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Water & words: Teen tutors, swimmers made a splash in summer of '69

Tuesday, July 1, 2014
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Dave Gionet teaches water safety at Scotia’s Collins Park by helping Clyde Dunn “kneel dive” into Collins Lake. Clyde’s brother Ray watches in the water at far right.
Dave Gionet teaches water safety at Scotia’s Collins Park by helping Clyde Dunn “kneel dive” into Collins Lake. Clyde’s brother Ray watches in the water at far right.

Kids out of school means kids in the pool.

During the summer of 1969, Jeff Ledbetter and Sandra Ross suited up for hydration at Schenectady’s Rotundo Park. At ages 6 and 4, respectively, Jeff and Sandra were two of the park’s youngest regulars.

Rotundo officials noticed their dedication. Mr. Ledbetter was named “Mr. Rotundo” during a brief ceremony. Ms. Ross, who won a park “beauty bathing” competition, became “Miss Rotundo” for part of the season.

At Collins Park in Scotia, young swim instructors taught kids dives, strokes and kicks. Big crowds in Collins Lake ensured the teachers had enough customers.

Some kids immersed themselves in words instead of water. Twelve teens from Linton High School formed the Linton Action Committee and became informal tutors at Martin Luther King School in Schenectady.

“What distinguishes these classes is the atmosphere: relaxed, informal, fun,” Ann Desantis reported in the Schenectady Gazette. “Barefoot teachers are called by their first names, rock and roll music plays in the background and protest posters hang alongside finger paintings on the wall.”

Singing and sports were also part of the scene. But no swimming.

 
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