Tag Archives: swimming

Lake Swimming is the Best!

1 Feb

I did not swim in a swimming pool till I was in college.  We always had the lake: Kauneonga Lake.  I learned to swim and spent many summer hours perfecting this skill in our lake.  As I spent many hours relaxing on our dock with my family and friends.

Kauneonga Lake

My family and friends in Kauneonga Lake.

I never swam laps, I just swam as fast as I could to get away from my brother and my boy cousins who tried to push me into the mushy gush…the yucky seaweeds that lined the bottom of the lake in the areas where we did not swim as much.

Sometimes we swam back and forth between our dock and the dock that the people in Cooper Drive used.  But that meant keeping our legs up.  The gush was thick between the two docks.  And it wasn’t just the gush, there were also fish and turtles that would snap and nibble at your toes if you got too close.

I could stay afloat for hours.  We did not have life jackets.  When we were little we had brightly colored tubes. But eventually I out grew those and just swam.  If we stayed within the area designated by the adults, then the water was not over our heads.  It was when we tried to swim too far that danger lurked.  But we knew how to tread water and make it back to the sandy area with no effort.

Lake water swimming was the best.  The water was cool and fresh.  There were very few boats on the water when I was a child, except for canoes and rowboats.  It was not until I was in my teens that speed boats in large numbers showed up on the lake.

The only negative about lake swimming?  We always knew when someone went to the bathroom in the lake!  If you hit a warm spot, you knew that was disgusting.  Warm spots were sure signs of accidental lake peeing.

There was a pool at the bungalow colony up the road from us, where my grandparents’ friends owned, Kauneonga Park.  But I never swam there.  I know my brother swam there when he worked at the colony’s camp during the summer. But I never went into the pool.  It seemed odd to get into a cement box filled with water and chlorine.  I did go and look at it.  But I never got in.

When I got to college, I had to go into a pool for the first time.  We had to pass a swimming test and show that we could swim four laps and jump into the pool.  I was not happy. But to get my college degree from Drew University, in New Jersey, that was a requirement.

Ugh.  I did not own water goggles.  In the lake, I just opened my eyes to look around.  In a pool, this is much more difficult.  Your eyes burn from the chlorine. Ouch.  So, during my test, I had to close my eyes.  Swimming laps with your eyes closed is very difficult.  I could not stay in my lane.  In any case, I never swam in a lane in my life.  Lake swimming is much more haphazard. Not being able to see made it worse.

I did go four laps, but they were not pretty.  The coach called me out several times for crossing into someone’s lane.  She told me to go buy a pair of goggles for my next pool experience.  But I never had one.  I passed the lap test.

I passed the jumping in test: arms across your chest, feet first into the pool.  “Why?” I asked.  In case you are ever in a cruise ship and need to abandon ship was the answer.  I never thought I would need that talent, but I will admit I have been on many a cruise and I have thought about learning to jump!

To this day, I do not love pool swimming.  I do not like the chlorine or the feel of concrete.  However, I have learned to enjoy the beauty of water aerobics in a pool and the ease of floating on noodles.

To be honest, I much rather go to the lake in the Catskills, and slowly walk in.  First testing the water with my toes to feel the temperature and finally sinking to my neck.  I do not do it very often, but when I do I feel great.  Lake swimming will always be the best!


We are going to the LAKE!!!

1 Mar

I did not swim in a pool until I was 17.  Up until then I had only ever swam in a lake…one lake in particular: Kauneonga Lake in Sullivan County, NY.  My grandparents owned a small bungalow colony right across the street from the lake on West Shore Road. 

Kauneonga Lake is the northern side of White Lake.  White Lake and Kauneonga Lake once had just a small channel connecting them, but it was widened many years ago.  Amber Lake was off to the side, and could only be accessed on foot or by canoe because the channel was so shallow.

Each spring we would begin to prepare for the first visit to the lake.  Memorial Day weekend the bungalows would open. But the season would really not begin until the end of June, when school ended.  We would go up earlier so my Mom and Dad could help my grandparents prepare for the season.  My siblings and I would be put to work. . My brother and I would be scrapping paint off the bungalows to get ready for a new coat!  My sister was too young for those jobs, so was given a simpler job to do. 

Oh the excitement of knowing that summer was coming!  Once school was out, we would be there for two months of joy.  We would pack up the car, put on our pajamas, and head out for what was then a four-hour ride.  When we woke, we were there in our bungalow at Kauneonga Lake.

There, in the mornings we could watch the mist rise above the lake. In those days it was so cold in the mornings, we slept with our clothes under our pillows to keep them warm.  We would dress in layers under the covers and then get up.  Going to the bathroom in an unheated bungalow, first thing in the morning, was a COLD experience.  But even though the lakes were fed by spring water, in the mornings the water was warmer than the air, and mist would rise so ghostly above the water.

Watching the mist rise over the lake was a normal experience and also a beautiful one.  It was so peaceful.  There were very few motor boats on the lake then, just canoes and rowboats. 

My grandmother, who grew up in Poland, believed that washing your hair in the lake was the best.  So some mornings I would join her to walk over to the dock.  She wore her hair in braids on top of her head. But at the lake, she let it down and then would wash it with Ivory soap. She would wash my hair as well.  Then we would dunk in to the warmth of the lake and quickly wrap ourselves in towels when we came out.


Swimming in Kauneonga Lake 1961.

Every afternoon, when it wasn’t raining or too cold, we would all go to the dock to swim.  Along side the dock were rocks were we could hunt for crayfish.  Some mornings we would fish.  I was an expert in filleting fish, which I did for my brother and I.  Later these skills were important when I worked in a deli and would filet white fish for the customers.  But then it was the joy of fishing and being at the lake.

When we swam, we tried to stay out of the gush. This was the seaweed and the bottom of the lake. The area we swam in was sandy because of all the activity. But on either side it was gushy. The older boys tried to make us have to step there. And in the gush were turtles and fish that would nibble at our feet.

We knew that a warm spot was a bad sign…and we would scream and yell when we walked or swam through one.  Who had peed in the lake?  No one would ever tell.

When I reached my teens, the lake atmosphere had changed. But I still loved it!  Now there were many motor boats and water skiing.  My friends and I would go out on the lake for hours, boating over to the cove where we could swim without our parents watching.

In the early fall, we would come back for weekends.  Even though the colony was closed, we came out to help do the closing of the buildings.  A friend of mine, who had a boat, came up sometimes as well, especially during Rosh Hashannah.  We would ride in his boat over to the beach at Camp Hi Li and sit on its floating dock working on our homework.

My parents had a pontoon boat in their later years.  It was perfect for my Dad to go gently around the lake. My cousins would keep watch over my parents when they went boating. Just as my parents kept an eye on my cousins when they were young.  Generation reversal!


Kauneonga Lake summer 2013.

I still go up to the Lake.  There are so many more boats on it.  I don’t see as many people swimming. Most are boating.  My cousins have a large beach area where we hang out.  The ‘youngsters’ swim and boat and ski and go tubing and other water sports.  We, now the older generation, go out on the boat once in a while for a spin around the lake.  My cousins tell me about all the changes in the past year.

For all of us, there is joy just being by the lake.  Visiting with each other. Continuing the fun we had in the many years we spent growing up together across the street from Kauneonga Lake.

To this day, the words,  “We are going to the Lake,” still bring joy to my soul.