Pam and I started in a beginner's class with a bunch of kids much younger than we were. Our instructor was this pretty blonde named Karen who used to wear tiny bikinis to our lessons. She was probably around 20 or so. The worst part for me (well, actually, there were several 'worse' parts) was not being able to see well under water. I wore 'coke bottle' glasses before I switched to contact lenses when I was 14. Also, I couldn't stand water going up my nose. And, yes, it did go up my nose despite the fact that I was holding my breath.
Pretty soon she had us swimming the width of the pool between the buoy lines. Now, I hate deep water. Even after taking swimming lessons. So when it was my turn I always slowly curved over until I was pretty much swimming along beside the buoy line on the left. Apparently this wasn't lost on Army Sergeant. Pam said that one day while I was swimming across, Army Sergeant told her that 'your sister sure does curve around when she swims.' Sheez, you'd think she would have figured it out. The last day of class we had to do what I had really feared. Jump off the diving board. We didn't have to actually dive although we had been taught to do that. I practically had to be pushed as I held my nose and jumped. I honestly thought I was drowning. Pam was trying to get Army Sergeant's attention when I discovered (the hard way) how to dog paddle. That's how I got to the surface and over to the ladder. I was both scared to death by my near-death experience and exhilarated by learning to dog paddle. I still hate diving boards and never dive in. I always jump feet-first while holding my nose. Diving gives me a headache. I could actually swim pretty well under water with one arm while holding my nose.
After passing both sets of lessons, Pam and I were allowed to go to the pool on our own. It was great -- we went almost every day during the summers we lived there. We'd put on our suits and flip flops, grab a beach towel and some change for snacks and then peddle to the pool on our bikes. Ah, it felt like pure freedom. Sometimes we either met or ran into friends from school there or we'd just entertain ourselves. Although we both turned pretty tan, we preferred staying in the water as much as possible. We'd play 'Marco Polo' or take turns diving for a penny on the bottom of the pool. Shallow end, of course.
Hanky always spent his entire 15 minutes swimming the length of the pool, back and forth. He preferred the breast stroke. He was really muscular -- almost to the point of looking like a body builder. Just those swims probably helped keep him in good shape. After his 15 minutes were up, he'd blow his whistle again to let us know we could all get back in the water.
I think Carol eventually took some swimming lessons while we still lived there but didn't complete learning to swim until after we'd moved to Florida. She and Heidi both learned to swim at much younger ages than Pam and I did. We moved to a tiny city, almost a suburb of Tampa, called Temple Terrace. By the time Heidi was old enough for lessons, she took them during the summer with other kids around her age. There was a small private college in Temple Terrace that offered lessons at their pool during the summer. I remember Pam and Carol and I going with our mother to watch her swim. At first I felt a little embarrassed for Heidi because every time there was any sort of race in the pool, she was last. Dead last. Not only that but it didn't seem to bother her. She was going at her pace and didn't care what anyone else was doing. She grew into a really strong swimmer, too, particularly after my parents had a pool installed in the back yard. Come to think of it, Heidi is still that way. Her way or the highway.
Heidi goes for the gold!