Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Growing up: the Plunge

During the summer we'd meet at the "Plunge," the local swimming pool, and spend the morning there. It was 25 cents to swim for the morning session and for a 10 cents deposit you could put your dry clothes in a cubby hole. You'd get a big old rusty safety pin that made a hole in your bathing suit with the number of the cubby and when you brought it back you'd get your dime. Everyone said the old man behind the counter would go through your stuff and steal your money but I never had much stuff and never lost any money. You could change your clothes in the locker room but I always wore my bathing suit under my shorts and t-shirt. Who wants to waste time plus the dressing room smelled of chlorine and mold so you wanted to get outside quickly.

We'd swim, really just play in the roped off shallow water, until the lifeguards blew the whistle for a rest. This would give everyone a chance to use the bathroom, yeah, like most didn't just pee in the pool, or rest a few minutes, or buy a snack from the vending machine. If I had an extra dime I'd buy a bag of Corn Nuts. They were salty and tasted like chlorine but I loved them. We'd sit on the deck waiting to be whistled back in and it seemed like ages. At noon they'd blow the whistle again and that was the end of the first session. You had to leave but you could come back at 1:00 and pay another quarter. Most of the time that would be enough water even if you were only ten.

Even if you went alone there were kids you knew from school and summer was a great time for the Plunge. There was a girl who's mother wouldn't let her go alone, which was so embarrassing. The mom would pick me up and drive us there then sit on a blanket outside the pool fence. My friend was an only child and she could swim because she had private lessons, but mostly we just splashed and played Marco Polo. I could swim a little but to go beyond the roped off section you had to prove to the lifeguard you could swim the width of the pool. I tried it once and then some punk boy kicked me in the gut as I was swimming by. The lifeguards only gave you one chance so it was back to the shallow end.

We could only watch the older kids in the deep center of the pool jumping off the diving boards. Every once in a while some brave soul would climb the ladder to the high dive. There would be a hush as they walked to the end of the board and jumped off. Some would cheer and clap others boo, tough judges there. Once someone thought they were brave and climbed the ladder only to climb back down again. I felt sorry for that boy as everyone booed him as he walked back to his friends. This is where I learned about peer pressure.

After the swim session we'd go across the street to a little mom and pop store, I think it was called the Corner, and buy candy. You'd have your wet bathing suit rolled up in your wet towel and one of the owners would always yell at us not to leave them on the floor as we perused the candy selections. My favorite was Abba-zaba, a taffy with peanut butter on the inside. You could chew that forever and it would last me all the way home, usually barefoot hopping from one shady spot to the next.


  1. Such simple pleasures that can bring back good memories.

  2. the old man behind the counter smelled and I smelled chlorine all the time cause it was so strong.