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The old swimming hole
By A.M.(Al) Johnson


November 20, 2012
Tuesday AM

Editor, Sitnews,

Back in the days of yore, prior to 'Indoor Swimming', a young lad grew up living on the south side of Ketchikan in the area of "Buggy Beach" a tidal pool, now referred to as "Rotary Beach'. For the first toddling years of living near this location, mother would take me wading, allowing me to chase beach crab, throw rocks and enjoy the feel of water. As I grew, the time to learn to swim was nearing and one day, while treading water behind a floating log, I slipped off in water at deep end of the tidal pool. Not knowing how to swim, and near the third time down, a local Boy Scout, Harry Johannsen saved my live.

Mother decided then and there that I would learn to swim. The word was out. A neighbor, Martin Bellanich, who owned what is now called 'Sloup Road', a immigrated Yugoslavian and businessman, decided that he would assist my mother in her quest. Mr. Bellanich alleged that he was taught by his uncles back in Yugoslavia in a simple manner and would mother allow him to teach me in that manner. Mother was thrilled. Mr. Bellenich proceeded to take me to Buggy Beach.

We proceeded out to the diving platform where Mr. Bellenich had me walk out to the end whereupon, he pushed me in. I struggled to the surface, he helped me up and out, pushed me back in, and continued this till I was flopping and flailing away but not sinking! I was swimming!!

Mother was less than happy to learn of how the lesson went, Success can be measured by different scales.

Later as I became a young teen, Richard Boarch, (Dick to all of us young kids) had the wonderful opportunity to be enriched with his leadership. Dick formed a gang of young teenagers to assist in the construction of the enlarged dam with a new diving board. We all toiled, proud to be included with the adults in making Buggy Beach a better swimming hole complete with boys and girls separate dressing stalls built with logs and hued wood doors and chicken wire over the top of the stalls, to keep curious boys from investigating the girls stalls from above, at least that is what we boys thought the intent was!.

There was two outhouses one at each end, near the Travis home, on the south end and one near the 'Old Man' Young's home. You brought your own T-P.

Most of the undressing and dressing among the boys was in the bush. For the most part, my fellow young folk walked or road bikes from "Town" out to Buggy Beach.

We never thought we were in danger, or that addressing normal swimming chores was froth with potential health challengers, We all have lived to normal life expectancies. Warm water was four days into a sunny period with low tides that allowed the water within the dam to heat up.

And the activity cost the community not one damn cent!! All volunteer involvement with good cheer and happy outcomes.

Now in my later years as an old five and dimer, burning beach wood and jigging for a cook fish, tales of woe about imperfections of an expensive investment such as the new 'Aquatic Center", costing I have been lead to believe, $28,000.00 per month to heat and light, causes me to reflect that "If you give a man a fish ( A brand new Aquatic Center) he is hungry (complaining) again in an hour. If you teach him to catch a fish (build a volunteer swimming hole) you do him a good turn (He learns to deal with life).

Growing up use to be natural and free, now it is programed and damned expensive. When we were young there was never a shortage of something to do, the days were too short, we found our own entertainment. In this day you hear that there is never enough for the kids to do and some level of government is required to provide a litany of choices.

Just saying,

A.M.(Al) Johnson
Ketchikan, AK

About:"Old Buggy Beacher, Raised on seaweed salads,kelp pickles and pickled herring."

Received November 17, 2012 - Published November 20, 2012

Related Viewpoint:

letter Open Letter to the Ketchikan Borough Manager By Peg Travis and Dave Hirchert



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