During the Depression, Allie Crews was the only employee of
the Boone County chapter of American Red Cross. It surprised me
when she called to say, "The board chose you to represent
our county at the National Aquatic School in Eureka Springs, Ark.
The chapter will pay your expenses for 10 days of advanced
training in swimming, life saving, accident prevention and first
aid. Do you think you can go?"
I had just earned my senior life-saving badge in Ruby
Cline’s class at MU. A large blond fellow wearing a big
"Examiner" badge was in the water, grabbed each of us
to determine if we could release strangle holds, wrist grips etc.
I was frightened by this examiner, but I passed the test.
Then Miss Crews made this great proposal. She didn’t
spell it out, but I recognized an obligation to use this training
later because the chapter was investing a huge sum of money on me
more than a hundred dollars! Of course I accepted the
offer, knowing how much fun it would be.
We swam in Lake Lucerne, a resort near Eureka Springs, and
were busy day and night. For the first time in my life I was at
camp, getting to know more than 100 people who lived and breathed
the things I loved: swimming, boating, canoeing, life saving.
After introductions and orientation, we were assigned to classes
and given textbooks and additional materials to read before
Staff and students ate at the same tables, sang camp songs,
walked the same paths, used first names and huddled around the
same fireplaces. Yes, it was cold!
The Red Cross staged National Aquatic Schools in about five
locations throughout the United States, and most were scheduled
for early June so life guards, teachers and others would be
trained before the busy swimming season.
The next morning it was not only cold, it was also raining!
They rescheduled classes to have intensive instruction and
practice indoors in the Lake Lucerne pavilion and dance hall. We
went through the life saving techniques there, learning to
release holds, carry near-drowning victims, do artificial
respiration and the rest.
The following day was more of the same, huddling around the
big rustic fireplace with the fire roaring. We were about 150
"fish out of water" waving arms as we studied various
styles of swimming. We were down on the cold floor for
instruction in flutter kick, scissors kick and frog kick.
American Red Cross was one of the organizations that
researched swimming and life-saving techniques, always hoping to
find more efficient ways of moving through the water or saving
lives. The "fly" was unheard of at that time, but an
inverted breaststroke was introduced and it’s still my
The cold rain continued. By the fourth day we went into the
water for short sessions and then huddled around the fireplace
wrapped in big towels. We were indoors for slides, demonstrations
and practice. Boats, canoes and related equipment were moved to
the dance floor.
Near the end of the school, we worked in the water most of
each class period. On examination day we went in one at a time
and released the strangle holds on staff members. The school
nurse met us with an army blanket and a cup of hot coffee as we
made our way from the lake to the fireplace!
That evening I was awarded that big, important badge that said
"Examiner." And I’ve spent many years happily
fulfilling my obligation to the Boone County Chapter of the
American Red Cross.