Before city pools, there were creeks and rivers

Friday, February 1, 2019

Several posts on Remember When in McCook Nebraska were memories of learning to swim at the old YMCA building on Norris. For those who grew up in McCook, they will remember that “way back when,” swimming lessons at the Y were split with boys in one group and girls in another. It seems, and I have no way of proving this, that the boys got to swim without the constraints of a swimming suit!

I doubt that this would have improved my learning to swim. Since I was happily part of the Indianola kids, I went to swimming lessons at the Cambridge pool for 10 cents a day. Moms took turns driving us there crammed into the back of a station wagon with the seats down and all of us sitting helter-skelter sans seatbelts which did not exist then. One day when Mrs. Arnold was driving us, I had placed my dime in my mouth as I tied my shoes when we hit a bump in the road and I swallowed the dime. It was an omen on how my learning to swim was going to go down!

After several attempts at learning there, my parents determined that I would have to be driven to McCook and learn at the Y. Since I was always height disadvantaged, one would think that being put in a class with 5-year old children wouldn’t matter, but even then, I had some reluctance to be a spectacle and those lessons quickly came to an end.

Finally, my mom just took me swimming with her and taught me to side stroke my way anywhere which closed the door on my inability to put my face in the water and remember to come up for air! This was after having to be rescued at 4-H camp when I jumped in water over my head.

We take for granted having a child learn how to swim these days, but before the YMCA and the City kids played in farm ponds, creeks and the river. The water was always inviting on those hot summer days and boys especially wanted to dip into its cool depths.

McCook Tribune – 06/11/1909: Drowned in an irrigation ditch last Thursday, the three-year-old son of Dave Eckhart of near Culbertson was drowned in the irrigation ditch which passes near their house.

While attempting to cross the canyon north of the city, Raymond DeLong was swept away and drowned. The body was recovered about a half a mile below where the lad had fallen into the swollen stream. Little Raymond, together with several other lads, went to the pasture north of the city shortly after the heavy storm had ceased, after cows. Raymond was evidently wading along the bank of the canyon, when he fell into a deep hole, and not being able to swim was quickly carried away. McCook Tribune – 06/24/1909

Drowned in a ditch Tuesday: When a part of young men from Blackwood in Hitchcock County were fishing along the river and the Meeker Ditch, when they came to one of the lakes along the ditch, they went in swimming. Ole Olson, one of the party about nineteen years old, in trying to swim across, was taken suddenly with a cramp and sank. William Little, an expert diver who is in employ of the ditch company was called and recovered the body about 10 o’clock in the evening. McCook Tribune – 06/01/1894.

These and many more stories are available on the SWNGS website: under the sidebar, Newspapers, which consists of early extractions for the Births, Marriages, and Deaths in not only the McCook Tribune but the McCook Republican and the McCook Democrat. A search bar is available if you wish to search by surname or key words.

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