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A Shout From The Attic: Swimming Lessons

Ronnie Bray recalls school-day swimming lessons - and an embarrassing occasion.

To read more of Ronnie's life story please click on A Shout From The Attic in the menu on this page. Do also read his splendid Letter From America columns.

One positive thing that came from my restricted education was learning to swim. From age eleven or twelve, our class took a crocodile walk down to Ramsden Street swimming baths where we had weekly swimming lessons. Some of the more adventurous took life saving medals which involved raising a rubber brick from the tiled bottom of the deep end. I could not be described as an accomplished swimmer but I gained sufficient proficiency in the various forms of stroke then current. The butterfly stroke was unknown at that time. It might have presented an interesting challenge.

One incident at the baths shows how far the world has travelled since then. One girl in our class, whose name I withhold for obvious reasons, arrived at our first lesson clad only in a pair of over large knickers. At the time, she was just beginning the long journey into womanhood and her embarrassment was obvious. She held her arms in front of her, not folded, but with hands clasped before her face in an attitude of prayer, more to hide her face than the cause of her embarrassment.

Not one member of the class made any remark or gave any glance that showed surprise, nor was it ever spoken of afterwards.

The following week the young lady was clad in a brand new swimming costume, which had been provided by a sensitive lady teacher. How noble children can be. We knew the common subtle unkindnesses of childhood, but had not begun to eat each other, as seems common today.

Did we have a party just before the Christmas leavers left in 1949? We had some kind of a celebration which ended up in Greenhead Park, where the boys kissed the girls, and the girls sometimes kissed the boys.

I was a willing victim!


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