Pool club members enjoy last hurrah Lazy, hazy days of summer 1994 wind to a close

September 04, 1994|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Sun Staff Writer

If she doesn't chicken out, Delores Schuman will mark the end of the summer the way she always does for the Andover Swim and Tennis Club in Linthicum -- by strolling around the pool in a vintage sealskin coat.

It is a not-so-subtle way to remind the other members that the warm days are turning to cold.

Ms. Schuman first brought the old Mano Swartz fur, which she inherited from her mother, to the pool 15 years ago on an unseasonably cool summer day. The other members teased her about it. Since then, she has pulled it out every year at the end of the club's Labor Day bash, the last day the pool is open for the summer.

But she was thinking she wouldn't do it this year, as she walked around the pool yesterday in her flowered swimsuit and a white gauze cover-up that is more appropriate than a fur coat.

"These young 20-year-olds look at me like I'm crazy," said Ms. Schuman, a grandmother who is active in the Linthicum Women's Club.

Andover is one of 42 private pool clubs in the Baltimore area that become a hub of neighborhood social life every summer. They are all winding down with parties, most of them tomorrow. These blowouts are for all members, from the toddlers in the wading pool to the senior citizens who find swimming a good way to

exercise arthritic joints.

Clubs such as the Springdale Swim Club in Cockeysville had a "Kids Night" yesterday, with swimming, then pizza, then what would have been more swimming if it had been warmer.

"Instead, I got them up there doing the limbo," said manager Dan Ross, a teacher who works at the club during the summers. And instead of playing a game called "steal the bacon" in the water, the children played it on the volleyball court.

Springdale will have a party tomorrow, and a crab feast Saturday for the adults.

Most of the clubs started in the late 1950s when a group of neighbors would get together and raise money to buy land for a club. To join Andover, for example, families typically post a bond of about $400 and pay about $375 a year. The bond is returned to families who end their membership.

The pools started at a time when mothers stayed home, but wanted to get out of the house. The pool met the social needs for mother and child.

"It's how your children got along," said Marilyn Malan of West Edmondale of the friendships she made during the 30 years she has belonged to the Westview Swim Club in Catonsville. "If they bonded, then the moms did, too."

The Westview club in Catonsville is a welcome respite from Ms. Malan's hot rowhouse in the summer. She once brought her children, now she brings her two grandsons.

Every weekend, she meets her friend Pat Rites for sunning, swimming and talking. They work together at St. Agnes Hospital: Ms. Malan admits patients and Ms. Rites is a nurse who cares for them.

"We all think Labor Day weekend is so depressing, because it's the last weekend for the pool," Ms. Rites said.

In 1958, Ms. Schuman was one of the first to join the Andover club. She remembers that on most weekdays, she and other young mothers watched their children splash in the pool, and retired people relaxed several yards away on the grass.

As their children got older and swam better, the mothers gradually moved their headquarters toward the deeper end of the pool.

Retired men and stay-at-home mothers. Teens teaching younger children how to swim. Grandparents bringing grandchildren. The swim clubs mix people.

"It's a place where the whole community can get together," Ms. Schuman said. "It's not divided by church or school."

Country clubs are for business; swim clubs are for families, say Pat and Bob Breidenbach of Linthicum.

"There's no drinking, no alcohol, and it just doesn't lend itself [to business]," Mr. Breidenbach said of the swim club.

"It's almost offensive to discuss business here," said Ms. Breidenbach, who is a real estate agent. What business does go on is very low-key, she said. She has sold houses to people she has met through the pool, however.

And it was through the pool that Ms. Breidenbach and a group of women decided to form the Performing Arts Association of Linthicum, sitting around and planning in their wet bathing suits.

Like most adults, the Breidenbachs joined the pool and came regularly so that their three children could swim and play tennis.

But now, two of their children are no longer competing in the meets, and their youngest cares for neither swimming nor tennis.

Still, they show up to relax and soak up the sun and a good book.

"This is a vacation for me," Mr. Breidenbach said as he lay on his flat lounge chair. "You come here to get away from the house

and all the things you need to do."

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