Cathy’s School for ‘Lil Fish opened its pool in the summer of 1997, but our involvement with teaching swimming has a history that stretches back to 1960. Cathy is my daughter (I’m Cindy) and she encouraged our family to “start up” a new swim school when we moved to Boise. Long before that, over 4,000 little swimmers had been lovingly introduced to the water by Miss Gwen. Miss Gwen, my mother and Cathy’s grandmother, began her devotion to teaching the youngest children to swim and love the water because in 1960 I toddled into the deep end of the Philadelphia naval base pool and promptly sank to the bottom. Miss Gwen, my mom, dove in and rescued me and decided that day that every child within her reach would learn how to swim as early as possible. She was discouraged when she began searching for a place that taught infants and toddlers......because there weren’t any. At that time the Red Cross suggested starting children in swim classes when they turned 6.
So, Miss Gwen started developing her own curriculum for the youngest children. My sisters were introduced to the water “when their umbilical chords fell off” as my Mom told me, and they were proficient swimmers long before they could enter official swim classes with the Red Cross. My mom began teaching others in 1969 and soon had many successful younger swimmers. That’s where I learned to teach, as I assisted her in our backyard pool. In the late 70’s when she was living in Virginia, my mom taught water safety to almost 1,000 fourth grade students in Fairfax County. She approached the Red Cross again about a curriculum for infants and toddlers. They still didn’t have a curriculum for “lil fish”, so she wrote it for them. And they adopted it.
Miss Gwen continued teaching when she and my Dad “retired” to Florida in 1987. You couldn’t go to the store in Merritt Island, FL without at least one child recognizing and waving to Miss Gwen. She taught thousands more children to swim from 1987 to 2003. The last class she taught was in the fall of 2003, only weeks before she succumbed to bone cancer. She said that being in the pool with the children made her pain disappear. My Dad had to help her out of the pool after the students left, because she couldn’t climb the stairs, but she would be smiling. Her love of children, swimming and teaching combined to create wonderful results. And now you know........the rest of the story!