I just wanted to share how aquatics played a role in my life. I see it as part of a circle of life – my life, (most likely shared by many others).
As a child growing up, the local community centre was our “baby-sitter.” The East York Community Centre” consisted of a library, gymnasium with a stage, dance and Judo/Karate rooms, rooms for various activities and group meetings and, of course, a pool. Our parents enrolled us in just about every activity available. Gymnastics, dance and swimming lessons. I also, belonged to the swim club. On Saturday mornings, we attended a program called “Whale of a Program,” which consisted of morning activities in the gym, crafts, swimming and ended with a movie. In the summer months, we went to Day Camp, which, yep you guessed it, ended with a swim every day at the pool.
School lessons were given to all Grade 4 students and almost every high school had a swim team. It was the place to be growing up. At the age of eight, I almost drowned when a boy jumped on me and at nine I performed my first open water rescue of a playmate, (skills learned at swimming lessons). As a teenager, I continued to swim until we moved up north. To go swimming I then had to travel to the larger town to swim. In those days, it was 45 minutes to an hour depending on weather and traffic. Most times I stayed after school to swim and then got picked up or if I had the car I would drive us all home.
As time passed, I realized as a young adult I wanted more to do to keep fit and became a Lifeguard/Swim Instructor. I would go to the local pool before work and swim a mile every day. Then, I became a mum. Living on the coast there were many times when the weather was just not fun to be out in. What could we do? The kids and myself needed to get out – off to the local pools…what a mind saver.
Moving to Princeton, we were told by the real estate agent that the town was going to vote for an indoor pool. It didn’t happen. That first year we travelled with a swimming bag and travelled to Penticton, Kelowna and even Kamloops, but mostly Penticton. (Merritt didn’t have an indoor pool yet). We travelled in the off season every week to an indoor pool to swim. In 1992, the Princeton Centennial Pool reopened and I found myself back in aquatics. It has been a career for me ever since. Over the past 20 summers, I have seen kids grow stronger physically and mentally as their self-esteem increases. The greatest joy comes from seeing a new swimmer, be they a child or an adult, realize that they can float, they can swim and they can dive. They can survive.
I have seen many patrons grow up and continue aquatics to help pay their way through university and college. Some have become competitive swimmers and even coaches. I have also seen families move away just so their children can continue to grow as competitive swimmers in a year round facility.
It is rewarding when kids come back and tell stories of scary incidents that they found themselves in ( like rafting on the rivers) and they say they survived because of what they learned at swimming lessons.
I am now teaching the children of the children I have taught. My daughter also became a lifeguard, so now I am entering another phase of the circle. My own children have grown and moved away and we are looking at retirement years. My thoughts are on what I will be able to do to keep fit. I have recovered from a minor spinal injury (caused by a winter ice accident) and swimming played a large part in that recovery. I had to travel out of town in the off season to enjoy this process. It would have been nice to be able to stay here and not endure those winter roads. As a Lifeguard and Swim Instructor , I must travel out of town to re-certify my training. Again, in the off season, enduring the winter conditions. It would be such a financial ease to stay here and train.
My testimony doesn’t come with statistics. It’s my personal experience. One I am sure many of your share and believe that in our golden years we are going to need and use an indoor facility to keep us moving, fit, healthy and young, so we may enjoy those years with our families and friends and remain in the other activities we now enjoy.
Carol J. Mack
Town of Princeton resident