When I lived in Hollywood, La Salina between the ages 1 and 5, my parents used to take my brother and I to the old La Salina Club and put us into the shallow children's pool and I used to crawl around in the nice cool water. The children’s pool had a wood lattice grill overhead supported by posts surrounding that pool. I used to look over the wall dividing the children’s pool from the "grownups" pool and envy the kids that swam there and jumped off the diving boards. I loved to watch the water splash as a kid made a "bomb" from the low board. The pool was surrounded by nice shrubs and had that nice thick Bermuda grass that was like a carpet under your feet when you walked on it.

Then later, Dad got me a red, canvas, cork-filled life-saver from one of the racks at pool side and he would let me float and paddle in the big pool. I was moving up!! Finally, one Saturday he decided that I was going to learn to swim on an accelerated basis. He got in the pool and taught me to do the dog paddle and then got out with me, picked me up and threw me into the shallow end of the main pool telling me to swim. I gasped for air and immediately sank and crawled on the bottom to the poolside ladder and as I crawled I could hear this garbled voice saying "swim! - swim! And I came up at the pool ladder gasping for air -- my first independent swimming lesson. I confronted him with that incident several times over the years when I wanted to make him feel guilty because he did.

We moved to Tia Juana and there was no pool, just an old raised wooden club house next to two tennis courts with a long bar, a place for a few tables and chairs, a grill and a juke box which played constantly. A song by Chuck Berry I think with the words “...little Nash Rambler beat my Coup DeVille...” or something to that affect comes to memory.

So occasionally, the folks would pile in the jeep with my brother, Bill; sister, Cris, and I and we either drove to La Salina to swim or to the Creole Zulima Camp in Lagunillas. The pool in Lagunillas was cool. I have pictures of my brother, sister and I and my mother at that pool. There was a pumping unit right by the pool which was built into an area that had been elevated to take it. Probably because the camp in the early days was prone to flooding and not only the houses were on stilts but also the Club House and a nearby bunkhouse where at one time you could visit when they had a small eating area where you could purchase a nice steak and eggs for breakfast with strong Venezuelan coffee. My Dad started his career in Lagunillas and he had lots of old buddies that he visited at the club bar. This pool is where I last saw my mother in a bathing suit. Never more after that. She said she did not like the water. This pool was great because it was a little more exposed to the breezes and there weren't many kids in Lagunillas at that time and so the pool wasn't crowded. There were a few coconut palms near the pool. At the head of the pool was a covered area which held a two lane bowling alley similar to one at the old La Salina club. The lanes were of polished terrazzo and lofting a ball wasn't a big deal -- no harm done. You racked your own pins.

Anyway, that pool is where I was introduced to the water beetles -- I was chased but never pinched. My parents would let us swim for many hours which was great. Our fingers and toes turned into prunes.

Later as we got older, say 8 or 10 we still would drive to Lagunillas to swim -- and that is where I was floating in the pool when "WHAM" I was hit right between the eyes with a green coconut that some dumb girl had tossed off the high diving board. I bled like a stuck pig where my nose was split between my eyes. Still have the scar.

We swam in the worst thunderstorms where the cool rain pounded down and you could float on your back and listen to the big rain drops smacking the water and the impact on your face. What a wonderful sensation.

At last, Creole was going to build a new club in Tia Juana and it would have an Olympic size pool. That's what the Camp Bulletin said and it wasn't long after that the club was built and what a super swimming pool it had. I can remember the dedication.

Now I am about 10 or 11 and I could swim and my buddies could swim. That's when in the change room we would check see who was getting the first hairs on the family jewels that were still in the vault in some cases. We were growing up!!! But we had a ways to go mind you.

The deep end of the pool was my favorite. You could suspend yourself in the water when there weren't many kids there and the water was the same temperature as your body and you became one with the pool. During the day the tile that ran around the pool would get so hot that you ran the risk of getting blisters on the back of your thighs while getting out of the pool and we would splash water where we wanted to get out cooling the tiles sufficiently to prevent burns while getting out. I would practice diving from the high board but hated the impact as my head hit the water. We had races and we came to swim at night when it was cool. We would wear our goggles so we could check out the girls underwater. What a wonderful time!!

When I was 15 Dad transferred to Lagunillas and there were just about 4 of us in our age group. The Norsworthy girls, Sandy, Shari and Nancy were there, My sister, Cris and I because my brother was now in the Army in Germany. The Norsworthy girls were my best buddies and we ran around together all the time. We discovered that the Shell Country Club up the road had the best club, movies and the best swimming pool yet. We met and swam together with about 4 British kids our age. We used to lay in the sun like iguanas and toast ourselves as the rage then was a suntan and we did all we could to accelerate the process and when I went back to school in Georgia I wanted to be browner that any of those "American" kids.

When I reached 17 or 18 the gang was smaller but we were very close after all the years growing up together. Dad transferred back to Tia Juana. There were the Sandlins - Larry and Sandra and Betty and then Franca Vettor, and the Norsworthy girls, Shari, Sandy and Nancy; Yolanda Zehnor; Eddie Robinson; Dan Sweeney; Phillip Short; Mike Peters; Richard Chance; the Lanciault boys--Randy and Mike; Randy Sharpe; Johnnie Yarbro; Palmer and Tony Bazemore; Tommy Green; Jose Romero; Eddie Robinson; Magarita and Jose Anez; Lynn Guess and more that don't come to mind right now, but great pals all.

We were cool, good looking and we swam and lay out in the sun all summer long and came back and swam at night and sometimes we hugged and kissed each other as some of us began to pair.

It could not have been any better.

 

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