The Way It Was


Editor’s note: This is another column in Bill Boyd’s new series, “The Way It Was,” about growing up in Marysville. Bill continues to work with the Union County Historical Society to obtain information for his stories. With Marysville and Union County celebrating Bicentennial anniversaries in 2019 and 2020, respectively, these articles help depict what life was like in those early years.
The swimsuit
My wife was going through an old photo album some time ago, and she ran across a picture of my dad wearing an odd looking straw hat. It was his favorite summer hat … a “boater.” It was just one of several things he sometimes wore, which were out of style. Boaters were popular in the early 1900s, but you didn’t see them often in the 1940s.
Another outdated thing my dad wore was spats. There are probably a number of young people who may not know what spats are. In the early 1900s, they were kind of a fashion item for men. They were made of felt, and they covered the upper part of the wearer’s shoes. Spats were pretty much out of style by the 1940s, but my dad didn’t care about that. He didn’t like to wear boots, so he wore spats in winter to keep his feet warm. He really enjoyed them.
But of all the outdated things my dad wore, the one I remember most was his swimming suit. To tell the truth, when I was about 10 years old, I didn’t even know he owned one. He never went swimming.
I knew that he could swim, because he told me about how he learned to swim when he was a kid. His stepfather taught him how to move his arms and legs, as he lay on the floor of his living room. Then he took him to Mill Creek, and he threw him in the water. That’s how all his friends learned to swim around 1900.
When I was maybe 10 or 12 years old, I often tried to get my dad to go swimming with me, but he just wasn’t interested. Then one night after dinner, I think it was in 1944, he told me he was going to go swimming with me when he got home from work the next day. I was thrilled.
I was already in my swimming suit as he walked in the house after work the next day. He grabbed his suit, and we were off to the pool.
As soon as we got there, my dad went into the bathhouse to put on his swimsuit, and I waited outside with a friend of mine named Bud Hoffman. I had told Bud that my dad was going to swim with me when he got home from work, and he wanted to join us.
When he finally appeared, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I had never seen a swimsuit like that. Let me begin describing it by saying that it was made of wool. That’s right – wool! How many swimsuits have you ever seen that were made of wool?
It was a two-piece suit. The trunks were black, and they had belt loops around the waist. The top was alternating black and red, horizontal stripes, about two inches wide. The top was tucked inside the swimming trunks, and the whole thing was accented by a white belt with a shiny brass buckle. Wow … I bet the Marysville swimming pool had never seen a swimsuit like that.
I think I had mixed emotions. Part of me thought the whole thing was pretty funny. But to be truthful, I think another part of me was a little embarrassed. Sometimes it doesn’t take much for a parent to embarrass a kid. I am sure I have embarrassed my own children quite a few times when they were young. In fact, I am probably still doing that today.
Bud, however, thought it was the coolest swimsuit he had ever seen, and he asked my dad where he got it. The three of us had a great time swimming, and I was surprised how good a swimmer my dad was. But for some reason, he only swam sidestroke. I’m still not sure why.
That was the last time I ever saw my dad in that swimsuit. But several years later, when I was in high school, Bud asked me if my dad still had that suit. If he did, Bud asked if maybe he would let him wear it. My dad dug the suit out of a drawer and handed it to Bud.
The suit was a much tighter fit on Bud, but he wore it for about a week. I can still see him diving off the diving boards in that suit. I wish I had taken photographs.
When we moved from Marysville in 2010, I found the suit in a cardboard box in our attic. Unfortunately, it had been attacked by moths, and was full of holes. I guess that’s one of the disadvantages of a swimsuit made of wool. I wish I had kept it, however. It would be a nice memory of my dad … and of my boyhood friend, Bud Hoffman.
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