Verne G. and the water in California

Posted by Preston G. on September 23, 2011 at 4:06 pm
Sep 232011

Bimini Baths

Verne claimed to not be particularly impressed with Los Angeles, but one thing he did like was getting in the water. He went frequently to the Bimini Baths in the summer of 1918, a large private bathhouse on a natural hot spring just northwest of downtown L.A. The Baths were a feature of L.A. life from 1900 to 1951, at least if you were white. He could take a streetcar to the baths – you can see the line in the upper right of the photo. In August he started going to the beach and swimming in the surf, in some cases in the company of professional swimmers. Keep reminding yourself – this guy only had one arm (although he had two when he learned to swim as a youngster.)

June 25, 1918 (pm 26th) Los Angeles

V. has been to the Bimini Baths to swim with Frank and a couple of girls from the college. The weather is hot in L.A., both at night and in the day, although not as hot as it would be in Texas. He says that when he was in Dallas his mother had been worried about his health and had encouraged him to stay outside at night because she thought it was best to sleep from 2 am to 9 am. D. has asked when he will have to go back to working longer hours. He thinks in about 3 weeks.
Sat. July 20, 1918

“…Yes Dear I suppose that I do lose a great deal of sleep when I go out to the baths, but then it is the one means of recreation that I have and I do not think that the time is spent badly. I don’t think tho’ that it hurts me to stay in the water for 2 hours for as well as I can remember I used to spend most of the day in “ye ould swimmin’ hole” when I was a mere kid. I can remember very distinctly when I was a mere infant of a dozen years or so I spent so much of my time in the water that mama laid down a law that was not to be transgressed. I was not to go in swimming oftener that once in two days, and as a usual thing when I was not in the water I was playing in the dirt, and tearing my clothes in some game.

“However swimming being the most popular form of amusement, I was very anxious to put in as much time in practicing as possible and quite often I took chances on being discovered and went in on the forbidden day. Now it took no Sherlock Holmes to tell that I had not been out at play when I got home and the first thing that mother usually said to me was “Verne, you look awfully clean – you have been in swimming” and being very truthful I acknowledged that I had disobeyed and the next scene usually took place in the woodshed.

“However, I was not discouraged and soon an idea struck me that if I would smear dirt over my features I might pass guard without detection. As well as I can recall my efforts had the desired effect for 2 times and almost a third but she noticed that the back of my neck was clean and that my face was dirty and knowing that ordinarily I did not take a great deal of pain with the back of my neck she suspicioned that it was cleaned accidentally and there but one conclusion to be drawn. The curtain falls here.

“I still persisted to go in swimming and she in the meantime was getting stronger and stronger in the right arm because of the continual exercise. I still believed that my fruitful brain could devise some means of camoflage but I must admit that the many ways proved frugal [futile)] and the cold weather called a stop on the swimming before I managed to discover the long wished for disguise. But no effort goes unrewarded and the next year mother finding that I had suffered no ill effect from trying to grow fins and scales the year before, altho’ I went in as often as I pleased [she] removed the ban and I went my way rejoicing.
July 28, 1918 Los Angeles

“…Yesterday I went out to the beach at Venice and had a fine time altho’ I found that I was an easy victim to sea sickness. The first thing we did when entering was to swim out to a float which was about a quarter mile from the shore and I felt fine until I got there and got out of the water but as I soon as I climbed up on it I found that I had an awful headache and so I stopped to wait for it to wear off. I laid on it for about ten minutes while the waves which were rather high shook us up and then Ray, the operator who was with me, wanted to swim into shore and send a boat after me. I was willing and another boy who was there when I got out offered to go in and send it out.

“In the meantime I began to get mad for having gone out and for having to have a boat go after me and after the last fellow left I made up my mind that I would go in by myself if I drowned in the attempt and so I went back in and made for shore. Strange as it may seem I felt fine the whole time that I was in the water but just as soon as I got to where I could put my feet on the ground I found that the headache was still with me and you have no idea how sick I was for a while. Everyone was offering me help and now that I look back it is amusing. The more I thought of it the madder I became and in a few minutes I was all o.k. again but Ray did not want me to go in again.

“We finally went up to the plunge and went in and tryed a swim but I cannot say that I like saltwater to swim in. I have been so used to swimming in fresh water that I usually succeed in getting about a gallon of saltwater in my mouth and as a result I find that the swim is disagreeable. While I did not like the swim very much I am glad that I went tho’ because I had a chance to see a great part of the country that I had never seen before. Another thing was that I had a chance to see Venice. I suppose that you have heard of the place as it is one of the big resorts here and it is now bigger and better known than Long Beach. I can’t say tho’ that I like it. It reminds one of a little country fair. There are all kinds of games of chance out on the streets and one would be surprised how many people take an interest in those kind of things. I would like for them to see the Dallas fair. But then I suppose that this is not supposed to be the same as the Exposition of Dallas.
Aug. 13, 1918 Los Angeles

“…I went to the beach last Saturday as planned and had no amount of fun and good time. Those professional swimmers decided that they would not try to swim around the pier as they said they were going to do. I think that the fact that they found the water colder than expected and the big breakers were worse than usual accounted for the fact that we all arrived home without being brought in in a coffin. I want to go there again next Sat. but I doubt if I can stand the strain as I am going to have to take Ruby Reagan out somewhere tomorrow. She is going to leave in a few days and this is the last time that I will get to see her and her mother for quite a while. Mrs. Reagan is going to Texas and I suppose that Ruby will go back to AZ where she will take up her work in the schools again…
Aug. 16, 1918

“…No Dear, I do not think that I am very stubborn about risking my life, for if I did not feel sure of myself I would not try any long swims. Of course, I sometimes risk my life in ways that I should not, but then excitement is one of the things that makes life worthwhile. I have taken greater risks in getting on wild horses than I ever did in swimming, but the risk is what makes it interesting. There is no excitement in being caged in a safety vault…
Aug. 26, 1918 Los Angeles

“… Well, Darling there is a lot to tell you this time for I have been very busy since I wrote to you last time. Last Wed. one of the operators and I went down to the beach at Redondo and had about 2 hours swimming. I had never been there before and believe me I had a good time. We went into the surf and then after getting so chilled that we were blue we decided that we would go into the plunge, which is in the house. Here we spent about an hour in diving etc. Thurs I went to a show and saw a picture but like most of the pictures that I see I forget as soon as I leave the house.

“Fri. I went to the school and led the safe and sane life, but it could not last for Sat. I went to a show and then later went to Bimini Baths and had a swim. This is the sad part of it. I had been used to diving in the deep water at Redondo and about 10 min after I went in I tried a spectacular dive off the fountain into water about 4 feet deep (I had done it a thousand times before) and landed directly on my forehead on the tile floor of the pool. Of course it did not hurt my head much but as I did not have my teeth closed it came very near knocking every one of them out. I then carried a bump on my forehead for 2 or 3 days but other than a few loose teeth I suffered few effects. However, I am convinced that having a solid ivory head has advantages.

Preston G.

Retired biochemist. One of 16 grandchildren of Verne Garrison and Dorothy Logan Garrison.

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