Local team: None
Water! What a wonderful compound for both inside and outside the body. Swimmers have such a precious gift of being in the water for much of their lives. There is something healing about being in water.
I grew up in San Antonio, Texas, where it is hot and humid. Playing in water comes naturally when it is so hot. Even running outside during a drenching rain storm, with our clothes on, was a huge delight.
When I was less than 7 we rented a farm that had a large concrete pit for washing the vegetables produced on the truck farm. Since we rented the place the pit was not being used for its normal purpose, so we filled the pit with water and swam. Also, Grandma lived in a trailer park that had a pool, so we spent many days swimming and playing tag in the water; the kind of tag that was challenging. One could not tag another if their head was under water; you had to stay in the pool; there was no base.
When I was age 9 to about 21, I became a camper, then a staff member at a summer youth camp in East Texas — Athens, to be exact. There was hot sand and many pine trees. Being barefoot most of the time I had to run from the shade of one tree to the shade of the next to keep from burning my feet. The camp was on a private lake and activities were built around the water. Red Cross certificates were issued to campers who completed the list of requirements for their choice of rowing, canoeing, sailing, different levels of swimming, and water skiing. One of the requirements set by the Red Cross was a certain number of hours of instruction, and in order for the kids to get the hours required, the camps each lasted for 10 days. I became a staff member at age 11 because they needed help in the kitchen doing dishes! I spent the next 10 summers working at that camp. No pay, just fun in the sun and water for 6 weeks each summer!
My first assignment was a helper in teaching rowing, then I taught rowing by myself, then canoeing; and sailing for one or two summers. All the time not spent teaching was free time, and teaching only lasted 4 hours per day. With all the equipment available (boats, canoes, sail craft), there was plenty that could be done. Sometimes I would swim breast stroke across the lake at the narrowest place.
Somewhere during those years I got my Water Safety Instructors certification. No instruction on competitive stroke technique, and swimming competitively never entered my mind.
Fast forward — 1972. We had just moved from Michigan to Oregon, and, wanting to lose fat from a pregnancy, I signed up for community swim classes at David Douglas High School pool, with Karl Von Tagen as the instructor. After the course was finished, Karl told me about AAU Swimming (the name was later changed to Masters Swimming ) and encouraged me to try it. I asked him how to swim butterfly, and he told me to do 25 yards 8 times with as much rest as needed. He probably thought I already knew how to swim butterfly. Well, that was the beginning of my competitive swimming days. No coach. My first meet was December 31, 1972, at the Reynolds High School pool! I did a flip turn on the 50 yard butterfly event! It broke my heart when I was disqualified!
I swam in every meet that was in the area, dragging my husband and two children with me. The children were used to sitting in the stands while I swam. On my workout days, when my workout was over, it was their turn to swim, and they loved the water. Neither of them got to swim competitively as they grew up. My daughter wanted to join a team, but it didn’t work out.
In the early days of AAU Swimming, I got a National Top 10 time every time I swam, and many first place swims in local meets (there were very few swimmers in any age group). On the current USMS web site there are not many Oregon meets from the 1970s, so most of my swims don’t appear there.
Most of my swimming days have been self-coached. In the 1980s I met Chris Clum who was working out at the same pool as I, and we have been workout-partners since then. (Chris swam in age-group swimming with Ginger Pierson.) We get our workouts from the internet. The coaches we have had, each for a very brief period of time, were Chris Roth, Bud Taylor, Sandy Nelson, Rod Jones, Derek Spires, Tim Luney and Marc Smith. Sandy, Rod, and Derek were coaches for the local age-group team and each coach allowed us to swim with the age-groupers for a brief time. Bud and Mark coached me as a Masters Swimmer, Tim was a fellow swimmer who gave workouts. It was Mark Smith who taught me, as recently as 2016, how to do butterfly correctly. Since then I have been working on it without feedback until Dennis Baker walked by one day and gave me a tip to breathe earlier and to put my head down sooner. It is getting better. Thank you, Dennis.
Swimming is the best exercise one can do, in my opinion. I am so thankful to be in a sport where a person can get a good cardio workout without becoming injured. Swimming is fun, is very healthy, and, it is for the rest of my life.
Arlene Delmage asked me to explain how I became editor of the Aqua Master.
I am a scientist, and in no way did I consider myself creative enough to do anything in the ‘artsy’ field. In spite of no graphic arts classes in my background, a man who had been doing a pro bono newsletter for another organization wanted to retire, so he sold his newspaper and asked me to take over the pro bono newsletter. He gave me some hints and I was on my own. That newsletter gave me experience which I enjoyed, so, when I saw the notice that David Radcliff was going to turn over his job to someone else, I wrote David and asked for details. When he asked me for a sample of my work, I was able to send him a copy of the newsletter referred to above. The OMS Board asked for an interview and they gave me the job. I told the Board that I just wanted to do the layout aspect of the newsletter — let someone else be editor. So, instead, they gave me a very good writer, Karen Andrus-Hughes, to write the front page, but wanted to call me Editor. I hesitated about that arrangement, thinking I would probably end up being the Editor–but eventually said okay. The rest is current history!
I thoroughly enjoyed reading about your life and swimming background. Prior to that you were ‘the editor’ and now you are more real to me.
Thanks for taking the time to write it up.
Question: You refer to yourself as being a scientist. In which field, may I ask?
Thank you Joe for your comment. I majored in chemistry in college, worked at Miles Labs (the “One-a-Day” people) in their organic chemistry research department for 2 years, then left my job and moved out to the Northwest with my family. Never got back to chemistry, but all knowledge gives a person more information on which to base the decisions of life.
Hi Alice. Hope all is well in Sandy. I miss seeing you and Chris around the pool.
My friend, who lives in Bend, forwards me a copy of the newsletter. I was pleasantly surprised to see you as the Spotlight Swimmer. I live in Sister’s now and swim at Juniper but will always have a special place in my heart for the days at Olin Bignall.
Hi Dena, I am surprised that you remember me from the Olin Bignal days! Thanks for the comment.
As long as you and I have worked together, via the OMS board, I never really knew your background. I so enjoyed getting to know you through this article. Thank you for sharing. You have definitely taken the AM to a whole new level. Thank you for your dedication and commitment.
Great Story Alice! Thanks for sharing!