It was summer and time to hit the pool! As I said before, our neighborhood had a local swimming pool, but you had to buy a membership. To buy that pool membership for the family, mother worked extra shifts at the hospital. During the summer, mother never had to worry about me, she knew that if the pool was open that’s where I would be! Of course, this was always after I finished my chores. Yes, we had chores and mine included cleaning my room, making the bed, cleaning the bathroom, cutting the grass, weeding the flower beds, and using hand clippers to cut the grass under the chain-link fence. see PHOTO 1
Alas, there was no pool on Sundays! Sunday was church day and that meant Sunday school, eleven o’clock service, family dinner, and seven o’clock evening service. Daddy was a deacon in Azalea Baptist Church and had to be present for most services. see PHOTO 2 Sometimes, when we did not attend the evening service, Daddy would make pizza for dinner. Regardless, there was no time for the pool on Sunday and tragically the pool was closed for cleaning on Monday.
Larrymore Lawns Community Pool
Now closed. Norfolk, VA
Barbara Taber and sister, Chris
Pools always have rules and before I could go traipsing off to the neighborhood pool by myself, I had to pass a swimming test. You may recall that I learned to swim from the brutal lessons that my aunt Martha gave me. So, I had no problem passing a test that asked me to swim across a 25-foot pool, tread water for three minutes, and prove that I could swim under water. see PHOTO 3
CJ Johnson was the head lifeguard and pool manager. He must’ve seen something in me that said this is a future water rat. He took his time to teach me how to do the different swim strokes; CJ even taught me how to do a racing start. To this day, I regret that he did not teach me a flip turn. At the end of each summer, when the pool association held their swim races, I won an arm full of first place trophies. CJ also taught me how to dive and I sort of won those trophies too. CJ’s training efforts prepared me for something that I would do in college… Standby!
There was a bunch of neat kids at the pool. They didn’t seem to mind that I was not good in school… I could swim and dive! I was fearless! Aside from my time at the pool, momma made sure that I spent at least two weeks at camp. Group camp was an experience that momma made sure we all participated in as soon as we were old enough to attend camp. When we were in Bainbridge, MD, she sent Chris and me to Camp Sandy Cove on the Chesapeake Bay. At Camp Sandy Cove, we learned how to do all sorts of nature crafts. The camp was based on Native American themes, and we were separated into tribes ─ Choctaw, Apache, Lakota Sioux, Iroquois, and so forth.
At night, they would have big bonfires and camp counselors would come screaming in on horseback, dressed as Native Americans, and light the fires. Each camping tribe would then participate in different types of contests. I can assure you we never learned anything about the different tribes! There was no Native American history taught at that camp. Looking back, I find that to be very sad. It would be a long time before I got to go to sleep over camp again.
After we moved to Norfolk, momma made sure I was involved in Brownies and Girl Scouts. For several summers, until I was old enough for overnight camp, I went to day camp at Camp Apasus. The camp is still located in the City of Norfolk, VA and operated by the Girl Scouts of the Colonial Coast. At Camp Apasus, we would spend the day doing arts and crafts, learning how to tie knots, and campfire cooking. One of the neatest things we learned was how to make a stew in a coffee can. I sure wish that I could remember the recipe for what they called slumgullian. None of the recipes I have found online come close to what I remember.
Once again, not being grace personified, while trying to whittle a stick with my little Girl Scout knife, I managed to cut my finger to the bone. Of course, the counselors wanted to bundle me off to the doctor, but I had other ideas. I said, “just wrap it up and I’ll get it taken care of when I get home.” So, they stuck a couple of Steri-Strips® and several Band-Aids® on it; I stayed the rest of the day at camp. Boy, did I get blasted when I got home – momma took my Girl Scout knife away for a week! see PHOTOS 4 & 5
Swim Lessons with Aunt Martha
When I was old enough, after a move from Brownies to the regular Girl Scouts, I got to go to overnight camp. Now, during all the other times of the year, we did a lot of “backyard camping” and went to several weekend sleepover camping adventures at different Girl and Boy Scout camps. However, in the summertime, we went to Camp Matoaka, located on Lake Prince in Suffolk, Virginia. Sadly, after so many years of providing girls with wonderful scouting experiences, Camp Matoaka has closed. Occasionally, when I am at our lake house, I will run into three of my former camp counselors. see PHOTO 6
Looking back, I can remember so many great experiences at this camp. There was an island, near the camp, where we would go hone our survival skills. First, we built our kitchen area, known as a Chippewa kitchen. Then, everyone would do what were known as capers. These were chores like digging a latrine, building the camp furniture, pitching tents, or KP duty. We would canoe over to the island, with all our supplies, and spend three or four nights camping out, basically roughing it. During the daytime, we would practice our skills in sailing, canoeing, and orienteering. At night, we would sit around the campfire singing camp songs, telling ghost stories, and stargazing. see PHOTO 7
Once we were senior scouts, we could enter the counselor–in–training program. That meant spending an entire month at camp learning to be camp counselors. Each day was divided into two sessions: the mornings involved training to be a counselor; the afternoons were dedicated to working with the younger scouts. We were a very close-knit group of girls, and no one seemed to care that I wasn’t the brightest bulb in the chandelier. Yes, I was beginning to wake up and blossom both as a female, someone with brains and talent. While I never got a chance to become a counselor with the Girl Scouts, I did become one with the Portsmouth YMCA at Camp 4 Winds.
One of my last camping experiences with the Girl Scouts was to backpack in the Appalachian Mountains. There were ten of us girls, all CIT’s, who trucked off to the mountains and hiked the Appalachian Trail, around Old Rag Mountain in Virginia. see PHOTO 8
Camping at Matoaka
Old Rag Mountain Hike
Prior to our arrival at the campgrounds, there had been some very strong rains and winds that had gone through that area of the mountains. The heavy weather managed to wipe out many of the trail markers. So, picture ten teenaged girls, about thirteen or fourteen years old, traipsing around trying to follow maps on trails that no longer had markers. As a result, we hiked up Old Rag Mountain backwards with no trail markers. We also received a very interesting education on that hike. Now mind you, this was and is a National Park, imagine our shock when we rounded a bend in the trail, came upon a waterfall, and found several very naked women posing for a magazine spread! I don’t know that I ever told my mother about that find, but I’m sure she would’ve had a hissy fit. see PHOTO 9
Our two weeks of camping were not confined just to the Appalachian Trail. In the heat of summer, we also hiked from Jamestown to Williamsburg. Once we got to Williamsburg, we watched a movie in the visitor center and toured the colonial capital of Virginia. We even got to eat at the Raleigh Tavern! A lot of people would’ve thought that we had never been to Williamsburg before; however, all of us had been there at least twice, because, in the Commonwealth of Virginia, as part of your Virginia history classes, students took field trips in both the fourth and seventh grades. Of course, I had been there many more times because our family would go there whenever a relative came to visit. see PHOTOS 10 & 11
Waterfalls on Old Rag Mountain
Stocks at Colonial Williamsburg
Revolutionary War Reenactment at the Armor
Obviously, Scouting was a large part of my life. Not only did I learn to canoe, sail, and orienteer, I became a leader! My light got brighter, my confidence was buoyed, and I was accomplishing more than I ever thought possible. As I earned all my merit badges, I was learning to persevere. I was determined to keep on truckin’! When I took my junior lifeguard test, it was with the Underwater Demolition Team at Little Creek Amphibious Base. I can tell you those guys did not play and just because we were girls, they did not go easy! It was the real deal!
One of the nice things about having a father, who studied social studies, political science, and history, was going to all the historic places in Virginia. Daddy took us to Appomattox, Mount Vernon, Jamestown, and Williamsburg. The only place we missed was Monticello. Why, you may ask? Well, it was too expensive for a family of five and because there were no interstate highways, it was too far from the house for a day trip.
Summertime, while living in a coastal town, should conjure up images of going to the beach. We did not live too far from some of the beaches, but we rarely went to Virginia Beach. However, mom and dad would take us to Ocean View Beach, located on the beautiful Chesapeake Bay. The sand was nice, the water was glassy or perhaps had small waves, and it was very family oriented. Just the place to take your kids in the late afternoon. There was even a famous amusement park, where, in 1977, the movie “Rollercoaster” was filmed. Sadly, that park closed in 1978 and the “Rocket” roller coaster was destroyed as part of a 1979 made-for-TV movie. I was never allowed to frequent the amusement park… Nice girls didn’t go to seedy places like that. Eventually, I did get to spend time at Virginia Beach and Sandbridge, Virginia. see PHOTOS 12 & 13
Virginia Beach, VA
Summer was always too short. I loved summer and hated to see it end. I knew I was heading for seventh grade, and I still wasn’t happy about it. Most of my summer stories have covered well into high school: however, there are more stories waiting to be told. First, however, I must get through junior high school. Learning is not just for the wintertime! I have learned many important things during the summer!
Many of those lessons carried informed my teach career:
Leadership is a team sport, and you are only as good as your team.
Maintain a healthy respect of all living things.
Leave only footprints and take only pictures.
Know that there is always more than one way to reach your objective.
One can learn a lot from observing their surroundings.