Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

Halloween festivities triggered Christian College water shows

Grace Mitchell, instructor of physical education at Christian College, was helping students decorate the gymnasium for the Halloween party. "Sue," she said, "come go through the spooky tunnel with me."

She was checking an underground tunnel with temporary hazards such as a bale of hay to climb over, long wet stockings hanging where they hit our faces and ghosts making squeaky, scratchy noises.

The tunnel was an integral part of the heating system, entered at the northwest end of the gym and cooled for this one event each year.

Weird flashing lights and eerie music added to the atmosphere. We walked, climbed and crawled to the tunnel’s end - inside the college’s power plant.

The girls were transforming the gym into a barn with pumpkins, jack-o-lanterns, shocks of corn, tubs of water for bobbing for apples, peanuts in their shells, jugs of cider and bales of hay arranged as a throne for crowning the Halloween Queen at the end of the party the next night.

"The Women’s Athletic Association stages the party to make money to buy end-of-the year athletic awards," Mitchell said as we walked back to the gym.

"By the way, would you want to get some girls to work out a stunt in the pool?" She said it could be short, "and they could charge a nickel or a dime for the tickets."

I suggested this to the girls in Mo Hall, and they wanted to do it, of course. I’d taught for only a few weeks and remembered that President Briggs asked me to have the girls call me "Miss Meyers," instead of Sue, because I was only a year older than some of my students. I did that of course, but it was strange to hear "Miss Meyers" as we planned the stunt together.

Classes had been under way for about six weeks, and Halloween was a good time for the girls to relax and sing their state songs at the tops of their voices. Arkansas girls seemed the loudest on that October night in 1935.

The water stunt went over well, and Mitchell was surprised that it was done on short notice. The students began to plan for a bigger and better group swimming activity.

We didn’t realize it then, but this was the beginning of an annual public water show by advanced swimmers - in their spare time and mine.

Ruby Cline helped our Mermaids Club at the University of Missouri-Columbia put on a public show soon after I was initiated in 1935. I taught some of those routines to my Christian College students.

Several girls in the advanced class met on weekends, practicing what was then called "water ballet."

We’d join hands in the water, float back and kick to splash; then we’d all go under at the same time floating face foremost - simple things like that. It was fun, and we were making it up as we went along. By the next Halloween we were ready to earn more dimes for our great new "stunt."

In the 33 years that I taught at Christian College, now Columbia College, we wrote new scripts with stories and learned more difficult routines to do in the water. I helped the students write scripts and choreograph their numbers, and they decorated the swimming pool area and painted their bathing caps to match their suits.

By the time World War II was taking fathers, brothers and boyfriends away from their homes, our water shows were important activities to help release tension on the home front. In one show our college president was Neptune with a pitchfork "trident" and a foil-covered cardboard crown, and he was draped in a bed sheet.

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.