Steve Wilson
Steve Wilson

Throughout my educational career I attended college and university at an erratic pace with time gaps of months and even years; but during each of those academic periods there was the need for income. Twice during those periods while attending classes I found that income as a lifeguard.

My last guard job was for a company out of San Juan Capistrano, which had clients all over Southern California, of which most were upscale apartments or gated communities with resident-use-only pools. I worked two weeks in the industrial city of Tustin and one week in, of all places, Costa Mesa, with my final posting in Yorba Linda near the Richard Nixon Presidential Library. I was 50 years old at the time. Prior to that, I had qualified with the Red Cross in Municipal Pool in Salinas and guarded for a church group both at Camp Cawatre in Arroyo Seco and Camp Corralitos in Santa Cruz County.

During one semester at Riverside Community College, I took a full load of swim instruction classes from a former Olympian diver for Britain in the (if memory serves) 1956 Summer Olympics. One year later I took advance swim courses, and through the Red Cross I became qualified as one who trained those instructors who were going to train swimmers seeking to become qualified lifeguards.

Loaded with all that knowledge and experience, I ventured north to familiar territory and taught swim lessons and guarded out at Fort Hunter Liggett for the government where Mark was my boss; a position I also held two summers later. My first-ever volunteer position was at 16 years old down at Greenfield Oak Park. It was a new program called Head Start, and I would be both activities director and pool assistant; the latter because I had passed Senior Lifesaving earlier in that summer. All the kids were from Soledad and Gonzales because those towns had no aquatic facilities at that time. It was a learning experience, which I suppose led to a life of volunteerism, and it happened because a decade before I took my first steps toward being a swimmer.

I barely remember my first foray into swim lessons. It was a Pollywog class down in King City because I was a Greenfield boy and that was the closest pool where I, and others from town, were taken for Red Cross swim lessons. I still have the card informing I passed the course. But in 1961 that changed when Greenfield Pool opened down at the Park (there were no parks inside the city limits in those days, unless you counted empty lots, so Greenfield Oak Park just became ‘the Park’; but I digress).

I remember attending the grand opening with a diving exhibition and special 10-year admittance fees; something my parents often wished they had invested in at the time. The Red Cross swim program began I am sure that same inaugural summer or the next, and Greenfield entered a new era. I remember standing with many other youngsters in front of the entrance gate in the chilly mornings, waiting for Teresa to read our name off the clipboard while watching the steam rise off the warm pool water, knowing that after the short period of warming up exercises and verbal instructions we would have to shower in cold water under a chain-pull spigot and get into that pool.

After entering the pool where our bodies adjusted to the warm water, we lined up against the edge, mindful of always holding onto that edge, we learned the basics of the American Crawl stroke. We braced ourselves by holding on to the edge with one hand, while the other was underneath us against the side of the pool pushing outward so we could practice our flutter kicks. With that same bracing hold, we learned rhythmic breathing. We stood in chest deep water to learn arm movements and by the end of the two-week course we put all the movements together and we could, in fact, swim.

And then those who chose went on from Beginners to Advanced Beginners to Intermediate and Advanced Intermediate and then Swimmers to Advanced Swimmers and on until one becomes a lifeguard and swim instructor. But for those who don’t choose to go on still have that one invaluable skill: they can swim. Without that skill a person can drown more easily than those without that skill, period.

And Greenfield has a river very close by but has no active swim instruction program because the only swim facility near town, still down at the Park, is empty of water. No water, no swim lessons. No swim lessons and the chances greatly increase that people may die; it is that simple.

Beyond the possible dangers evident to non-swimmers, there is the absence of swimming for recreational and health activities in water. Many pool facilities have courses where people may learn basic “waterproofing” skills and mother and infant lessons and water aerobics for seniors. There are aquatic lessons designed to fit all ages and physical limitations. But at the present time, nothing is available in Greenfield, and that is just unacceptable.

I’m sure that within city council, planning commission and recreation and cemetery districts, there must exist plans to re-establish swim programs in Greenfield, and I am not alone in wanting to know just what those plans are. I hope to attend some meetings come the new year and inquire as to what those plans consist of and what timeline is attached to the project. I’m sure there are recorded minutes of all past meetings of the rec and cemetery district meetings; hopefully audio recordings of past meeting exist, as handwritten minutes are not nearly as accurate and complete as those audio recorded.

It is time Greenfield residents become aware of what the future holds for their now empty aquatic facility.

Take care. Peace.

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King City and Greenfield columnist Steve Wilson may be reached at [email protected].


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