Home » 1940s » The old swimmin’ hole was fun…trunks or none!

The old swimmin’ hole was fun…trunks or none!

One of summer's highlights for these boys of the 1940s was skinny-dipping, until some giggling girls swiped their clothes.

HANGIN' AROUND. The limber gentleman at far right not only posed for this shot—he took it, too! Bill Hornaday of Hagerman, Idaho, says he set the camera on a timer for this 1946 photo in Newhall, California. Bill's only regret is that he neglected to move the glass jug! Trees like this one that hung over a pond were perfect for launching yourself into swimming holes such as the one in the story below (click on image for larger version).

Most youngsters today learn how to swim in sparkling-clean municipal or YMCA pools, sometimes wearing those “designer” swim trunks. Swimming was a lot simpler when I was a boy. We just jumped in the old swimming hole, wearing nothing at all!

On most summer days the old  swimming hole near my boyhood home in Ottumwa, Iowa, was full of splashing boys. It was tough to swim across it without bumping into somebody. All that commotion stirred up plenty of mud, but we didn’t mind—there was always lots of laughing during friendly battles with sprays of water.

None of us boys were embarrassed about not wearing any swim trunks. After all, our swimming hole was well hidden by trees and thick bushes. No one could see us. Well, almost no one.

One hot summer day, while waiting my turn to jump from the diving board the older boys had made from a plank anchored with huge stones, I happened to glance across the pond—and spotted three little girls! The trio walked along the far shore of the pond near the bushes where we had hung our clothes. Like browsing shoppers, those giggling girls began plucking our clothes off the bushes and draping them over their arms!

My heart almost stopping beating, and I yelled, “Cut that out, you…you…sissies!” (That was about the worst insult a very agitated 8-year-old boy could muster back then.)

The feminine pranksters snatched us as many more clothes as they could hold—including mine. Then, laughing out loud, they dashed up the dirt path that led to the street. Faced with the prospect of going home without a stitch to cover me, I took off after the girls. The other boys scrambled out of the water and followed.

When the girls saw that I was closing the gap, they picked up their pace, dropping clothes as they ran. I was shouting as I came closer, but it only made those girls laugh all the more. I caught up with them just a short distance from the street, well within sight of a row of houses. It was only then that I stopped to think, What do I do now?

“Give back our clothes,” I yelled. “What the dickens are you trying to do?”

“I was thinking to wear ’em myself!” the oldest girl clucked. But when she saw the other boys approaching, she dropped her bundle and ran for the street. The other two girls followed suit.

For a moment I thought of throwing rocks at them but decided against it. Instead, I began frantically searching for my clothes! It took quite a while to find my shirt and pants, and I located one sock on the path back to the pond. By then the other boys were rummaging  through the tangled garments, grumbling and grousing and vowing revenge. But before long we were all laughing about the whole predicament.

I’ve enjoyed swimming ever since. But even now, I still keep a wary eye out—just to make sure there’s no one around trying to steal my clothes!

Riney Hulsebus • Arvada, Colorado

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Fred St. John July 1, 2011 at 5:12 pm

At around 12 years old, my buddies and I often went skinny dipping in a pond next to the railroad tracks. One frosty early spring morning there was a skim of ice on the pond. Dares ensued and we were soon in the icy water up to our necks. Just then a passenger train stopped on the spur right next to the pond. It was full of passengers, looking out the windows at us. What to do? Our clothes were on the bank right next to the train, so it was obvious to the passengers we were naked. We stayed put, shivering and turning blue until the train at last moved on. We were so numb from cold we had difficulty getting our clothes back on. We did return to the pond to swim, but not until warmer weather.


James July 10, 2011 at 4:02 pm

In NYC,in the forties, and early fifties, we skinny dipped in the East and Hudson rivers, pre-teen, and teenagers alike.
The police car would sometimes arrive, and sound it’s siren for a few seconds, and all the boys would run and hide among the barges and ‘sheds’.
After just a few moments, the police would leave and we returned to our skinny dipping.


James Wikstrom August 5, 2011 at 10:52 pm

I can remember when I lived back home in Boone County Iowa there was a creek named Big Creek. My friends and I would always go down to the ol’ swimming hole to go swimming. There would be a certain area where the water would be just the right depth to be in and the current of the water was just right. It was there where we would swim as this was an area where a tree was at the edge of the creek which had some heavy vines or something hanging from the branches that we could swing from and drop ourselves into the water. You mention about ” skinny dippin’ ” ! Oh Yeah! We often went skinny dipping. I do no recall if any of the girls went , but all of my buddies and my self did. Those were the good old days.


Alaska Mary April 23, 2012 at 2:18 pm

During the 1960s in Rogers County, NE Oklahoma in around Chelsea, teenagers swam in the coal pits left behind by Peabody Coal Company. It was fun, but the water moccasins made it a little crowded and scary when they would appear out of nowhere.


T. W. Huning August 16, 2012 at 3:58 pm

As a boy in the 1950’s I learned to swim in a clean indoor pool at the YMCA in St. Louis. As beginners we were not allowed to wear swim trunks and had to swim in our birthday suits after showering. Skinny dipping wasn’t just in the creek, river, or good ol’ swimming hole.


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