2018-07-13 / Travel

Ode to my Father

Part 2: Skinny dipping
By Warner M. Montgomery, Ph.D. WarnerM@TheColumbiaStar.com

Greeleyville had a terrible rain storm in 1916. On the opposite side of the street in front of the Montgomery house was a drainage ditch which looked like a lake, according to my father’s memoirs. He remembered his father, called Papa, letting him play in the ditch because, “Papa believed everybody should learn to swim,” and a ditch was as good a place to learn as any. But, since the ditch never stayed full very long, they found that Mount Hope Creek was a much better swimming hole.

Papa took Daddy along with Charles and Edgar Lesesne to Mount Hope Creek to learn to swim. Since Papa was a staunch Presbyterian, he made Daddy wear a swim suit he had bought from Silverman’s Department Store in Kingstree for 35¢. It was no more than a pair of black woollen long johns.

Daddy fearfully walked into the knee-deep creek, lay face down, and began to follow his father’s instructions.

Much to Papa’s dismay, the Lesesne boys, who were Episcopalians, stripped off their clothes and jumped in nude.

Daddy ignored his naked buddies and cried out, “Papa, watch me dive!” But Papa ignored him knowing his four-year old son couldn’t even swim. When Papa finally turned his attention away from the two naked white boys, he was surprised. Daddy wasn’t diving, he was swimming, actually dog-paddling. After several sessions without his skinny dipping buddies, Daddy swam like a tadpole.

When my turn came to learn to swim, Daddy chided me, “Back in my day, few four-year-olds could swim, but I did. Come on, son, don’t be afraid. Jump in!”

Next week: Roman Candles

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