Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

By using lights, Dolphins were like lightning bugs

Celebrating 10 years of writing "Granny’s Notes," I continue to relate highlights of my 90 years in Boone County.

In 1935, the new president of Christian College needed a swimming teacher on short notice. Ruby Cline had recommended me. I lived at home, was engaged to W.F. "Chub" Gerard and was enrolled for my senior year in journalism. Dr. Briggs and I agreed on a small salary. Then a woman took me to see the pool. It was beautiful! It had crystal-clear blue water, white tile and shower stalls of inch-thick, imported marble!

The natatorium structure had 23 large windows at eye level and a huge skylight overhead. Architects and builders nationwide heard of this unusual facility built in 1918 by local contractor Carl Hobart and Co. The red-brick natatorium was built in 1919 over the pool. Staring at that beautiful pool, I could hardly wait for school to begin! I taught beginning, intermediate and advanced swimming and senior lifesaving. When the advanced swimmers heard about the Mermaid water shows at the University of Missouri-Columbia, the girls wanted to have a show, and they started with a 10-minute stunt for an annual athletic association party.

A dear little old lady at the college, Marion Hertig, stopped her work one day and went to Dr. Briggs’ office to say, "That Sue Meyers is doing a good job down at the pool."

My Depression salary was doubled when I’d been there six months.

In the ’50s, the swimming club’s name became "Dolphins." The hourlong shows were popular events with the faculty, the other students and many townspeople - in spite of the crowded viewing space and the risk of being splashed.

Through the years, the students and I presented more than 30 shows and repeated a few for parents’ weekends. Some of the themes I recall were: "Cypress Gardens," "Stars Over Hollywood," "Neptune’s Court," "Grandma’s Attic" and "Gazelle Boy in Deepest, Darkest Africa." We included comedy and crowned a Dolphin queen each year.

One year we rented black lights from Hollywood and swam in a darkened natatorium with black lights illuminating our reflective swim caps and reflective ribbons stitched on our black bathing suits.

That show prompted Chub to make us a set of underwater lights. He strapped four D flashlight batteries together and secured them to a belt. Wires went out to arms and legs, with 16 bulbs for each swimmer. The swimmers twisted bare wires together instead of using a power switch, which could rust. Danger? No. Chub said it was like carrying a metal flashlight in the rain!

Years later, Maurice Wightman duplicated Chub’s work, improving it a bit, and we had groups of swimmers in formations with underwater lights. See the photo on Page 115 of "My First 84 Years." The photographer ruined the effect by using a flash!

Changes in pools, buildings and equipment are widespread - as we learned while recently watching Olympic aquatic sports. Competition and medals are in. Speed swimming is in. Diving now requires more space - lots more of it, both above the board and below it.

Columbia College’s pool and countless others have been removed. Fond memories linger on.

Click here to return to the index

 Subscribe in your RSS reader

Copyright © 1994-2010 Sue Gerard. All Rights Reserved. No text or images on this website may be reproduced in any form without written permission of the author, except small quotations to be used in reviews.