Swimming to a place that no longer exists

imgres-1Recently a fellow from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania contacted me through email.

Greetings, Chris. I did an online search of the Meadia Heights Swim Team and found your article regarding your time on the team.  I live in Lancaster, PA and am in the process of compiling the history of the Lancaster County Summer Swim League that was formed in 1962.  I swam for the Lancaster Country Club from 1977-1988 and our sons swim on the LCC’s team now.  I originally started this project with the intent to compile a complete history of the LCC Swim Team, win-loss records, names of coaches and dual meet scores.  I have spoken to a lot of former swimmers, coaches and parents to piece together the history.  Through my research I have expanded the scope of my project to include the history of the League itself which thrives to this day with 22 active teams.  I would like to include a piece on all of the current teams as well as the teams that were formerly involved with the League but are no longer active such as Brookside, Maple Grove, Meadia Heights, Willow Street, Locust Heights, Eden Manor and others.  Meadia Heights was part of the original league but the team disbanded sometime in the 60’s or early 70’s.

Coincidentally, I lifeguarded at Meadia Heights in high school and then managed the pool during my four years in college.  Sadly, Meadia Heights Golf Club closed the pool several years ago and it sits abandoned today being consumed by the woods that surround it.

I wanted to see if you could recall any details regarding the Swim Team at Meadia Heights, names of coaches and/or meets?  The pool was very long.  Did you swim the full length of the pool or did they place a rope across the middle to mark off 25-yards or a 25-meter mark?  Any information that you could provide would be extremely helpful.

To help this fellow I put him in contact with my brother who still lives in Lancaster County. He recalled one of the coaches was a neighbor of ours that swam at Dartmouth. My brother also recalled his experience swimming for the team. His specialty event was the breast stroke. “I don’t know why I was good at that,” he said with some wonder in his voice. “But I won a lot of races in that event.”

imgres-2For me, swimming in the Meadia Heights pool was an almost daily phenomenon. To get there it was a half mile jog across the practice range of the golf club next to our home at 1725 Willow Street Pike. We spent so much time in that pool it was only natural to get sucked into the vortex of the swim team.

What I most clearly recall was mastering the art of the flip turn. It took a day or two of practicing but when it clicked, it really clicked. I can still see the bright flickers of water and sunlight during those flip turns. The memory is very specific even to which side of the pool I was on. Why that sticks in my mind I do not know.

I also recall the state of frantic breathlessness swimming the 50-yard freestyle. As the fellow who contacted me made note, the pool at Meadia Heights was quite long from end to end. But there were not ropes or lanes that ran that direction. Everything we swam was sideways across the pool.

Competition

We traveled to other pools in the area, but I do not recall but one or two meets. I think I avoided that type of competition at first, or else I had baseball to practice and that came first. The years would have been 1965 to 1969.

imgresMore often we swam just because it felt good to hang out at the pool on a hot summer day. There we many such days. The richness of that experience and that time of life was so fulfilling it has lasted forever.

It is hard for me to conceive that the Meadia Heights pool is no longer in operation. Hard to acknowledge that the bright clear ripples, like inverse tarsnakes on a country road, no longer cast themselves on the bottom of the pool.

Harder still to imagine that abandoned pool lurking there in the woods, dank and deconstructing at whatever pace nature sees fit to use. I also knew the nature of those woods well. I spent hours walking the soft clay paths in my swimsuit, trying to cool off and even stripping bare to feel the touch of the soft air. Those woods are deep and thick, capable of consuming anything that stands still too long.

Truth be told, I have honestly had dreams for years about going to the pool only to find it closed. So my imagination preceded reality. Those dreams represent the inevitable fact of our disconnection from the past. They are like a rehearsal of life and death in so many ways. The things we love and lose. The people and experiences. We are always swimming through places destined to no longer exist. That is time itself. It explains why the concept of time travel is so alluring.

The nature of life

And so it goes with the story of life, that all such places seem destined to fade or change. The farm where my mother grew up was long ago sold and the barn burned down. The house and barn where my father grew up was purchased by the power company up the river. They bulldozed the structures to the ground and built a gravel hill to keep anyone from entering.

All of life is a cemetery of sorts, when you think about it. All our memories are like grave markers of a past we can seldom grasp or revisit. Those grave markers may be happy and pink and floating above their own shadows on the bottom of the pool. But they mark a space and a time and a place just the same.

swimming_poolYet my memories of the Meadia Heights swimming pool do live on in full memory technicolor. I can still feel the cool water greeting my skin for early morning swim lessons, and for years after that as we grew up and played games in the deep end of the pool, or dove for hours off the low and high boards doing jackknifes to soak the pool guards, it was life in the moment that mattered.

Despite the sense of longing and innocence that it recalls, it still feels good to swim to a place that no longer exists. It will always be blue and rippling with the sun beating down. Between swimming sessions we sat on towels eating hard pretzels with bright yellow mustard, and chewed down long braided strings of licorice washed down with ice cold Coca-Cola or Pepsi. Then we went back in the pool and swam, and swam, and swam.

Our childhood demanded it, and it lives on in my mind no matter what else changes or happens in the world.

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About Christopher Cudworth

Christopher Cudworth is a content producer, writer and blogger with more than 25 years’ experience in B2B and B2C marketing, journalism, public relations and social media. Connect with Christopher on Twitter: @gofast and blogs at werunandride.com, therightkindofpride.com and at 3CCreativemarketing.com. Online portfolio: http://www.behance.net/christophercudworth
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