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Jack Zaleski, Published March 02 2013

Zaleski: Swimmin’ nude from Minot to Newton

In last week’s column, I asked readers if they swam nude when they were kids, as I did at my hometown YMCA in New Britain, Conn. Well, they surely did. I received dozens of responses from the over-60 set. They not only skinny-dipped at the Y but also in their high school pools, even right here at the old Fargo Central High, and at college swimming classes.

Here’s a selection from far and wide:

A media executive who now calls Fargo home said swimming nude at age 8 and 9 was the routine at the Y in Newton, Mass., where he grew up. “We didn’t think anything of it,” he wrote, “it was actually quite fun.”

Another transplant to Fargo from Troy, N.Y., said no-suits swimming was the rule at his Y. “Never thought about it back then,” he said. “I guess I’m one of the older guys who walks around the locker room … and really doesn’t think much about it, but I realize others do, so I try to dress in a timely fashion.”

From a Moorhead reader: “I did undergraduate studies at Iowa State Teachers College (now University of Northern Iowa) … we were well beyond the 8 to 12 age span as college freshman and sophomores … swimsuits were disallowed for hygienic reasons … I do not recall anyone taking offense … One intriguing sidelight: In the interest of using the best posture to float on one’s back, we were given encouragement with the phrase ‘periscopes up!’ by the coach.”

A reader from Mountain Iron, Minn., said male school gym classes had nude swimming through ninth grade. “I was totally fine with it. Before swimming we had to line up for inspection … thought it was little odd at the time …”

One reader remembers the story her dad told her about growing up in Pawtucket, R.I., where he swam nude at the Boys Club there. “He passed away 13 years ago … So we chuckled when we read your column … Do you suppose this was just an East Coast thing?!”

Well, maybe. Here’s a memory from the Summerville, Mass., Y, where the writer said, “no one thought twice that we swam (in the nude). I have to admit, I felt a lot more intimidated a decade later at my draft physical. Thanks for resurrecting a memory.”

And finally, from a Minot, N.D., reader who took nude swimming lessons at the YMCA there as part of studies at Minot State College in the 1960s. Boys were nude, he said, but girls wore swimsuits. “One of our male students who had very poor vision … arrived early and after removing his glasses headed for the pool, went through the door and dived (naked) into the pool to the shrieking from a class of girls (in the water). Everyone … had a good laugh and life went on. Thanks for the look back!”

And thanks to all of you who remembered and wrote. Keep swimming – suits optional.


Contact editorial page editor Jack Zaleski at (701) 241-5521.