Childhood Memories of Learning to Swim on Rangeley Lake

A story by Betty C. from around 1940

Betty C.'s Story about learning to swim in Rangeley Lake

My memories of growing up are never complete until I drive up Route Four and look out across the beautiful Rangeley Lake.
One of my most vivid memories is that, at a very young age, I had to be a good swimmer for my own safety.
I have two sisters, six and seven years older. I don’t remember our ages at the time of this story but my age interfered with their social lives. They did not want to be bothered with a younger sister.

I can still hear my mother saying, “Watch out for Betty!” when we went to swim. She’d say “Take care of Betty; don’t let her go out too far!”

I remember following behind my sisters after the warning from mom. They were going to meet friends for a swim. Even today I can almost hear them complaining as we walked to the lake. “She’s got to learn how to swim.”

The swimming area had a long, wide dock with a number of slips leading off to form openings for sea planes or boats to tie up to. This was where they taught me. One sister stood in the water on the pilings that protruded from under the dock. The other sister stood on the opposite side so she could pull me in when I got across.

I can hear some of their words of encouragement: “Come on, you can do it! Just hold your nose and jump. And, then, of course, there was Kick, kick hard!” Minutes later it was “Hurry up, we don’t want to wait for you all afternoon! And, finally, “Wow, you made it!” When my lessons ended, their social lives began, especially with that cute, blond-haired boy who had recently moved to town for the summer.

One day mom came to watch me swim. We walked toward the water, the shallow end. I called “Come on, Mom, watch this!” I ran down, jumped off the end of pier, and swam to the ladder with all the confidence in the world. Mom didn’t seem as impressed as I thought she would be. She was in shock and quite upset with her two older daughters. I am not sure about the conversation mom had with my sisters but all the way home they walked ahead, very quiet.

Mom reported to Dad that I held my breath every time I jumped in, but said, “Betty can really swim!” And so began my days of swimming and diving from the highest thing I could find.