Growing Older Extra: Reader Essay by Jack Elmquist

From Minnesota Alumni Magazine Winter 2017

W2017_GrowingOlderExtraJackElmquist_Inline300 I remember my dad telling about how he and another boy wanted to go to the World's Fair in Chicago and see Gypsy Rose Lee. He told his mother that he was going to Scout camp for two weeks. She didn't object. No calls. No checks. Just see you when you get back. The two hopped a freight train to Chicago. Whether my dad saw Gypsy Rose Lee is unclear, but when he returned he was welcomed back and life went on as always. This attitude either builds character or death at an early age.

This lifestyle probably influenced my dad after he married and had children. He embraced the sink-or-swim philosophy of life, so when it actually came time to learn how to swim he tossed my brother and me off the end of the dock. My brother said he didn't mind so much, but getting the anchor chains off was a bit of a problem. And speaking of swimming, as a young family we briefly moved to southern California. The local beach had a shark incident and a local entrepreneur put up netting around a portion of the beach for 50 cents a family. We swam with the sharks.

But I did learn how to swim. My swimming lessons were mostly in cold Minnesota lakes with waves splashing in my face and bloodsuckers nipping at my legs. I learned well enough to take some advanced lessons, like the time I was supposed to “save” a muscular guy twice my size. I grabbed him. He fought. I said “every man for himself” and swam to shore. He proceeded to blow bubbles with one, two, and then three fingers in the air as he went down for the third time. I did better the next year.

So I visited my grandchild's swimming class the other day at a local pool. The water was warm and flotation devices were all around. Each instructor had only a few students and it must be the better way to learn, but. . . .

- Jack Elmquist (J.D. ’68), St. Paul

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