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Happy Father’s Day, 2021!

June 20, 2021

Swimming Lessons and Other Life Lessons

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

NOTE:  Since today, June 20, 2021, is Father’s Day, I dedicate this blog post in loving memory of my dad–James F. Massa (July 11, 1913-December 1, 1997).  Additionally, since this pre-summer of 2021 has been so extremely hot in so many states of the USA, I pulled from WORDWALK 2015 archives a blog post about swimming and my remarkable dad.

* * *

            In the summers of my youth, the Aragon Swimming Pool was a prime attraction.  Located on the north end of Clinton, Indiana, and approximately seven miles from my home in Blanford–the Aragon included an especially large pool, two three-foot diving boards, one ten-foot diving board, a children’s swimming (or wading) pool, two areas for sun bathing (before the days of sunscreen as we know of its importance  today), two concession areas, a trampoline area (which I especially liked), dressing areas, and a ballroom (where my junior class held the Clinton High School Junior-Senior Prom–“Whispers of the Orient” in May of 1967).  Between the parking area and the entrance to the Aragon was a pleasant park with picnic tables, some playground equipment, a shelter with more picnic tables, and a miniature golf course.  Throughout the years that I went to the Aragon, it was owned by the Tony Fenoglio family, of Clinton. 

            While I first started enjoying the Aragon in the mid 1950s, my dad’s association with this huge swimming pool began around 1927 or 1928  when he was employed as a life guard there at age fourteen to fifteen.  A few times, he told me the story of one of his job duties of swimming around the massive pool with a bucket in hand to disperse the chemicals into the water.  Of course, my dad was always a strong swimmer. 

            Somewhat surprisingly, when my father was stationed in California before deploying to Europe during World War II, he met the famous Olympic swimmer (who won five Olympic gold medals from 1924-28) Johnny Weissmuller at the Brown Derby.  When Dad met Mr. Weissmuller in 1941, the MGM and RKO star was at the height of his fame in the Tarzan movies.  As was typical in those days, Mr. Weissmuller bought my dad, who was dressed in his Army uniform, a drink. 

            Within five years after my dad returned to civilian life and his wife in Indiana, my sister and I completed our family.  When my sister and I arrived at the appropriate age for taking swimming lessons, we went to the Aragon for the very early morning Red Cross swimming lessons.  In such a large swimming pool in west-central Indiana, in June, the water had an initial chill.  Not only was I not happy about the cool water, I did not care for my instructor and her method of teaching.  The experience was not a successful one:  I was not progressing toward the goal of being a swimmer.  The trust which I did not have with the swimming instructor was easily and naturally bestowed upon my dad.  I can distinctly remember my “riding piggyback” on my dad while he swam through not the shallow end nor the very deep end of the pool, but in the area of medium depth, nearer the south side of the pool.  Besides swimming with me on his back, my dad periodically dived under water, but managed to keep my head above the water level.  Oh, how I did trust him–like no other person!  How I did quickly learn to love the water!  Then, my father taught me how to swim.  Although these lessons from my father were almost six decades ago, I recall these special times so clearly and am grateful for the many lessons my dad directly and indirectly taught me. 

            For many years, after an afternoon of swimming, my sister and I, at the concession near the entrance/exit of the Aragon, enjoyed a chocolate-dipped ice cream cone or freshly-popped popcorn sold in tempting cones made of wax paper in a myriad of bright colors.  During our pre-teen and teenage years, the Aragon was a wonderful place to go with friends.

            Fortunately, both my father and mother enjoyed traveling; so, each summer, our family enjoyed at least one road trip.  During the hours of being in the car, I happily anticipated being able to swim at the motel where we would land at the end of the day of driving.  While we toured 38 states of the USA, historical sites, museums, famous houses, and parks–swimming was always a special treat of our vacations.  Nevertheless, I have never swum in another swimming pool that was even near the size of the Aragon.  How fortunate Southern Vermillion County was to have such a swimming pool!  My parents and others of their generation sometimes referred to the Aragon as “Happyland”–undoubtedly, the name of the place before the attraction was dubbed the Aragon. 

With the trust and love I had for my dad, my childhood was a “Happy Land.”  Much of what I am today is thanks to the life lessons which my dad so gently and lovingly gave to me.  I only wish I had more of his positive outlook, his ability to see only the good in other people, his easy smile, and his twinkling eyes.  From Earth to Heaven, “Thanks and love always, Dad; Happy Father’s Day!”

Happy swimming and summer vacations!

Happy Father’s Day!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow

June 20, 2021, Sunday


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One Comment
  1. mfanyo permalink

    Thank you, Alice, for sharing your wonderful memories of our dear Dad on this Father’s Day! Dad is never far from our thoughts every day, but I do especially enjoy remembering our times together at the Aragon pool in Clinton. You are right—it was truly a “Happy Land” for us and all of our family.
    Happy Summer to you and Willow!
    Love, Mary

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