Strange experiences

Now picture this.  I’m a country kid from Appalachia (the impoverished area), New Bethlehem Pa., then Bucknell Univ, small town Lewisburg Pa, now in big city Philadelphia med school.  Uniform was suit and white shirt and tie…always.  Senior year we were allowed but not forced to wear white coats.  So, one day in my first year at PCO, Myron says to me that the whole class was going to skip class that afternoon and go to the TROC in downtown Philly.  What was the TROC?  Trenton Royal Opera Company.   Oh, well, ok…maybe some high class entertainment might be in order, especially if the whole class (about 100) was going.  So, we get there…dressed in our suits and ties…and were asked to sit in the back several rows of this theater…the front Bunch of rows was for the 4-5 Bus loads of elderly women who came finely dressed, but not exotically so, all chatting and giggling.  Live music of 3 or 4 pieces and out comes a guy dressed like a hobo of my movie recall…to introduce the first act of Candy Barr.  It was old time Burlesque with a stripper and fan dancer.  Never completely nude but very nicely put together anatomically.  Was a real hoot.  All those old ladies in front of us clapped and cheered…they were fan clubs of the various ladies and I can only remember Candy Barr and Virginia Bell…who…at the end of her strip…ended up uncovered topless and she would move her top from side to side and then stop while her breasts kept swinging to the bells that tolled in the background.  One other whom I can’t recall…put tassels over her nipples and then showed she could flip them up and down symetrically And asymetrically, and then rotate them in the same manner.  I was awed.    A hundred 20 yr old guys in suits sitting with multihundred ladies of advanced age, all cheering for the show.

When I was 15 or 16 my parents started to push me to get a job.  I thought about it a short time and asked if they would let me go to The American Red Cross Aquatic School.  It was on a small lake near Butler Pa..  I wanted to be a life guard and they approved me to go.  I think it was a 2 week course but it maybe was only one.  Sorry for my memory despite this being a wonderful experience in my life.  The school, which came to be known as aquatic camp, was very isolated and it was co-ed with about 8 instructors/counsellors.  We stayed in cement block made but pretty primitive “dorms”.  One instructor per cabin.  Ever sleep in one of those circumstances where you started to plot on how to slit the throat of that old guy who snored so badly it echoed off the tin roof?  Some of the kids had been there before and were returning for an upgrade in their certification.  The first year (me) was for Water Safety Instructor (Red Cross) which allowed one to certify Red Cross life guards.  The classes were in the styles of swimming, life saving, and first aid for the first year.    Some of the students were quite old.  I recall one poor lady who wanted it so badly but could never pass most of the swimming requirements.  She was probably in her 50s.  Most of us were my age and maybe 5 yrs older in range.  Naturally they devised strategies to keep us motivated.  One of which was the Polar Bear Club.  If your cabin won that award meaning every one in the cabin got  up at 6 a.m. and went down to the end of the dock which was like a bottomless figure 8.  We would then jump into the water…and go to the bottom which was 20 ft…throughout this we would be expelling air, then we would push off the bottom and upon coming to the surface we would pull ourselves up into the air as high as possible with one stroke and take a deep inhale, then back to the bottom.  And we would keep up this rhythm for 30 minutes.  It took a while to gain the ability but wow, what a difference it made in my body.  We learned all the styles of swimming to perfection and that was not easy.  The hardest part for me was floating, I could barely survive it with only my nostrils above the water.  That summer I got my certification in Water Safety Instruction.  The second year, I got certified to teach Water Safety Instruction, and the 3rd year I got certified in small craft safety.  Two fun memories…when it came time for me to be tested…the instructor was out in the water about 30 ft from the dock.  He was in late 50s early 60s and had a big belly and bald head.  He said, “Come save me”.  I dove in and made a pass at him and within seconds was upside down in the water with him holding my ankles and his feet holding me head down by my armpits.  I was amazed.  Another fun memory was during the 3rd year, I was encouraged to take synchronized swimming.  Wow.  I can still at 74 swim faster and farther by sculling than I can overhand.  So we learned how to lay supine on the surface and make our bodies move in any direction by sculling.  Then we learned more breath holding and at the end ceremonies of that camps time,  we were able to have 10 people all on the surface with the “top” one holding the next person in line by the head with his feet gently pressed against his or her neck, and so on till we were all aligned.  Then the first person would on cue,  drop his head backward and swim down and around till he met the last person in line and got linked to their feet.  Then we swam in a ferris wheel fashion with only 2 people on the surface to breath at any one time.  It was wonderful.

Thru the Red Cross, I was then able to get jobs as an instructor and I worked at 2 camps on Cape Cod Mass. for 4 yrs and at Chanute Airforce Base, in Illinois for 2 yrs.  I had many great experiences thru this time interval.  Like accidentally driving across the bottom of the runway when a jet trainer was taking off.  And I learned to use a Teletype machine, just because I knew how to type.

One unusual experience stands out.  At Camp Clark which was a boys camp on the very west end of Cape Cod…before you cross the big bridge there were about 8 wooden buildings, fairly primitive, and one large lodge/dining room.  There was a Big man, that I only ever knew as “The Bee Man”, and that was how he went.  He was about 50, and about 6 foot 6 and 300 pounds.  He only wore Bib overalls and tennis shoes. (In 1955 tennis shoes aren’t what they are today).  He was the cook for the camp and did very well to my thinking.  But one day during a siesta period in the afternoon, one of the times when I wasn’t required to be on duty or seeing over the kids, he explained why he went by that name.  He told me that he was always friendly with bees, and kept bee hives and took care of them.  He said it came by him naturally, and to demonstrate, he told me to follow him outside and watch.  We went out onto the porch and he stood there holding out his hand.  It wasn’t a full minute before a bee came and landed on his finger!  He said he always had that ability.

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