The Western Springs Pool – Summer 1966 – A Happy Story of “Going off the Deep-End”

In Uncategorized on 2010/11/15 at 6:36 am


In the summer of 1966 (or maybe it was 1967), my Mom enrolled me in beginner’s swimming lessons at the Western Springs Service Club. Learning  how to swim meant freedom and arrival. I was excited and petrified at the same time. The idea of being a little silverfish  and being able to go to “The Pool” with my older brothers and sisters was amazing, but the fear of not being able to touch the bottom of the pool created an ache in the pit of my stomach. Fortunately, I had no choice in the matter.

The lessons began in June. I remember this because the “old pool” wasn’t heated and the warmth of the summer sun hadn’t worked its magic on the water so early in the season. There were cold and cloudy mornings when our lips turned blue and our teeth chattered as we learned first to put our faces in the water, next how to breathe, then how to kick using kickboards, then how to do the crawl.  In order to graduate, we had to jump off of the low board in the “deep-end”.  Here, the water was 10 feet deep. It was about a 6 foot swim from the end of the low board to the side of the pool, but it may as well have been a 500 foot drop and 1/2 mile to the side of the pool. All I know is that the bottom of that pool looked really far down as I peered over the side.

When the big day came, I had gut wrenching fear about jumping off of the board. I waited and waited. I bought some time by letting others go ahead of me. I DID-NOT-WANT-TO-JUMP. It looked so easy when everyone else did it. Finally, my name was called. I’m sure I’d been an excruciating student to teach. I was meek and scared all through the lessons.

I walked out on the edge of the board as if I was walking the plank.  As I looked down at the moving sun streaked water, I realized that the drop to the deep waters was considerably farther than it appeared when safely on the pavement. I was paralyzed.  I could not back out, because my swimming teacher was behind me at the ladder. I could not jump, because it was certain death.  It seems to me as if I stood at the edge of the board for hours. Everyone was cheering me on, shouting “Jump! Jump! “The guy working in the office even got on the loud-speaker to encourage me to jump.  I did not appreciate their chanting. It was not giving me courage. It was scaring me! I wanted them to shut-up and leave me alone.

Suddenly, the board was not beneath my feet. I hadn’t moved an inch. I didn’t know what had happened. My instructor knew I was ready, so she was my confidence angel. The next thing I knew,  the arms that held me let me go, and I plunged deep into the cold water. I was shocked and frightened, but I regained my sense and swam to the top and heard all sorts of applause.  As I climbed the ladder, I asked “Can I go again?”.

Some 43 years later, when I hesitate, I realize at some point that I just have to take the plunge. I give myself a little pep-talk (or get a lecture from a friend).  In all of my pursuits, once I am “a body in motion”, I can swim with the big fish. And every time, I muster the courage to “Jump!” by recalling my beginning swim class in my hometown of Western Springs, Illinois on a summer day back in the Sixties.

As you begin to think about the changes you intend to make in 2011, know that there will never be a perfect time to get your journey underway. Sometimes, the time arrives when you will simply need to jump 🙂

Have a great week!

Copyright 2010

Destiny Rising, LLC

  1. The deep-end story makes me think of my own times in life when I have had to sink or swim! Even related to my profession. You are absolutely right in your last sentence, and I can think of two major undertakings for 2011 in which I will have to take the plunge and not wait for the right timing, as if that ever comes! Your story made me smile, I can just picture you teetering… I myself shamelessly backed up and down the steps on the diving board many times. Now, of course, nobody makes me do it and I am not driven by the need to prove myself anymore… in the pool, that is!

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