The High Dive

by Pool Builders on 03-28-2010 in Articles

The high dive wasn't about a special or form of dive. The high dive was the highest diving board at the Canby Park Public Swimming Pool., Wilmington Delaware 1948. For most of our growing up lives Canby Park had been our swimming pool. Even at a early age of 4 - 5 my Mom would walk us from 1022 McDowell Street down to Canby Park pool to swim. Mom (Anna Vanneman Pitts) had been an accomplished swimmer in high school and wanted us kids (my sister Patricia Pitts Williams) to be swimmers also.

With Mom it was from the baby pool to the low end of this sprawling public pool. She taught us how to hold the side of the pool and kick our feet eventually we learned basic swimming strokes. We also learned the code of the swimming pool. No running, watch out for others and the locker girl eventually boy game. We went with Mom until I was 9 - 10. The pool was always a special treat for my sister and I. The bad part of this treat was the walk back home. 10th and Dupont Street is about the highest elevation in Wilmington, Del. And Canby Park was way down hill. So, the trek back up those hills to go home for our little legs was challenging. In fact, everything we did was downhill from our house. So, we were always faced with climbing back up to get back home.

When I reached the 10 - 11 year level Mom was not a part of my trip to the public swimming pool. The morning swim was free. So, between 9:30AM - 11:00 AM we got in for free. No big deal since the water seemed to be ice cold. But, we went anyway. In the afternoons we had plenty to do playing around the neighborhood, so if we were going swimming we went in the evening.

Admittance was nominal, maybe 10 cents or so. You got your little elastic wrist band with a metal tag on it. On the tag was stamped your locker number to put your clothes in while you were swimming. You had to call the "Locker Boy" when you had changed to lock up your locker. This guy could be a real dictator. If you looked at him wrong or called to him without respect, he could not be found. You had to wait. Forever. After swimming you had to beg his highness "Locker Boy" again to open your locker.

By this time we had moved and although the distance (223 Bayard Avenue) was about the same there were no hill to climb. And, eventually we graduated to a bicycle (12 - 13).

As we grew up we moved into deeper and deeper parts of the pool. Acquiring more confidence we became more and more daring. Learning to swim long distances under water and jumping and diving from the pool side.

But always and ever more present as we grew up was the 10' pool. The 10'pool was separated by a wall that divided it from the rest of the pool area. And, at one end of that 10' pool were three diving boards. Two were 3' off the water and in the center was the "High Dive". It was ever present. Always there to tell us it's time was coming.

It didn't take long to become adept at the low dives. But, overshadowing the low dives was the ever present "High Dive". I knew as well as the other kids that the time was coming to go up the High Dive. We would watch older kids dive and jump off the High Dive. Confidently they would climb that mountainous ladder and dive or jump. It looked easy.

The older kids got older and moved on to better things and so with us. That summer when you finally realized the"High Dive" couldn't be ignored any longer. Some of the kids tackled the High Dive early in the summer. Some of us had to wait a bit to work up our nerve. As we would pass by the ladder going from the pool to the low dive we would touch or rub against the ladder. As we got braver we would even stand in the line as though we were going up on the High Dive. But, you had to be careful and get out of line before it was time to climb up.

Why all of this preparation for the "High Dive"? Apart from being scared and very uncomfortable it was just another step in growing up. Why not try it out? Just go up and do it.

All the fear of the "High Dive" did not come from the "High Dive" itself. A lot of the fear came from the Big Kids. When you finally decided not to get out of the line when it was your turn to climb the ladder, two things happened. One, as you climbed you became weak and jumpy because it was probably the first time you had been this high up on just a ladder..

The second reason for fear was Those Big Kids Down At The Bottom Of The Ladder Would Never Let You Come Back Down. Once you got on that ladder you were going off the "High Dive". No options. I don't remember anyone ever coming back down that ladder.

So when you reached the top and walked out on the board, your belly churning like an old washing machine, it seemed like you were 100' in the air and pool looked like a puddle. There was no alternative. And, you graduated, you overcame mentally and physically an obstacle in your growing up. To this day (65years later), I still remember "The High Dive".

I don't remember the dive I made but I can still see that very small pool at what looked like 100' below me. This story is not about me or the "High Dive". It is about a time that we all were blessed to experience. We played and grew up with kids. We learned valuable lessons about getting along. I am so glad I experienced this growing up process.

God Bless,

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