telling us we were not wanted there. We got on our bikes and got out of there mighty fast.
But back to my story of Venetian Pools, They had caves you could swim into. Those were favorite spots. And, the more daring guys used to show off for the girls by jumping off the top of a rock formation. The water was always crystal clear and cool. They had locker rooms for changing and a place where you could get a coke or snack. There was even a small sandy beach.
And Venetian Pools is located in Coral Gables, at the time - and maybe still - Miami's most beautiful suburb with wide palm shaded streets, lovely Spanish architecture and landscaped yards with verdant green lawns. It all made for a wonderful route for our bicycle rides to Venetian Pools.
But I did have one embarassing momen there. I didn't have a bathing suit, so I borrowed one from my uncle. It was obviously way too big, but I made it do. Well, it was white and I had no jock strap, or anything else under it. I was sitting on that sandy beach when I looked down and realized that it was wet - and transparent. Needless to say, I didn't go back in the water that day.
I have many happy memories of growing up in Miami, and going to Venetian Pools is one of the best.
OVER THE HANDLEBARS
If you enjoy my writing, and nostalgia about the '60s, you may enjoy my book, OVER THE HANDLEBARS. It is a collection of 24 stories and articles about motorcycling, most of which were originally published in motorcycle magazines in the 60s. It is available from Amazon.com.
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