Friday, May 14, 2010

Growing Up Hughes--The Swimming Gene

Swimming was just something that I was able to do. As a child, I never had any real swimming lessons and as a teen, I found that I could swim pretty fast. There was always a comfort zone with water. In the summer our two week vacation was at Stone Harbor, New Jersey swimming in the Atlantic Ocean. When I was in seventh grade, my family joined a swim club and we had the opportunity to swim almost daily.

In 1961, we moved from my childhood home to a new house and a new school system. At the bottom of the hill from our street there was a summer swim club which the family joined in 1962. It was a terrific opportunity to make new friends and there was a swim team. I had never tried to swim fast. The coach said, "Just dive in and swim as fast as you can." I did. Surprisingly, it was the fastest any girl in the 15-16 age group had done.

This lead to four years of swim competition for me....two at that local club and two swimming for the Allegheny Y, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in AAU local, regional and state competitions.

My brothers were both on the local swim team, too. We spent the day down at the pool all summer long....lazy hazy crazy days of summer. What a life!!!

Certainly back then it never occurred to me that my natural gift of swimming might have come from somewhere. Over my years of genealogy research, I have heard the stories of my paternal grandfather, George Henry Hughes, and his love of swimming. Suddenly the light bulb blinked on. Perhaps this swimming thing is genetic.

My paternal grandfather, called Pop Pop by the grandchildren, was born and spent about seven years in Hartlepool, England. The North Sea was his swimming pool as a youngster. When my brothers and I visited Hartlepool back in 2003, we saw folks swimming in the sea near the Hartlepool Gate on the Headland.

I found a postcard showing a "bathing pool" which was an area near the old Town Wall that was designated as the town's swimming area. The water supply is the North Sea. The card is from the late 1800's and early 1900's, which was when my grandfather lived in town.

One of the favorite Hughes Family stories is of Pop Pop swimming from the bank at the bottom of Birmingham Street in Avalon, across the Ohio River, over to Neville Island and back. Imagine swimming in the Ohio River in the 1920's and 30's near Pittsburgh.

Red line shows the route of the swim

My Dad recalled how they would dodge all sorts of strange objects while trying the cross that stretch of the river. Think of all the pollution from the steel mills upstream....YISH!!! Talk about a love of swimming to deal with that water.

Another fond memory is of Pop Pop, when he retired to St. Petersburg, Florida, floating in the Gulf, reading a newspaper. I actually saw it.

When we visited St. Pete we swam in the Gulf and Grams and Pop Pop had a dandy of a pool behind their apartment complex. We Hughes kids pretty much dominated that pool when we were in town and we could always count on Pop Pop joining in on the fun.

© 2010, copyright Linda Hughes Hiser


  1. Ah, and, now I understand your swimming all winter long and the "I did a mile". Ya, I get it!

  2. You are so lucky to have the natural talent. One I don't have, capital "D" Don't. Sigh....