Friday, September 15, 2017

Sepia Saturday 384: Swimming Pool: Dominion Street

My best match for the prompt was the tub. Not an exact match as mine wasn't holey.

The scene is the backyard of my family's home in Winnipeg in mid-July, 1948 or 1949. Joycie, waiting her turn in the "pool", lived across the back lane with her parents, two sisters and brother. Joycie looks annoyed and tired of waiting. I appear oblivious to her anxiety, lounging as I am with a drink in my hand, like a middle-aged adult in a jacuzzi. I have a smug and proprietary look on my face as if to say to the photographer, "Hey Bud. If you want a dip, get in line behind Joycie. Meanwhile, fetch me a few more ice cubes for my drink." Or I could have been responding to my Dad's question about whether it might be time for Joyce to have a turn. "Really Dad?"

The tub soaking and of course, running through the hose, were the only ways to cool down in our neighborhood, during our short sometimes, hot summers. Private swimming pools were non-existent, unimaginable. For real swimming, we went to the public pool a couple of blocks away where our eyes burned from the chlorine, we had to wear ugly bathing caps and the life guards spoiled the fun with their nonstop whistle blowing and scolding. I don't remember having much fun at that pool, mostly I recall the strong smell and being jostled around and pushed in. Small for my age, I was easily over-powered. If I complained to my mother she'd say, "Push back. Fight your own battles." 

Luckily on one occasion when I was pushed, I landed on my face in the water and before I could scramble to the stairs and get out, I discovered I was buoyant and from that moment on, I could swim. The feeling of floating was euphoric. A few years later the polio epidemic hit and the pool was closed. After that polio summer of '53, the pool seemed ominous. We imagined polio, waiting like a twisted hungry creature in the locker rooms or underwater, trying to jump down our throats and force us into an iron lung. 

The lilac bush behind Joycie was a joy in the spring, loaded with fragrant blossoms which we cut off and carried to the school in Ball jars containing an inch of water for the stems. Our teacher's desks would be crowded with little bouquets for the two splendid weeks while the lilacs put on their big show of the year. We pressed the flowers between the pages of my Dad's Harvard Classics. 

The galvanized tub hung on a high hook in the garage for most of the year. By the time of this photo, Joycie and I had physically outgrown it, but not mentally. This scene probably captured our last time squeezing into the thing. Dad retrieved it from the garage and filled it up—I guess it was the man's job—so this must have been a Saturday or Sunday when Dad was home. Photos were only taken on the weekends, because Mom didn't use the camera, for some reason.  

Tinnitus plagues me now and I have a constant tea kettle/electric wire buzz in my ears. In Winnipeg, in summer, the mosquitos provided a constant background hum. Although I can't see them in the photo, I know there was a buzzing cloud over both our heads. By the time the sun set, Joycie and I would be wishing we had extra hands to scratch with—two hands weren't enough. Mom would make me a paste of baking soda and water which was supposed to offer itching relief. She'd spread it on our skin with a small wooden spatula, like the one that came with an ice-cream cup. 

The tomato vines up against our neighbor's garage would be loaded with green tomatoes, just starting to turn pink. A month later, Joycie and I would sit cross-legged by the vines, pulling the best, reddest fruit off, shaking on salt before each bite and savoring the sun-warmed deliciousness. We'd slurp and tip our heads back while we tore into the tomato skin...even so, juice would run down our chins. I'd end up with a stomach ache and Mom again came to the rescue with a bubbly glass of Eno's fruit salts. A popular cure-all, every kid from that time knows the radio jingle: E...N..O, ENO! It's mild and gentle and good, good tasting—E...N...O! 
This is how our Eno's bottle looked....

I looked up Eno's online and was surprised to see it's is still around. Now owned by GlaxoSmithKline, the main market is India. My parents kept the Eno's on a high shelf because I liked to pretend it was 7-Up and sneak it whenever I could. With my nine year old's sense of humor, I liked the big burp you could muster up if you drank it fast. The high shelf didn't stop me but it slowed me down.

The new Eno's has a tag line that I like: "Bubbles that set you free.....instantly!"

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