We have a new member of the family, a little odd and hairy looking but a member just the same. Welcome, sea otters to the Red Cross family of lessons that we currently offer, in this case, to the preschool set. Based on parental feedback, Red Cross created the sea otter level to ensure an easier transition to unparented levels. The parented levels will continue to be starfish, duck and sea turtle. Unparented levels will start with the new sea otter level and progress through salamander, sunfish, crocodile and whale. Following that are the totally unexciting names of levels 1 though 10.
I got to thinking what I grew up with in the way of lessons; luckily I didn’t have a father that rowed out to the middle of the lake and tossed me out as a kid utilizing the sink or swim method of teaching. Or if I did, he was obviously outvoted by my mom who felt swimming lessons from June 30 to Sept. 1 each summer was the better way to prolong the suffering. I vaguely remember tadpoles, then frogs, but it was also in the 1960s that we had beginners, juniors, intermediates and seniors. I remember a childhood of perpetually red eyes from the chlorinated, semi-heated pools as well as that familiar chlorine smell on your skin until sometime around Christmas. Not to mention that we had to walk to swimming lessons each day, uphill both ways.
Long after I finished lessons, in 1981, Red Cross introduced the colour system of badges — remember badges? What great moms we had, to pick off your old badge from your swimsuit and hand stitch on the next level so you could proudly display your trophy while shivering uncontrollably on deck waiting to go back into the tepid water to warm up. Oh, and let’s not forget about the artificial respiration days, where you had to pair up with someone, lay on the sub zero tile pool deck and actually blow into the other person’s mouth to make their chest rise — obviously we hadn’t quite made the research advancements in exchanging bodily fluids back then.
Jump ahead to 1996 where Red Cross introduces the AquaQuest system, which also had numbered levels such as AQ3 and AQ4 plus the resurrection of tadpoles and frogs, amongst other amphibious creatures. Somewhere between then and now we again switched to the present system of Red Cross Swim Kids, along with many patient explanations to parents about where their transitioning child was, is and should be. The one constant from time immemorial is that many parents realize it is very important for their children to learn to swim and one cannot help but wonder how many lives have been saved by learning this simple skill.
Neil Ostafichuk is the recreation supervisor at the Creston and District Community Complex.