MY FIRST BOSS WAS AT THE CITY SWIMMING POOL

I am a bit puzzled about whether my first boss approached me when I was a sophomore or junior in high school. However, I remember what I was hired to do. Arkansas City had three swimming pools at that time. There was a swimming pool out east of town at the Country Club. I was hired there as the life guard when the pool opened in the afternoon. I have no memory of who hired me. Also, there was a pool for the town’s negroes, but I am not sure exactly where it was, somewhere on the west side of town.

But what I do remember is the very large, really nice city pool on the west side of town. During the mornings we taught swimming and diving lessons to a bunch of different ages. Barney Ghetto, a social studies teacher at our high school, was in charge of all of that marvelous teaching. I taught a group of little girls how to swim. First we started from the struggle to, “put your face in the water.” That took a while as the opening of the swimming lessons began usually with a bunch of little girls who knew nothing about how to swim.

That stretched the point a little bit. There were always a few girls who had mothers who had worked with them so they wouldn’t be afraid to put their faces in the water. But there were also always a bunch of little girls for whom this was “let us get used to the water first.” The little girls were reacting in a variety of ways to even touch the water as we began.

Nearly everyone had a lot of fun as we worked on the beginning of relationships to the water. Once in a while there were one or two girls who just never got to a point where being afraid wasn’t part of their response to the sessions. Being kind to them was basically the only response we had.

After the swimming lessons Barney Ghetto taught a group of high school girls Life Saving. He always had us “rescue” him…after he had slathered his body with oil. We worked hard in that class.

At the end of the summer, we put on a water show for parents, friends and strangers. The bigger boys dove from the high board and drew lots of clapping. However, one of the bigger boys became a clown and came down the tall slipper slide standing up in a long nightgown, night hat, and holding a candle. Why Rodney Wilson didn’t fall and break his neck doing that trick was a mystery. If he had, I would have had to find another boy to marry…however, I didn’t know yet that that was where we were headed.