Montclair, Oakmont & Schwer's Swim Clubs - Pittsburgh


MONTCLAIR CABANA CLUB

      By fifteen I had become tired of spending my summer weekends on my father's boat on the river. My mother had also become fed up with the boat and wanted to join the swim club where her friends belonged. Montclair Cabana Club was located on Route 30 about 20 miles away. We had gone there as guests once or twice the previous summer (the same guests are allowed only once each month) and found the place a fun and friendly family oriented operation. We joined and remained members for three years until the pool was eventually sold.

Montclair Swim Club's enourmous pool looking towards clubhouse.

      The family oriented club for 300 families had leased the old Blue Dell public pool, which had a capacity of 3000 bathers. It was huge, 100 meters long and 50 meters long; slightly larger than a football field. Most of the pool was shallow, 3 to 4 feet deep, except for the end 75 feet of its length, which was 7 to 8 feet deep. While the place lacked a high diving board because of its shallow depth, it did have one or two, one meter diving boards. Three sides of the pool's concrete apron were lined with beach lounge chairs and another eighty additional were set on the hillside.

Monclair Swim Club - view towards hill and Route 30.

      The 150 foot long building at the deep end of the pool housed dressing rooms and a recreation room. Beyond were picnic grounds, four tennis courts and a restaurant. Two 35mm Cinemascope motion picture projectors were housed in its basement and they projected movies onto a small 25 foot outdoor screen. The owner of the property owned a chain of drive-in movie theaters, including the Blue Dell Drive-In located on the adjacent hill. On Tuesday evenings everyone would take a lounge chair by the pool and move it to the theater area. A committee of parents picked a family oriented movie that was playing at one of the nearby theaters. The movie we picked would become the second feature at the theater and one of the parents would return the first few reels of our movie to the theater in time for their second show to start.

Jeffrey Stanton on raft in deep end of pool

      Most of the Jewish families lived either in Squirrel Hill or in the Highland Park area of East Liberty. There were only a few families from Stanton Heights. There were only one or two of my classmates at Peabody. This was good for me since it gave me a chance to make an entirely new set of friends, unfortunately friends that I would only see for two months each year. There were few kids older than me. Most of the kids I played with were one to three years younger than me.

Montclair's picnic area was behind the club house

Jeff Stanton on tennis court

      Most families owned air filled rafts since there was ample room for hundreds of them to be in the pool at any one time. I would get twenty to twenty five kids and we would hold fleet maneuvers in the large shallow end. Since adults were off limits, we usually preyed on visiting teens or preteens. They were always surprised at being surrounded by a fleet of rafts. Someone like me equipped with mask and fins would attack from beneath and sink them by pulling their raft's air plug. It was no big deal to us since the club had its own air compressor to refill the rafts. I acted as leader part of the time because I was often the oldest. But the fleet usually became bored and since it was never completely loyal to me, often turned on me and attacked. I was usually accompanied by two or three kids on rafts with me who would rarely turn on me (Two twins who were eleven were loyal). They were usually good at blocking so that I had time to escape. I could out paddle nearly everyone and could get to the shallow end first. I wasn't safe there but it is difficult to overturn a raft in two feet of water.

Teens gather to play cards and meet friends.

      The teenagers liked to play cards. Canasta and Bridge were popular. We played at tables on an outdoor patio near the entrance. By the third year so many teens were playing bridge that the adults introduced us to duplicate bridge. We held tournaments on weekends in the large recreation room.

      Swimming was the big thing at the club. When I was sixteen one of the life guards organized a swim team. There were six to eight other cabana clubs like ours ( they had regular size pools ) to compete with in a league. While they were forming the team, I was learning the Butterfly stroke and attempting to swim one width of our pool (half a length was my norm). We had practice at 11 AM and I often had to get a ride with neighbors since my mom rarely got up that early. My freestyle stroke, since I had never been coached, was more of a tiring windmill stroke. Our coach quickly tried to break me of the habit. We had to swim at least a quarter of a mile each morning. I was so tired that I needed to take a nap after lunch. The kid that was supposed to swim Butterfly on the Medley Relay team quit the team and I got the job by default. I also built up my endurance by swimming at least a half a mile later in the afternoon. I swam like I was in a trance, rarely looking at where I was going but making a flip turn when my hand touched the wall.

Montclair Cabana Club - Swim Team

Montclair swim team - 50 meter race

      I remember the first swim meet, which luckily or unluckily, was at our club. The visiting team had never seen a pool that big. We joked that it wasn't that big, but wait until the tide rolled in. While their older boys could swim the 50 meter events, most of their younger kids had never practiced for that distance. Our team was winning with the younger kids and losing with the older kids. I also swam in the 50 meter freestyle event. When the Medley Relay event came up, I was told to swim slowly and complete the event, otherwise we wouldn't receive a second place 4 points. I was worried since I had never even completed one width of the pool in practice. I swam third in the relay and did manage to complete the lap, just barely. I think we lost the meet, but not by much.     One of the girls on the team was a cute 13-year-old named Sherri whose mother was Jewish and father was Scandinavian. I had meet her two summers earlier when she was only ten. She was a well developed ten year old that looked like she was fourteen. Everyone liked her and I heard she was quite a sensation when she started 9th grade at Alderdice. I got a ride to several swim meets with her family that included her two younger brothers. They seemed to be that easy going ideal family that you see on TV and everyone wants to have.

Montclair Cabana Club swim team.

      Our team never did improve very much, at least not enough to win any swim meets. We did have team spirit and wore yellow sweat-shirts that said Montclair Cabana Club. At one meet we almost won the Medley Relay. I was tied with the kid when I finished my lap, but we lost on the Freestyle lap.

      I took the Red Cross Life Saving Class that summer and passed it. One of the requirements to get in the class was to swim the deep end (75 feet) under water. I remember the final test where we had to rescue the instructor. After I subdued him with a reverse head lock and was bring him to the shallow end, he became violent and rolled me over and tried to drown me. I kept in control and passed the course.

      I also spent a lot of time on the diving board. I liked to trick dive despite my less than perfect coordination. Frankly I couldn't do a perfect front dive (minimum splash), but liked to do front and back somersaults. I goofed one day and got seriously hurt. I had a bad habit of double springing the board during back flips. You balance on the end of the board, facing it, with only your toes or part of your foot touching. Double springing by deep thrusting with ones knees set the board in motion. When it dips back down, the diver uses the subsequent uplift to go higher during the dive. Unfortunately it can alter one's trajectory. On one dive I went almost straight up then clipped my head on the end of the board when I rolled around. I heard a thud and was nearly knocked unconscious. I think the lifeguard when in after me just in case I blacked out.   My favorite dive was a gainer. That is a dive where you begin in a front dive position but suddenly throw your head back, bring up your knees and do a somersault rotating towards the board. You need to be careful and jump far out or your head or feet could clip the board as you spin towards the board. I would practice with a sweatshirt because at the beginning, when you don't manage to make it completely around, you land on your back. As I said I was slightly uncoordinated and twice I drew up my knees first before I threw back my head. Both times I slammed my knee hard into my nose and hemorrhaged my nose. The water turned red with my blood and the lifeguard rushed me to the bathroom where they put a cold water compress on it. After three accidents that summer my parents banned me from doing trick diving.

      I began launching my two-stage hand-pumped, air-powered water rockets from just below the pool's surface. They would still reach several hundred feet. Of course they would only let me launch at the end of the day when nearly everyone had left the pool area. They didn't want anyone to get hurt.

      Near the end of the third season they announced that the pool had been sold and that it would become a public pool once again. Our parents had to decide where to go. They looked briefly at a place called Schwers located next to a public golf course. The old man hand built his pool and promised to built dressing rooms and other facilities in time for the next season. But his building was so sub- standard that most people declined. Some went to a pool called Alpine that was partly owned by my mother's cousin. (later he built a skating rink adjacent to the club.)My family went as guests and the place was so crowded with hundreds of lounge chairs everywhere on the grass, that the kids and adults rotated in shifts every 20 minutes in the regular-sized pool.Most of the members were from nearby Squirrel Hill. We chose instead to join a small half Jewish club in East McKeesport. Several of my parent's friends opted for the club and their members were not Pittsburgh people and were easy going.

CABANA CLUB IN EAST McKEESPORT (Oakwood Swim Club?)

      The Oakmont Swim Club was a small one with a 25 meter long L shaped pool. The deep end with its 1 and 3 meter diving boards was in the L part of the pool. The club was built for approximately 150 families. It had a small dressing room, a small recreation room, and two tennis courts at the top of the property.

 

Oakmont Cabana Club 25 meter pool had a standard L-shape for the diving board area.

     It was the summer before I went off to college. I had to make all new friends at the club since very few of the kids were from Montclair. Initially the kids were very aloof to me since they all knew each other and had friends already. But you slowly meet kids near your age and find common interests. Most of the kids were a year or two younger since I was already 18.

Jeffrey Stanton on the high diving board.

      It was the summer I learned to drive so that by August I could get to the club even if my mom didn't want to drive that day. I think the club was closed Mondays.

      I recall being on the swim team, at least during the first year. And I spent a lot of time practicing trick diving on the high dive. I did mostly gainers and one and one half somersaults. I used to close my eyes when I dived so I learned to open them and watch the trees go upside down, using them to calculate when I was to open up and slow down. One day I got little height when I sprung the board, thus narrowing my time. I didn't realize how low to the water I was when I came out of my tuck. I hit the water flat out on my stomach and took a terrible shock to my balls despite wearing a jock strap. I crawled out on the side of the pool and laid there in pain for nearly an hour.

      I only remember a few kids. There was Kenny Taskel, an East McKeesport kid two years younger than me. I liked him but when I attempted to visit him at Christmas time, my mother made me telephone before I left and I couldn't reach him. I never got an explanation of why he wasn't home after I had confirmed the visit the previous evening. When I saw him the following summer, we got into a fight in the pool the first day, and he wouldn't talk to me again.

Jeffrey Stanton &Kenny Taskel

      Another friend was a kid from Squirrel Hill named Aaron. I would play golf with him and his friends because I needed walking therapy after my foot accident at college. (I was on crutches for nearly six weeks that summer). We would golf at Schenley Park, which was very hilly. In fact I remember the course as an absolute nightmare. One time on the third or fourth hole I had driven the ball short and had to hit the ball up hill through the trees. My second shot hit a tree 25 yards in front of me and bounced back behind me. Then worse yet I hooked each ball rightward into the woods six successive times on the back nine and lost six balls in a row. I don't think Aaron was having a good day either because he got so mad on the ninth or tenth hole that he threw his club high into the air.

Aaron and his girl friend

      There were some other kids at the club. I used to play Ping Pong with some kid's (who was near my age), younger brother. There was also a tennis court at the top of the hill

      We changed swim clubs the following summer. I vaguely remember the club was finally sold after our third season and there would be no next season. It was also possible that we changed clubs because either the drive was too far, or my mother wanted to be with some of her other friends who went to Schwers.

 SCHWERS CABANA CLUB

      I always thought Schwers was a dump, but my parents didn't want to join Alpine because the members were snobs. We had gone to both places as guests and I certainly preferred Alpine. Schwers was owned by an old man, who did all of his building himself. Trouble was that he didn't have any sense of quality or what was standard building code. The pool was OK. After all it is hard to ruin a rectangle pool. Although the diving boards were non-standard, the high dive wasn't quite 3 meters; maybe 3 and half meters. The dressing rooms below and beside the pool were prison like with lockers from some old school and toilets and showers that were much too small. The place was always dark and damp. The recreation room was primitive too, and so was his idea of building tennis courts with packed earth that had to be rolled each day. They became mud when it rained.

Gary Kramer & Myles Lampenfeld playingchess by pool.

      The members were mostly Jewish but lower middle class. Many lived in Stanton Heights. As usual there was virtually no one my age (I was between my senior year in college and attending graduate school our first summer). If a family had older children like the Hepner family, they didn't spend any time at the club. The oldest kids, who frequented the club, were only 16. But there were plenty of teens 13-16 years old. Occasionally Mickey Hepner's older brother Zane would be at the club, but he was my sister's age, 4 years younger; Mickey was seven years younger. Naturally if you wanted to play volleyball or tennis or just hang out with anyone other than parents you made friends with the kids.

Human pyramid. Jeff Stanton 2nd from left

      I spent my time with Miles Lampenfeld, Mickey Hepner, and their friend Darell ____. While I found the three very juvenile, I was starved for friends and I liked Miles and especially Mickey. Mickey was easy going and I gave him rides to the swim club so he didn't need to rely on his mom.

      The club had a bully who tormented some of the younger boys. I guess he thought I was about 16 since I looked much younger and I hung out with them. One day when I was wearing flippers, my mask and snorkel, ready to slide into the pool's deep end, he walked up behind me and shut off my air and ripped off my mask. His mistake was that he made his escape by diving into the deep end of the pool. I dove in after him and when I caught him took him to the bottom of the pool. It was easy when you are wearing flippers. I surfaced once for air, but held him under and took him back down to the bottom. By then we were down more than a minute and he was still struggling. The lifeguards became suddenly aware that it was no longer a game and I was drowning him. When I came up the second time, they grabbed me and rescued the boy. My parents, sitting on the hillside, were horrified. I simply had no excuse but I had made up my mind that kid was going to be a dead boy if he ever touched me or one of my friends. Yes I would have killed him if the guards hadn't stopped me. I just needed another minute. He never bothered anyone again.

      I liked to dive off the high dive since they didn't have room for a low diving board. The extra non-standard height gave me slightly more time to perform my gainer. I usually wore a sweat shirt to protect my back from stupid mistakes especially since I never did a gainer off a high board before. There are movies of me doing them and one of someone throwing a ball at me. Unfortunately I was so used to spinning backwards that when I put my hand and head back to reach it I just about did a half gainer and nearly got hurt.    The club had a volleyball court and two clay tennis courts. Mr. Schwer was crazy because the courts had to dry and be rolled each time it rained. But we would take our breaks from the pool at either of these two courts. I kept inviting Barbara Hepner, Mickey's sister, out to the club to play tennis, but she never came.

Teenage club members of volleyball court

      The last summer I spent at the club was a full working summer and I only spent time at the club after work and on weekends. But it was the summer that I bought my bright red Triumph TR-4A convertible sports car. I remember driving the car to the club the day I bought it. I don't think anyone at the club had ever seen a European sports car before. It looked like an oversize child's toy car. People stared at it. I went into the club and told Mickey and Miles that I bought a new car and it was in the parking lot. They were excited and wanted to go for a ride. I put Mickey in the passenger seat and stuffed two others in the small space behind the front seats. They were surprised that the car drove and handled like a kiddie car. You didn't need to slow down on turns like when they were in their parent's American cars.

Unknown on left; Myles Lampenfeld on right.

Mickey Hepner

      The three boys liked to hang out with me in the evenings. Sometimes we would hang out in my basement, play a little ping pong or ice hockey. Then they would talk me into taking them out to get a snack at some place like Burger King, which was only a few miles away by car. Once I taped their silly mindless conversation. While I did find the kids a little too juvenile even for me, I really liked being with Miles and Mickey, because they were very smart. In fact Myles Lampenfeld became a cancer surgeon who works in Oakland, CA, and Mickey Hepner became an allergy doctor in Michigan.

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