Learning to swim
Keeping the Peace
By Tom Lessard, C.D.
My family moved from Windsor to Waterloo in 1944 because my dad was starting a new job. Since my siblings always told me that I was adopted and that I was a German, it didn’t sit too well with me living a German community during World War II. But I struggled through it.
It was winter when we arrived, and we had seen no snow in Windsor. What a pleasant surprise. As I was only seven years of age, I wasn’t very tall and the snow piles were over my head. Our house was on a hill on Allen St. W., so it was no problem to fly down the street on our sled for about three blocks.
Most of the schools had outdoor rinks. If we wanted to skate or play hockey, we had to scrape the ice, and sometimes help to flood. There was a shed with a potbelly stove where we could thaw out our skates, as well as our feet, which were usually frozen after a short time on the ice. Our school had a hockey team, and when I was old enough, I tried out and was accepted as goalie. I also played in the bantam team. I wasn’t the best, but I put in a good effort. Our house was on a corner, so on the side street Bill Lavigne and I played a lot of shinny – almost everyday. Winter was a wonderful time of the year, even though I had to do a lot of shoveling and ice chopping.
Summer was good, too. Kitchener had an outdoor swimming pool that which was quite far from our home, but if we left early enough, we’d get there for opening. Most of our time at the pool was spent lying on our towels, soaking up the sun so we could get a sunburn. We knew that after the peeling of our skin was over, we usually ended up with a tan. Nobody told us about the perils of cancer.
One time, my older brothers took me to Waterloo Park to swim in the lake. I didn’t know how to swim yet, and could only dog paddle for a short distance. I got out too far to get back. Luckily Billy Armstrong saw me and dove off a platform and rescued me. From that experience, I forced myself to quickly learn how to swim.
Sunday, the Lessards will enjoy a biennial tradition as my siblings and their families meet at Wildwood Park in St. Mary’s for a reunion.