Swimming lessons provide a lifetime of safety and fun

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Guttenberg pool manager Jessica Cline enjoyed a fun day in the pool with her brother, Beau, several summers ago. Cline begins her eighth summer working at the Guttenberg pool this year. She started in the basket room, worked as a lifeguard, and eventually became manager. (Photo from Press archives)

By Molly Moser

Guttenberg native Forest Brown has been swimming at the municipal pool for a lifetime. He learned to swim through lessons there; one of his first jobs was in the concession stand, selling candy, chips, pop, ice cream, and gummy fish (a penny a piece); he joined a swim team and as an adult uses the pool for exercise. 

“My mom thought it was important for my siblings and me to learn how to swim. She later became the manager of the pool for several years,” Brown told The Press. “My wife, Tina, and I think it is important to have our kids learn how to swim and take swimming lessons. With our family also enjoying the Mississippi River, we think swimming is a great skill to have.”

“Because we have guards who are WSI certified on staff, we can teach Red Cross swimming lessons,” said 2017 pool manager Jessica Cline. “We have Red Cross sheets we follow on what kids need to be able to do in what levels.” There are skill checklists for parent and young child aquatics including simple items like getting wet with toys, kicking, entering and exiting water by walking and using a ladder, and blowing bubbles. Safety lessons cover life jacket use, calling for help and knowing first aid and CPR, sun safety, and other basics. 

Performance criteria for youth in lessons begin with swimming on the front and swimming on the back at level one and progress all the way to level six, with guidelines for arms, body position, breathing and legs during the front crawl, backstroke, back crawl, breaststroke, sidestroke and butterfly.

Brown’s sister, Christine, started the first Guttenberg swim team. “She recruited my sister, me and a bunch of our friends and other 'pool rats' to come up with a team,” said Brown. “We competed in meets in Waukon, Monona, West Union and hosted meets in Guttenberg. We had some very competitive swimmers and always had a lot of fun.”

The Guttenberg Swim Club competed in its first meet in June of 1981, narrowly losing to Oelwein in a triangular. According to that week's Guttenberg Press, instructor Christine Brown stated  that the Gutten­berg club did a fantastic job. The rea­son for the loss was  not the fault of local swimmers  but was due to not having enough swimmers to enter a relay team in each age group, she explained. There were 35 members on the swim team, ranging in age from five to 18. The first meet held at the Guttenberg pool was in July of that year. The club also sponsored a marathon swim as a fundraiser for wood start blocks, ribbons, and other equipment needed for hosting home meets. 

After the first two years, Brown’s other sister, Betsy, took over as coach. “A year ago I asked several life guards why we don't have a swim team.  Their response was, ‘We have never had a swim team in Guttenberg.’ They thought it was pretty interesting when I told them that we had a team back in the day,” Brown recalled. 

Although he no longer swims competitively, Brown regularly does laps for low-impact exercise encouraged by his doctor after a hip replacement. “My days of being on the swim team started the training regiment and swimming skills.  One day, when I get older, I hope to be as fast as Al Ullerich and Dr. Barron - my current swimming buddies,” Brown said.

Ullerich, a certified life guard and volunteer at the Guttenberg Municipal Pool, was recently called upon to use his training when a man fell into the Mississippi River while swimming. After being flagged down near the north marina, Ulrich dove into chilly waters, pulling the man to shore and starting CPR. 

  Swimming lessons will continue this summer in Guttenberg, with schedules to be announced in June. The pool opens full time after the school year ends on June 5. “Our kids love going to the pool during the summer,” said Brown. “They are also wondering if I will try to get the swim team started again...” 

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