I lived too high up the hill to learn to swim when I was little. We had a creek but it was too shallow for swimming except for the spring runoff and then it was a raging torrent. We moved to Portland when I was six and we lived near the Sellwood Pool. The summer between the 2nd and 3rd grade my friend Gary, who was my age and I walked over to the pool and it was probably about a mile. I remember that it was kind of scary because we had to walk by the Mausoleum and then along the bluff overlooking the Willamette on our way to the pool.
It was a nice place and there were always lots of kids when we went there. We changed into our trunks in the locker room and then we had to take a shower before we headed out to the pool. The shower was always cold water and I never liked that. I skipped the shower one day and thought that if I got in the pool quick enough, nobody would notice. The only problem with doing that was I was very anxious to get into the water before anybody noticed and I didn’t look to see which side of the rope I was on. I jumped in on the deep end and the water was quite a bit over my head. I kept my eyes open and I saw a pipe that ran along the side and I pulled myself up on it and that allowed me to jump high enough to grab the side of the pool. My friend was very perplexed because I had been walking along beside him, I disappeared and then there I was climbing out of the pool.
I used to go to the YWCA in Longview when I was in high school. Lots of fun but I never really learned to swim. I wasn’t really afraid of the water. I think I was just too boney to float. I mostly just practiced swimming underwater.
We swam once or twice a week when I was in boot camp in the Navy and we had to swim 50 yards. I tried to do it underwater but I could never hold my breath long enough so they taught me to swim on my back. I still had a problem with sinking. If I didn’t keep my head back far enough, I sank. I finally swam the 50 yards with the help of my instructor. Whenever I started to raise my head a little bit, he smacked me across the forehead with a cane pole and that worked like a charm.
Our final exam for the swimming class was stepping off a 15 foot tower into the water to simulate abandoning a ship. We put on a life jacket, held our nose with one hand and grabbed the jacket with the other to keep it from riding up when we hit the water. We stepped off the platform and then crossed our legs for personal reasons.
Our whole group lined up and I was a little concerned that I might freeze when it was my turn so I asked the guy behind me to give me a little push if I hesitated. He took his job seriously and gave me a big shove and I did a belly flop in a life jacket from 15 feet. The instructor spotted that right off and he made me do it again. I more or less fell off the platform the second time with a similar result but he didn’t make me go back.
I haven’t been in the pool for a very long time but I am not so boney now and I think I should be able to float.