When I was a kid a friend of my parents invited our family to join this swim club just outside of Philadelphia.
We had a large green Ford Galaxy and every sunny summer day my Mom would order us kids about telling us to grab beach towels and make sandwiches and load up the cooler because we were going “swimming”.
I lived in North East Philly. There were community pools and I’m sure that some folks had above ground pools stuffed into their tiny backyards, but most people back then didn’t have the luxury of swimming every day. I thought it was cool that we did.
I remember Mr. Yost and Mr. Whelan and Mr. Mattson. It is funny thinking back on the time now, each of those men I mentioned were married, but somehow they had more stature in my mind. I guess because they were the ones always fixing or planning to fix the property. It seemed as if they were the owners of the club.
Pen Ryn was an old estate along the Delaware. I’m thinking this time period was the late 70’s and early 80’s. Old buildings didn’t quite have the same cachet that they do now. They were just old, but it was still an old mansion! It was a beautiful place.
I remember the long drive onto the property. It was heavily wooded on either side of the 400 foot lane. Then you drove into an area where a baseball field had been set up and beyond that you could see the back of the mansion. We never paid much attention to that building, instead we drove further on into lightly wooded area where there were maybe 20 or 25 screen house type tents.
To me those tents were cool. Some of the members would put indoor/outdoor carpeting down and they’d paint their tables and they’d have fancy firepits. Our tent was just a tent with a wooden picnic table inside. Where some folks had strings of lights inside their tents, we stuck with an old Coleman lantern or those small battery operated lanterns.
We’d all fall out of the car and drag the cooler into the screen house and then grab a towel and bolt across a large open field to the swimming area. There was a cyclone fence about 4 feet high covered with honeysuckle plants that opened into the pool area.
I loved that place. I don’t know, it was that time in my life where new friends felt like family. There were lots of kids and we’d all have such fun splashing and playing silly games like water polo and chicken and we’d race each other.
Of course there were the bad times like when a friend stepped on my head while I was underwater and I sucked in about a gallon of chlorinated water. But most of the time we all got along.
I was so damn skinny back then. It’s no wonder because I remember being in constant movement. Now being in the pool means standing and walking around trying not to get my upper arms wet…back then being in a pool meant I was able to flip and kick or press my body against the big old slick octopus drawn on the pool bottom 8 feet under to see if anyone had left any pennies behind after a game of hide and seek.
I just remembered this today. It’s been years and years and I just forgot about how much I enjoyed it all. There was something about today that made me remember. Maybe it was the way the sun filtered through the tree branches, or maybe it was the feel of the wind on my skin but something took me back.
I remember Jeff and Timmy and Dave who were the lifeguards. ( Don’t tell them but they weren’t always the best guards!) I remember one of them teaching me how to wrap both legs around the diving board after lifting my body out of the water and scrambling to get up on top. As a kid I thought I was being challenged because they didn’t think a girl could do it. As an adult….well now I have a different feeling about the exercise! 🙂
It was wonderful then.
I think I remember that if our families had packed dinner, we’d all tend to eat at about the same time and so afterwards the kids would plan to meet up to play basketball or go swing on the swings, or toss the baseball around.
Then when it got late there were fires back under the trees tended by solemn adults and I think I can remember the sound of a couple of radios either playing music or baseball games. Mom’s would call out their children’s names ordering them to go get out of their wet suits and back into street clothes for the rides home. Most of us would say we were already dry which was probably mostly true, and we’d climb into our cars with the hot plastic seats which kept the heat of the day after sitting closed up all afternoon to keep the bugs out. We’d drive up that long lane with a couple of soaking wet beach towels draped over us and we’d head home.
I know a lot of people must have memories of belonging to swim clubs. I just think that Pen Ryn was something special with it’s mansion and the well worn paths that took you down to the Delaware.
It’s also where I saw my first ghost! But I guess that is as they say another story.
Enjoy this wonderful June evening.