Way Back Playback: After-School Swimming Lessons

The Brother and I took swimming lessons during the years we were in grade school. Once a week, my mom or Mrs M would pick up The Brother, me, Joanne and Wanda at school and drive us over to the old Waterloo YMCA.

[Sidenote: The M’s were our closest friends and also neighbours. Joanne was my VFBF (very first best friend) and Wanda was close in age to my brother. Our families spent a lot of time together in the 70’s – their home was my second home, and Mrs M a second mother. This explanation just gives you some context! I’ve got tons of stories that I could share about our fun times with the M’s…all in good time!].

With four kids to place in different swim levels, usually the moms could get two kids in at one time slot, and the other two in the next time slot. So, for example, Wanda and The Brother would take their lesson from 4:15-4:50 pm, and Joanne and I would follow at 4:55-5:30 pm, or so. The combinations would vary from session to session.

I loved swim lessons! My favourite part was swimming lengths. The instructor would assign a medley of front crawl, back stroke, side stroke, breast stroke, and the other backwards one…name escapes me! I also loved treading water. Once I got the hang of it, I loved diving in (that one took a while).

I was not so fond of drownproofing or practising CPR – back in the 70’s, you actually had to put your mouth right on your partner’s – fine if Joanne and I happened to be in the same class, but otherwise, very ick.  can you imagine that way of practising being allowed now?!

Our instructors would be high school-aged students, a mix of male and female, over the years. One boisterous male instructor sticks in my mind – he was enthusiastic, loud, energetic, and his classes were super fun. Would you believe I still remember the CPR mantra he taught us?! This is likely because he’d have us shout it out as a class, over and over, as loud as we could. When you’re nine, this is hilarious.

Shake, shout, look, listen, feel. Raise the neck, pinch the nose, four quick breaths.”

Now, I’ve taken numerous CPR classes over the years, and the way to do proper CPR is always being finessed. However, this is the method that I think would pop into my head, should I ever have to perform it (knock on wood, that never happens, of course).

I never minded waiting around when it was not my lesson time. Mrs M or my mom would always buy us a red or black licorice Twizzler from the tuck shop area as a pre- or post-swim snack. Candy was a treat for us, so this sweet was definitely a highlight.

By time we were all dried off, re-clothed and back in the car, it was getting late…we’d all be STAR-VING!!! As the moms sped us down the Expressway towards home, we’d sing a little ditty:

Here we sit like birds in the wilderness, birds in the wilderness, birds in the wilderness;

Here we sit like birds in the wilderness, waiting to be fed

WAI-TING to be-FED, WAI-TING to be-fed (this line wailed with great gusto),

OHHHH, here we sit like birds in the wilderness, wai-ting to be fed.

Once home, mom would have a quick supper all ready to go. My absolute favourite was homemade hamburgers, potato chips (another treat!) and homemade blueberry pie (remember, this was the 70’s and I had a stay-at-home mom; homemade was pretty much the standard!). Yum!!! After the invigorating exertion of swimming lessons, supper never tasted so good.

What lessons did you take as a child? Fond memories, or not so much?!

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  • Holly  On February 17, 2011 at 9:13 am

    I hated swimming lessons — I was terrified of the water. I remember the first time we were supposed to jump in the deep end (not dive, just jump!) I threw myself on the floor and cried. The poor teachers — they didn’t know what to do. I just was so scared. To this day I cannot hold my breath under water without plugging my nose 😦

    • 1970kikiproject  On February 17, 2011 at 1:15 pm

      oh, i feel your jumping in trauma!! it took me forever to get the courage to do that, but once i got it, i loved it…haha, i plug my nose nowadays, too!

  • Katherine: Unemployed  On February 17, 2011 at 5:35 am

    I have terrible memories of the one year I tried to go musical. Violin hurt my fingers. Piano was no good. I think I’ll stick to something else…

    • 1970kikiproject  On February 17, 2011 at 5:45 am

      your comment makes me laugh! it sounds like a book title: “The Year I Tried to Go Musical.” parents must feel this need to expose their children to music lessons…it seems to be a common theme…and not a great one, at that!!

      • Katherine: Unemployed  On February 17, 2011 at 6:37 am

        totally parents trying to live vicariously through their kids… my mom always wanted to be musical. hopefully our generation will end this tragic endeavor (down with tiger moms :))

      • 1970kikiproject  On February 17, 2011 at 6:45 am

        astute observation – yup, too many cases out there of parents pushing their kids (hockey, dance, what have you) when really x activity is THEIR passion or missed opportunity… “tiger mom” – love this expression! that’s a new one to me!

  • Gina Unger  On February 16, 2011 at 10:15 pm

    Well, your trip down memory lane has sure sparked the responses, eh?! I have BAD memories of swimming lessons. I was so scared of the instructors because I was so shy, I guess. And when the teacher asked us to, I was scared to jump in off the side of the pool so, at the very last second, I would quickly turn around, holding my nose with my fingers and jump in BACKWARDS! Yep. I think that’s trickier to do, actually, but the instructor failed me time after time until my mom gave up and didn’t enrol me anymore. I think that’s when we moved to Taiwan, which is where I DID learn to swim/dive, etc. all by myself – all in my own time. Go figure. Now I LOVE swimming.

    Also took piano and violin lessons, but never enjoyed any of my teachers until it came to university/bible college. Having an instructor who has a good rapport with the student is SOOOO important – my parents must’ve missed the parenting class when that lesson was taught.

    • 1970kikiproject  On February 17, 2011 at 5:01 am

      thanks for sharing, G!! yea, now piano lessons?? that’s another story, and i never like my teachers except for the very first one. and your swim lesson experience…just shows us that we’ll grasp a concept when the time is right, you can’t force these things. that’s so cool that you just suddenly GOT IT for swimming and diving, all on your own!

  • Lisa  On February 16, 2011 at 8:39 pm

    What a great trip down memory lane!
    I CANNOT believe you had to practice CPR on a real person!!! I probably would have just died on the spot 🙂

    Sounds like great times—kids have it so great, don’t they?

    I played co-ed soccer, and it was a disaster—I was too shy when I was that young (7 or 8), and the boys were too rough. I took gymnastics classes, and my best friend’s mom taught our classes. I loved going there every week…and then we did a recital at the end of the school year each year. I sure had no rhythm, but I could do the acrobatic parts!

    Thanks for the smile-inducing story 🙂

    • 1970kikiproject  On February 16, 2011 at 9:22 pm

      thanks for sharing about your classes, lisa!! funny how we all seem to have successes and flops in our histories!
      i had a session of gymnastics wayyy back, at that same YMCA. family genetics = no flexibility at all. i think it’s cool that you could do the acrobatics!!

  • Zo  On February 16, 2011 at 7:55 pm

    I envy your memory! I took swimming lessons (as part of summer camp), piano lessons, and ballet…I was pretty bad at the last two. The funny thing is I now have the family piano in storage (I didn’t want to give it up, but it wouldn’t fit in my apt. Now I’ve moved in with mr. sc and we would like to move it in and take lessons (when we figure out where to put it…). I guess I’d like to right the old wrongs I did the piano!

    • 1970kikiproject  On February 16, 2011 at 9:02 pm

      it’s too funny what childhood details stick in your mind! i always wanted ballet lessons…hey, at least you tried! 🙂 very cool that you have your family piano – i hope you CAN move it in to your place and take lessons. i firmly believe you’re never too old to learn pursue a new interest! or relive an old one! haha!

  • Johanna  On February 16, 2011 at 6:43 pm

    Wow – see, yet another reason why I love to read your blog! You remember things I don’t! I have a general memory of swim lessons and the ride home and the singing in the car but that’s it. I certainly don’t remember the Twizzlers or any of my instructors!

    PS – My poor memory when it comes to detail frustrates Wanda to no end. It would probably frustrate me more but… I don’t remember! 🙂

    • 1970kikiproject  On February 16, 2011 at 6:53 pm

      ooo, this is too fun to find out what YOU remember from those days! i don’t know what was more fun: the swim lessons or all of us going all together!

  • Johanna B  On February 16, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    I took swimming lessons, piano lessons, clarinet lessons and I sang in a widely known (in the south) children’s choir. Good memories all. I wanted to take dance but my mother said we couldn’t afford it. I still wish I’d taken dance lessons as a child.

    • 1970kikiproject  On February 16, 2011 at 1:15 pm

      oh wow!! you won’t believe this!!! i ALWAYS have wanted to take dance lessons!!! a few years back, i DID take a 4 week “modern dance” class – it was a riot. let’s just say britney spears has nothing to worry about! 🙂 you enjoyed a wide mix of activities! are you still “fluent” in any? i am not (piano, swimming, violin!)

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