First as a camper, then counselor, and finally lifeguard at this fairly large Orthodox Jewish children’s camp in Rockland County, New York.
As a camper, I hated swimming and the smelly, musty, and overcrowded locker rooms.
When I was only about 6-7 already, I told my parents, I would only go to camp, if I didn’t have to swim–after a lot of fuss, I got them to agree.
But years later, I learned to love swimming–the gorgeous outdoors, calming water, and health and therapeutic effects.
I worked with “The Chief” (Norman Garfield, pictured at left) for many years…he was a radio talk show host and actor, and in camp played the starring role of Chief Taka Zeis, last of the Gutta Neshamah (Yiddish for Good Soul) Tribe.
He entertained the children like no one else could–with made up chants of “Tzitsamagoo!”, his silly outfits (notice the unmatched socks in addition to the feather hat), and to songs like “Let the Sun Shine In,” he was always someone that could be counted on to safely watch the children swim, teach them, and make them laugh.
One Summer, The Chief, encouraged us (the other lifeguards) to sign up for the Red Cross Swim and Stay Fit program, and I think I swam 20-30 miles in between lifeguarding over about 6-8 weeks.
Those were some fun times with The Chief and some of my old friends like Mark Stadtmauer, Elissa Rothman (Brodsky), and many others.
Today, just a few months post hip surgery, I once again appreciate the swimming, and try to go as often as possible for health reasons.
I am thankful for those years and for the ones granted now. 😉
(Source Photo: Who The Heck Remembers)