This week, inspired by the super fun “throwback Thursday” images that appear on Facebook each week that spark “oh my God! I remember that!” reactions, I’m sharing some vintage age grouper behavior and goods. They may seem wacky by today’s standards, but back in the ‘70s and ‘80s the stuff below was deemed as very cool or very practical. Enjoy the memories!
Belgrade suits The latest in high-tech fabric, with a snap-able strap on one shoulder (fear not – the suits were fitted enough that if the snaps ever came un-done in a race [which they didn’t for me] your torso would remain fully covered) and a narrow band of cool cross-stitching up the back, Belgrades were the race suit for girls. (Did they even make ones for boys?) They also had the cachet of being made/imported from a then-communist country. My favorite was a pattern of waves in turquoise, dark blue and black—I made sure to save it for key-to-me finals such as the 200 fly.
Dry Jell-O as swim meet “fuel” Yep, we now know this was like mainlining sugar, but back then, we’d dump an entire box of dry Jell-O mix in a baggie. Throughout the meet, you’d wet your finger, dip it in your baggie, lick the powder and repeat. Hey – we didn’t know as much about nutrition as we do now, but we sure had “energy” for multiple prelims and finals each day of a three-day meet!
Tying suit straps with a shoelace Obviously, this one pertains just to the ladies again. Those 70s nylon suits had little to no elastic, so they had no fit whatsoever. And the straps, for whatever reason, were always really, really long. So if you have a short torso like mine, the straps were always shifting around and plinking off your shoulders. The easiest, cheapest, and quickest adjustment you could make before practice was to have one of your teammates tie your suit back straps together with a shoelace. This would help pull up the front of your suit as well—very key when dealing with a loose suit.
Adding milk into your eyes after practice Yes, I’ve been swimming long enough to remember the days before goggles. After every two-hour, heck even an hour-long practice in a chlorinated pool, you’d see halos around lights and your eyes would burn, burn, burn for hours after. There’s no scientific evidence* (or at least that I could successfully Google) per milk having properties to classify it as a “treatment” in this case. But it sure felt cooling back then, and thus a good remedy at the time.
Card games No hand-held personal devices for us in the 70s! Instead, we’d play cards for hours between heats. Some of our favorites were war, spit, gin rummy, and of course solitaire while on your own. Learning a new-to-the-team card game was a rare enough event that if you had one to introduce, it made the build-up to the next big three-day meet event that more exciting!
*Here’s a note from my proofer extraordinaire, Eric, who’s also a swimmer: “Hydrochloric acid is added to get the chlorine in the pool. If not properly neutralized, the acidic content of the pool will be high. Milk is a base, so acid + base gets you water – that would explain it.”
Thanks for taking a short trip down swim memory lane with me; I’d love to hear what stands out most from your age group days. Or the flipside—read about what’s “in” right this second!
Next week: Meet Recap or, “What I Learned”