When I was growing up, my family bought a white-and-red lake cottage with flaking paint and moss-covered shingles. Mud Lake was aptly named. Our feet sank into the sludgy bottom, and weeds grew underwater. My cousins, siblings, and I would paddle out into the middle of the lake, past the tall weeds, where we could swim freely. In our teen years, after the adults were asleep, we would take the pontoon boat out again, when we had the lake to ourselves. One night, while diving into the starlit water, we practiced our clumsy but creative swearing, shouting forbidden words as we did flips into the dark lake.
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So, when my parents wanted me to learn how to swim they sent me to a summer swimming program for boys held at the nearby public school on Sears St. There was just one thing: you had to swim naked. I got used to it, and managed to learn to swim well enough to keep from drowning. Apparently it was a requirement at some pools, but not at others. Among those who remembered it, no one seemed to know exactly why boys were required to swim in the nude. A while ago I tried to find out through the Buffalo Board of Education about this requirement: when it started, when it stopped, why it was done. I got nowhere.
Commentator Robin Washington recounts a time when students were required to take swimming lessons in school; but at his school, students had to swim naked. With high temperatures across the country, it's easy to want to wear as little as possible. But commentator Robin Washington warns, be careful what you wish for. During swimming class in high school, he was required to wear the most revealing and drafty garment of all: his birthday suit.