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Biography

Vaudvillian and Swimmer

A record setting dynamo

Author Unknown | July 19, 2000

Rose Caplane's wiry legs hoisted her aging 93-pound frame off the edge of the diving board and into the air at Ft. Lauderdale's Hall of Fame Swimming Pool. As she climbed out of the water after executing her dive, a young man shyly rambled up to her and said, "I hope you don't mind, but I have to ask you this. How old are you?"

"I get asked that question at least seven or eight times a day when I come to the pool," said Rose who turns 71 in September. "Some people even want to take my picture," she added with a laugh. "It doesn't make any difference to me, so I let them."

No one has informed Rose Caplane that 70-year-old women are not supposed to dive off high boards, do hand stands in their living room or break national swimming records.

On May 14, this Hollywood, Fla. resident competed in five individual events and three relays in the National AAU Masters Swimming Championship in Ft. Lauderdale. She took home six first place ribbons and two second place ribbons, breaking records in her age group for the 100-, and 200-yard breaststroke and 100-yard backstroke.

The Masters swimming program had its start in San Diego in the early 1960s. Events are conducted in compliance with AAU rules and broken down according to sex and age, divided into five-year segments.

"I usually win all five events I enter" said Rose, a Masters competitor since 1974, "and I would have won all five this time except my foot slipped on the turn in the 100 freestyle. I pushed off against the light and slipped."

Mrs. Caplane took a boat from her home in Bavaria, Germany to New York City in 1927. Her first job, naturally enough, was at a swimming pool.

"In Germany I swam long distance races through the rivers and canals," she said. "Children in my town were taught to swim in a pool next to the river. But the competitions were held in the canals."

While doing odd jobs at a New York private pool, Rose met a comedian and joined his act.

"I was sort of a gymnast," she said. "I'd taken ballet lessons, gymnastics, fiddle and piano lessons. He would throw me around in the act. A type of comedy adagio. I had to do somersaults, flips, things like that."

After two husbands, both of whom have passed away, and more than 20 years in show business as a vaudevillian, dancer and even part time songwriter, this five-foot dynamo moved to Florida.

Rose competes in Masters swimming meets several times a year and has walls covered with first place ribbons. In 1974 she received All-American status and was named one of the 10 best swimmers in the country in her age group.

"I think I would be a cripple if I didn't swim," said Mrs. Caplane, who has lived alone since her second husband died in 1971. "I'm alone now and I don't like to sit around playing bridge. I do go ballroom dancing sometimes and I still put a sheet on the living room floor and exercise everyday."

Rose swims at the Hall of Fame Pool several times a week. Most days she goes 1,000 meters. That's 20 laps without stopping.

Rose drives herself to the Ft. Lauderdale pool and catches rides with fellow Masters competitors in other parts of Florida. Her one gripe with city of Hollywood is that there is no pool here.

"When I first moved here in 1965," she said, “I swam at the pool on Johnson Street by the beach. Now that they've taken that down just to put up some palm trees, there is no place close by to swim. I know so many elderly people who would love to use a pool but they have no way of getting to Ft. Lauderdale."

Rose swims every stroke except butterfly and considers the breaststroke her strongest. Her time in the month's national meet for the 200-breaststroke was 5:07.27.

Of the 602 swimmers at the national Masters meet, ("I had to fight for a parking place," Rose said.) the eldest was an 83-year old woman. Mrs. Caplane had four to six swimmers in her age group competing against her in each event.

"I really wanted to win that day," she said, "because there were two women who came all the way from California. They have all the advantages there. I guess I wanted to show them up."

Rose Caplane is a healthy, vibrant woman. She doesn't drink, not even coffee, and gets plenty of exercise. After a swimming meet is over, instead of taking a nap or conking out in front of the television, Rose says she eats and eats.

"After the championship I ate five meals the next day," she said. "I just couldn't seem to get enough."

from an early issue of Swim-Master, reprinted from the Ft. Lauderdale newspaper

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