Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Growing Up On Water . . .

. . . . . . . . . .And In Water

Unfortunately, and I am somewhat embarrassed to admit it, I have spent most of the last century and some this one, unable to swim. A few paragraphs down you'll find out what prevented me from becoming, say, an olympic swimmer.

But I'll start at the beginning - on water. As a kid I often visited with neighbors Joe and Marion Tremblay, now long deceased. They were avid fishing enthusiasts and I accompanied them in the hometown on a lot of their excursions - on water.

The Tremblays were canoeists and most of their fishing excursions involved a canoe, skimming across Sabbatia Lake to Watson Pond and then up the Snake River.

I was taught to handle the canoe and often was the guy, little as I was, who canoed up the river toward Mansfield while Joe and Marion trolled for trout or other species.

There's one other "on water" story. Very brief. It involves a cruise across the Atlantic Ocean to Scotland, during World War II, on a ship dogged for nearly two weeks by a German submarine.

Probably like many others on that ship I was scared - - what shall I say - - well, you know what I mean, because I could not swim. The return trip across the ocean was a little better although I still could not swim.

Now we'll get INTO the water. Uncle Frank Coyle (now deceased) tried to teach me to swim on Sabbatia Lake. Tried hard, he did, but the mehod was to toss me off a diving raft and then yell instructions that didn't work. His lifeguard daughter Mildred RN, (now deceased) had to buoy me up and "rescue " me. I was a young tyke at the time.

My dad and mom and a lot of other folks got together for many summers to camp for a week at Horseneck and Old Silver beaches on Cape Cod. We all, maybe two dozen of us, lived in tents on the beaches.

Most of the time I waded in the surf, sometimes in higher water up to my neck but despite Uncle Frank, Mildred, young Francis Coyle and Tom Riply (all now deceased) trying every day to made me swim, I sank.

Enter Dan Mellacio, husband of Mary Doherty RN, (both now deceased), who was on a different family's expedition to Horseneck Beach, with my dad, mom, brother Paul and sister Margery.

With a positive Italian attiude, Mr. Mellacio announced, "I will show him how to swim and he will swim." Actually, Dan nearly succeeded but nature suddenly interferred, whipping up a ferious windstorm at the beach which in turn created a powerful undertow.

That knocked him down and yanked me seaward. He could not find me but other swimmers saw me yards away, headed for South America no doubt.

Dan made his way to me, hoisted me on a shoulder and got me back to the beach. Some pushing and banging on my back got me coughing up seawater. I can vaguely recall glaring at Mr. Mellacio.

I didn't learn to swim but later in life I gave it a try again because I had to
impress four kids I was not afraid of water. This yarn comes out of the Magnolia Hill swimming pool in Levittown, Pennsyvania, where at least one or two of the kids were taking swmming lessons and I tried to boost their attitude and dispel any fear.

I got into the water and actually swam half way across the pool until I didn't feel concrete under my feet any more. I probably freaked out when I started to sink into deepwater. That's when it REALLY got embarrasing.

I don't know how I got out of the pool but I imagine a lifeguard managed to get me poolside. Then came the clincher that I guess a lot of Levittowners still laugh about. Now, I'm not sure that my memory has gone hazy again Yarntangler (I know you'll tell me)but here goes . . .

A lifeguard dove into the water and came up laughing and shouting:

LOOK WHAT I JUST FOUND, holding up my choppers. It took me a while to forget that episode.

Most lately, maybe six or eight yeara ago, I was in Sierra Vista, Arizona, on a visit and I dared to go nto a swimming pool once again and help one of the Salvo quads enjoy her pool outing, holding her up as she floated.

Suddenly I stepped off the "safe" part of the pool (for me) and started sinking. I threw the little girl to Lady B who was nearby and completed my sinking. Lifeguard Melodie came to the rescue when she noticed I didn't come up.

Now I am confining my water immersion to the jacuzzi out on the patio or the shallow tub in the bathroom.

- 30 -


  1. Does any man have to be judged by his aquatic skills? Are we less manly because we don't prowl the deep end ... I think water should either be frozen and mixed with distilled beverages or poured softly over our heads ...

  2. Uh... Old Newsie, in my new role as Jr.Lifeguard, I'm the one who rescued your teeth. Earl,the real lifeguard, (I had my first "older man" crush on him - he was 16 I was 12), said, "I'm not getting them-he's your father."

    Thank you, I'd forgotten all about that incident but it should make for a good story.