When I was growing up, the city built a community pool right down the street from my house. Now, I cannot remember a time that I couldn’t swim. Growing up in Florida necessitates that skill be taught from the time you can walk, and I LOVED swimming. We didn’t have a pool at my house, so the installation of a public pool steps from my front door with TWO diving boards was crazy exciting!
Every day at 1:00, when all the morning swim lessons were over, I would run down the street in my drugstore flip-flops, dragging my towel behind me. For 37 CENTS, you could swim until 5:00 with every other kid in the neighborhood AND the kids bussed in from camps all over town. We’d play wild games of Sharks & Minnows, try to get away with games of chicken when the lifeguards weren’t looking, and do crazy tricks jumping from the high-dive into the deep end.
There would be “lightning breaks” when the storms rolled through, and they’d clear the pool. We’d get our Yoo Hoo’s and Fritos from the vending machines and head into the covered bleachers to wait out the thunderstorms. Sometimes the alligators from the nearby lake would be out on the grass, and we’d point and laugh and watch them turn back into the water. There might be a few elementary school flirtations with some hand-holding and maybe a smooch in those bleachers, but mostly, we all couldn’t wait to get back into the water and get back to playing.
At 5:00, that swim session would end, and they’d clear the pool again. The great thing was that you could get your hand stamped on the way out because there was ANOTHER swim session from 6:00 to 9:00 every evening. And yes, your 37 cents admission price still worked! So we’d all run home, dripping wet, towels dragging behind us again, eat some dinner, and watch the clock. And then back we’d go for some more chlorinated fun.
I tell you I used to wear my little self out at that pool. I swam, and jumped, and dove, and got dunked. I listened to all the popular music from the 70’s played over the speakers and sang at the top of my lungs with friends. I got tired and found a chair to lie back in and baked myself in the Florida sunshine. Thanks to the chlorine, my blonde hair turned green, and my green eyes turned red. I didn’t care one bit!
By the time I’d get home those nights, I was wiped. I may or may not have showered off – likely not since my hair was so green. I’d hang my swimsuit over the shower bar or towel rack in the bathroom so that it would be dry for the next afternoon. Then I’d pass out in bed, listening to the train whistle in the distance, excited for 1:00 to roll around the next day.