Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

Personal history filled with life of swimming

People occasionally ask, "Why did you use that picture of a ganglin’ 10 year old in a bathing suit on the dust cover of your book?"

I explain, "That’s me as a kid."

"That’s YOU?" they shout. Then I look in the mirror and clearly understand their problem: I’ve changed a lot in three quarters of a century, but my love of water stays the same.

I’ve loved water from the first time Mom spanked me for puddling in the chicken trough with shoes on. The photo was of my first bathing suit. It was bright red with white stripes, 100 percent wool! We swam in our clothes in Grindstone Creek, but a suit was required at the first outdoor Columbia pool.

I sold Christmas trees, black walnuts and wild blackberries to Dad’s milk customers, so I opened an account at Columbia Savings Bank — with $30.

My first check bought a regulation, leather basketball for $5. Months later I wrote another check for that one bathing suit, also $5.

We Meyers’ didn’t know about allowances. We did chores because we were family.

For example, I was permitted to bank the extra money, but I also picked blackberries for our own table.

One bountiful year, the whole family picked enough for Mom and me to make 96 quarts of jam! I cranked the food chopper to crush every berry to make a smoother jam; no extra money was expected.

I went to that new swimming pool and found a great slide mounted over the water. There was nothing like that at Flat Rock swimming hole. I climbed the ladder, got my legs over the "hump" and held on for a moment, then let go and made the exciting first trip down. It was great! I climbed and slid, over and over all afternoon with kids I’d never seen before. In the dark, messy dressing room, I pulled off my red wool suit and discovered I’d worn the seat threadbare!

There’s a streak of dare-devil in my make-up. I was the only kid in our group who could jump off a dead tree trunk into water deep enough to be over a man’s head.

I could win the short races at our creek swimming holes. I could stand upside down with hands on mud and those ganglin’ legs sticking up out of the water. And I could turn back somersaults without holding my nose.

At an early age I made up a swimming style by watching frogs and could lope through the water better than most kids at the creek.

When I was in seventh grade at University Lab School, girls could take swimming for their physical education class. I saved the money that summer to pay the fee. I never dreamed that there was anything I didn’t already know about swimming.

On that wonderful first day the University instructor, Ruby Cline, told us to stay in shallow water if we couldn’t swim and to go on down to the deep end if we could. I took off loping through the water with my homemade style of swimming, and Miss Cline hurried down to stop me and sent me back to shallow water saying, "That isn’t real swimming."

I was humiliated, crushed, but not for long. She was a great teacher, and in the years that followed she coached me through senior life saving, Red Cross Examiner’s requirements, MU’s women’s swimming team and the required skills for the honorary club Missouri Mermaids.

When Christian College, now Columbia College, needed a swimming teacher, she sent me for the interview. I got the job and stayed on for 33 years!

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