Swimming opportunities have changed over 50 years

When I grew up, I loved to go swimming.

I learned to swim at the Olympic-sized outdoor pool at McClure Park (near 11th street and Memorial Drive). It was two blocks from the house where I grew up and it only cost a quarter to go swimming back in the 1960s.

McClure Park has a shallow creek running through it but I was never tempted to in the creek because it was only a foot deep and it looked dirty even back then.

When I attended Bell Junior High School (now Bell Elementary), near Admiral Boulevard on Sheridan Road, that school had an indoor pool and we swam in it during gym class sometimes. The boys did not swim with the girls and the pool was not big enough to get much of a workout or to play in.

About the same time, I was a camper at New Life Ranch, a Christian youth camp near Siloam Springs, Arkansas. The first few years at New Life Ranch, we swam in Flint Creek. There was a 30-foot slide from a rocky bank into water about 20 feet deep.

That was a bunch of fun.

When you arrived at camp, you had to take the “creek test.” You had to show that you could swim from one bank to another without distress.

Later, the ranch added a nice pool provided by the late John Cline of Fiesta Pools in Tulsa.

These days, Flint Creek is murkier than back then but the campers still swim in it. New Life Ranch has added a state-of-the-art in-ground pool and I suspect that is at least as big a draw to swimmers as the creek.

If you take Highway 412 from Tulsa to Siloam Springs, you will cross Flint Creek and you will see a bunch of swimmers and campers.

I spent the summer of 1968 (I was 15) on a family farm in the rolling hills of Virginia near Roanoke. There was no swimming pool – it was a working farm – but there was a good-sized pond next to the barn. I swam there a couple of times, but it was a favorite bathing spot for geese and other animals, so I mostly stayed away. You have to be careful, especially in the heat of summer, when swimming in some farm ponds because certain deadly bacteria can be a problem for swimmers.

When I was in high school, I went water skiing a few times, including trips to Lake Oologah and along the Kerr Navigation Channel near Catoosa. Several years later, I skied on Grand Lake.

My in-laws used to live on Lake Norman in North Carolina, between Statesville and Charlotte. They had a Sea-Do and a boat they kept at their dock on that lake. Those were a whole lot of fun but I never went swimming in that lake.

When our kids were young, we bought family season passes to Big Splash Waterpark at the fairgrounds. It was much cheaper than buying separate day tickets and the kids had a lot of fun. We stopped going when it got too crowded.

Our neighborhood at 71st Street and Sheridan Road has a community pool and it is very nice. We were members for several years. It is only two blocks from out house and we would cook hamburgers and hot dogs on the pool’s grills and take a swim.

When our kids grew up, we stopped going to the pool. It just seemed like more fun when kids were along.

The last time I went swimming was at Christmas when we took our family on a Caribbean cruise. At one of our ports of call, we went swimming in the ocean.

The water was crystal clear. We were supposed to go snorkeling and check out the coral reefs. But the water was only about four feet deep at the end of the pier where we entered the water. And the waves bounced us against the coral, which has some sharp edges. One woman in our group got out of the water with a bloody cut on her thigh and another boy got a lesser cut.

We used to spend time on the beach in Florida near Tampa/St. Petersburg. But I really preferred taking a dip in the hotel pools to swimming in the ocean. There are a lot of nasty creatures in the ocean (sharks, jellyfish, stingrays, etc.) and I am not a fan of salt water. By the way, the swimming pools on cruise ships generally use salt water in their deck pools.

I love to swim but I really have no interest in swimming in a lake or pond these days.

Maybe someday I will hit it rich and install an in-ground pool in our backyard. That might cost a bit more than what I paid to swim at McClure Park in the 1960s.