I learned to swim at a very long very cold indoor swimming pool at my parents’ athletic facility, the Multnomah Athletic Club. I was a very short very skinny little girl, and even in the shallow end I couldn’t touch the bottom. I was equipped with water wings very similar to the photo above and told to jump in. I detested every minute of the experience, but I did learn to swim. I certainly never would have put fun and swimming in the same sentence.
Fortunately, each summer I went to Camp Fire Girls camp which also had a very big very cold outdoor pool, but it came with very kind, loving counselors. Each summer a different Red Cross swimming award was the goal of the week. The steps were very clear such as tread water for one minute and float on your back for one minute. Even the challenges when I was older were fun. One involved jumping in the pool fully clothed and removing my shoes before swimming to the edge. I even learned to dive from the side of the pool though I never mastered a dive off a board.
In the summers after I learned to swim I often went swimming with a friend at a neighbor’s pool, in the lake in the adjacent town, or in the creek at my grandparents’ summer home. I never had any supervision in those places. I think parents generally assumed that kids could swim and left them alone. Even at the beach there were never any lifeguards. I was startled to find lifeguards all over the East coast beaches and large warnings if one wasn’t present.
Why were all those swimming pools so cold? Apparently the idea of heating a pool hadn’t caught on during my childhood. I never got into a heating pool until I joined the YWCA as an adult!