Swimming at Watford in '63 and '64 by Vicky Bialas

Hi, What a treat to find Watford Swim Club on the Web on a Sunday night after midnight! I swam for Watford in 1963 and 1964. The coach was a tall, handsome man with curly-ish black hair who always wore a maroon sweatsuit. I think this was Roy Rogers, but I'm not sure. In 1963, I was 6 years old but had already been swimming competitively for 2 or 3 years. My father was a swimming coach and ex-speed skater, and was always very cheerful and enthusiastic about getting me to all those morning and evening practices. (Sometimes, I was not so cheerful and enthusiastic, having never been a morning person myself.) I also swam for a coach named Don---but this might have been at another club--and also had some coaching from Reg Laxton, who I believe coached an Olympic backstroker. My hero was Bobby MacGregor, a great sprinter. I remember Bill Juba and his wife who I believe ran several technique clinics during the time we were there. Swimmers I practiced with were Claire Stockley, who wore a pinstriped maroon and white bathing suit, and Trevor Wright who wore a turquoise bathing suit. I have vivid underwater mental pictures of those colors and swimmers in lanes on either side of me. I have rich memories of swimming in and around London, which is my birthplace as well as a key ingredient of my swimming past. The water in those pools seemed very cold! I loved horsing around and dunking each other after practice, and the wonderful splashing sounds echoing off the walls at night and the underwater lights making everything blurry white and yellow and blue. I used to love going underwater and looking up at the ceiling through the surface of the water. No one wore goggles then that I can remember and so after practice there would be rainbows around all the lights from the effects of the chlorine. I still love indoor pools the best, and often have dreams that I am in some walking along the deck of an old high-ceilinged indoor pool that is suspiciously reminiscent of the pools I used to swim in London.

Long ago, my mother lovingly pasted into a scrapbook my Watford Swimming Club cards and Gala Programmes from the early 60s, along with memorabilia from Queensbury Swim Club, Ilford Baths, Wembley Swim Club galas at Marshall Street Baths, and Stevenage. I take this down now and then and page through it as a way of re-gaining a sense of orientation in the world. The experience of swimming is really one of my greatest joys in life, and the people and the experiences surrounding it a resource of love and learning for me. I also swam competitively in Puerto Rico, Texas and California. I held U.S. an age group national record and competed in 3 U.S. nationals and the 1972 U.S. Olympic Trials in 200 meter butterfly with a time of 2:27+. While in Texas, I also swam in a lot of rivers, sometimes for fun--jumping into rapids and off cliffs with waterfalls and out of tree branches, and sometimes swimming upstream for the workout. I just read Neil Chapman's wonderful piece on "Half a Century" at Watford and was stunned when he talked about river swims in the Thames. I had to go put on an extra pair of socks just thinking about such a thing. A river swim in Texas is quite a bit warmer I suspect.

Now I live in Northern California, work at a software company, and am an avid, albeit cautious, surfer, windsurfer, and novice sailor. I hope to return to London sometime soon, and go for a long swim. Thank you so much for creating this Web site. Happy 100th Anniversary!

Good wishes, Vicky Bialas

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