Reflections from Frank Tillotson Apr 18, 2000 (updated Jan 5, 2002)
(below is an unedited transcription of a tape made by Frank, we'll edit it and replace this later with an improved version, with his approval)
Oral History Tape - Frank Tillotson
This is Frank Tillotson, 18th of April, 2000. We're talking about the first meet that I went to and I've talked to Mims Jennings who was there, and you know Jean's not with us anymore. But at that meet, it was John Risher, who promoted me, Snag Holmes , Charlie Dunworth, Jean and Mims. We think John Brown was there; we think Bob Beach was there, and we know June and John Augustine were there. Of that group, the only two that are swimming now, to my knowledge, are John Risher and myself.
Anyway, the meet was held in Lido Beach, Sarasota in a 25 meter pool which was down below ground level. You took a couple of steps down into the pool. The morning of meet which was in the middle of the fall of 1973 was a real thick foggy morning, and going over the bridge you couldn't see much of anything. And after the meet had started, it [the fog] came out and cleared and it was a beautiful day, Mims said. As I remember, Charlie Dunworth was the man talked up as being the big swimmer, and he was pretty good. He swam for St. Pete after that for a long time, but Mims said she swam the 200 Backstroke and being the only lady she got a gold. Other than the 100 back which I swam, and I assume Dunworth must have beaten me because I have a little sliver medal from the meet which is the first one I ever got. And the meet, by the way, was run by the YMCA in Sarasota. It was the last meet that they ever ran, although we did have a couple meets at the Y pool in Sarasota later, but they didn't run it.
How I got into this swimming deal was interesting. I had swum three years in college and that was all and I was paddling around in the North Shore pool one day and this man came up to me and said in a rather gruff voice and abruptly "You gonna join Masters?" and I asked him "why"? and he said "well ... ". That ended it. Nothing more said. And then maybe it was ten days or so later he came to me again in the same gruff voice and said "You gonna join Masters?" and I said "why"? And he said "well we 've got a meet tomorrow." I said "well how do I join?"
"I'll take care of it"
I said "Where is it?" he told me,
I said "How do you get there?", he told me. So that was how I got to the first meet. Of course it was swimming for St Pete which at the time was called SPRD Masters I believe, St Pete Recreation Department. And any way we had a good time and that got me going so I just kept swimming. And we never swam another meet over on the beach. And the next year the Sarasota team organized more firmly under the name of Suncoast Masters. And that's about all of that meet.
The next meet that I have to report, in part because I have the results of it, is the meet that was held on the 21 July 1974 at North Shore pool. It was a dual meet of which we had a number with Sarasota or Suncoast for several years and then finally we got so we had multiple team meets. We have a lot of exchanges; we'd go down and swim and they'd come up and swim. This meet was held at North Shore and was followed, so it says, by a buffet picnic in a park. I'm recording this in part because it gives a lot of the way the thing was set up. The result of meet was SPM, which at that time was St Pete Recreation Department Masters, the score was 629 and Suncoast had 593. They said if they had some more relays they would have beaten us. Now for example, event #4, 50 backstroke had the following age groups 25, 35, and 45 and in the 4th heat which was the 45+, the results were Tillotson, age 59, 39.7; Mercer age 47, 44.5; Brown, John Brown of St Pete, age 60, 48.7; Sam Pray, age 66, 50.9; Risher, that would be John Risher, present still swimming John Risher, age 71, 61 seconds flat. So the ages ran from 25 to 71. The ones still swimming, so far as I know, the only ones still swimming from that meet, 74 meet, are Bruce Bartly, Lee Fetzer, John Risher, Lynn Cartee from Sarasota, and myself. It was interesting to note along with this newsletter that Sarasota had just purchased a new Bouliva stop watch for $80 and it had taken them quite some time to collect the money to buy it. That, I don't really know how the swimmers were divide it up, apparently St. Pete had more. I only swam three events the 50 Breast, 50 back, and oh what was the other one, I guess the 50 free, so I wasn't swimming long events at that point but I'm amazed that there's no more swimming today than those people I listed.
At other meets where we swam, we swam with what we today call the age group swimmers. And to start with, we swam in the same heats in the same proximity next, next, side to side with the younger swimmers. However they had to be seeded and I know that I have a bunch of ribbons that I got at those meets which was 6th 7th and 8th and of course we were swimming in a sense they said that we were all professionals some of us not myself, some of us were paid coaches therefore we weren't allowed to compete in the meets with the amateurs, and then they said later on that we had to swim in separate heats so they'd swim three or four heats of age group swimmers and then they said now we're going to have a masters' heat. And we'd have a masters' heat. We'd have what ever it took to swim the masters swimmers that showed up at the meet. But then that went on for, it's hard to tell I haven't gotten all my diaries out, I'm going to get them out so I can have some more details or maybe not. But it wasn't too long before they decided that masters had to have their own meets. Which turned out pretty well. Now that's, that's only taken about five minutes. So I can see these tapes will last plenty long enough. I'm using tapes with 15 minutes on a side.
I guess to give them their due: Natalie Clement, the St Pete swimmer who, I'm sorry, the Sarasota swimmer who ran the meets, ran the team, did everything for a long time. Without it, it wouldn't have existed there's nobody who could take her place. But Natalie swam actively for a long time. Her profession was teaching, and she eventually moved north to up where the big power plant is, I can't remember names. And then she moved to another school where she was a principle I believe and then retired about a year ago and she lives I believe in Tallahassee. Anyway, she was a great swimmer and a great organizer and she really kept things going and to prove that point after she moved out, the Sarasota club just dropped right off to a small club and it's been more or less up and down and now currently they've combined with SWIM Florida and they're taking to the meets everybody from Naples to Bradenton Palmetto.
Apparently, the next meet, at least the next meet down that way was in Venice at the Venice Y. It was a 50 meter pool, 25 yards wide. And it was a pretty nice pool accept that at a later meet, not this one, this one was in August 25 of 1974. At a later meet there were so many bugs on the pool that June Krauser got a sort of a fish net and went around trying to scrape the bugs off the pool. There were millions of them on there. They weren't the kind that chewed on you anyway. But at that meet I believe from what I've read later on, I believe at that meet a swimmer who was one of the oldest swimmers had a heart attack and subsequently died as a result of it. And he was our first fatality as far as I know. That's just a side. I remember I went to the meet and I remember that he had a heart attack and I think at a later meet, one interesting thing occurred, there were a couple by the name Holiday. Scotty Holiday was the lady and I think the man's name was Jim. Jim was an architect and very young, in his 30's I think. Anyway he came to a meet and he came in and they yelled at him "come on Jim, hurry up, you're on a relay" and he took all his clothes off except his shorts and they said "get on the block you're the next swimmer", so he dove in and promptly lost his trunks, his shorts. He swam the relay out and then somebody rescued him and that was the first event of somebody losing their suit. We fared better with the ladies, to my knowledge I haven't seen any ladies who lost their suits but Clarence Russ of New Jersey, swimming in a Long Course Meet one time, swimming backstroke, lost his trunks before he got to the flags and swam on in without them and somebody went in and rescued him. After ward Snag Holmes, noted for his interesting humor, he awarded Clarence Ross the "dried flower arrangement" of the meet.
In 1975 there was a meet in the southern part of Miami at a pool whose Club was called Shieler Winton Swim Club. It was a long course meet on October 19 and I have little recollection of the meet accept that it was the only meet that they ever swam at that location. The only thing that I can remember about it was I wonder now if it were indoor or outdoor because I remember a big building. In the back of the room it says 50 meter free 42.7 and that was my room. And its interesting to note at that time that the times all went to 10th of a second, there were no 100's, but at a later date they went to 1000th and that became I guess redundant. But at the 1976 meet in St Louis, John Maguire, the elder, swam against a fellow from Australia and they tied to 1000th of a second. And that was the only time that I ever saw at a meet tied to a 1000th. I've seen some times tied to a 100, but not a 1000th.
I didn't really intend this to be chronological. And in thinking of the east coast and down Ft Lauderdale way, there was a man down there who had been a swimmer name of Wally Spence . There were three Spence brothers. They came from one of the small countries along the northern coast of South America and they lived in the New York City area and swam on the 3 person relay teams. The three set national records and were super swimmers. And I don't know how they passed away, one of them fell under a subway train and one of them died of some illness. And even as the early meets that I went to on the east coast Wally Spense showed up as the coach and I mentioned it to Dean Jennings and Jean remembered this time he was swimming for Columbia before he went to Columbia Med School and he said "You saw Wally Spence?" I said yeah and he said "How is he?" I said "well he's coaching and he says he swims, he swims a mile a day." And Jean said, "well you be sure and tell him next time you see him I asked for him. You mean Doc Jennings?" I said "yup". And he said "Well you tell him that I would sure like to see him." Anyway, I said to Wally I said "why aren't you swimming?" "Oh" he says, "those masters he says, your not going to get me to swim in a meet if somebody's got to help me stand up when on the blocks." And he refused for some time. But in a year or so he did swim and he set a breaststroke record which was a masters record for several years. And I don't know when he died, or how long after that, but he was one of the few real old swimmers that I ever met.
I swam on a relay with Peter Fig in Ft Lauderdale Swim probably in the late 30's "37, 38 maybe at the old outdoor swim pool in Ft Lauderdale which was like a Spanish vacation place. Had big walks all around it, big tile roof and filled with salt water. It was a nice pool, a nice place to swim. but they tore that down and built a parking lot and built the current pool further back to the ocean. But it was, it was fun. Other swimmers that I met there, Al Vandeway, and several long distance swimmers, Robert Flannegan.
Now in those days in Ft Lauderdale, Ft. Lauderdale was trying to promote their tourist business. So they loved to get a group like us that came pretty much from the east side of the country. Michigan would come but Yale wouldn't come because Yale didn't like Michigan so Yale wouldn't come. They went somewhere else. And the City supplied us rooms for $1 a night and we could get all the food we wanted for a $1 a day. The City took selective people, of which I was lucky, for a days fishing in the ocean. Various organizations had parties. If you had ticket books you could practically live on it. Somebody had a big orange grove down in South Miami. They put on the party. Everybody really had a good time. You don't see parties like that any more.
We had a lot of meets on the east coast. We had one meet in Hollywood, FL, the only one that I can remember, Miami Beach and south Miami and meets at West Palm Beach and Daytona. Then we got into games which to a large part started just in swimming and we had a number there and they were good. Any way it was a lot more friendly time in swimming than we have today. Of course it didn't cost as much to stay the night. Smaller Clubs today like the Florida Mavericks are a much friendly more get together go together group, of course we've been very fortunate.
Went out in the shed and dug out some diaries. Found Sunday Nov 25, 1973. That was the Sarasota Y meet over at Lido Beach. Said about 10 teams were competing. Got home about 1:15 so I wasn't too shook up about that. And that was about all there was there.
The last meet of the year was swum over at Ft Lauderdale Aquatic Club. I flew over with Bill Ballard in a 172 Cessna and I swam 2 backstroke events and a medley relay which were all firsts and we came back after the meet and got back in time for supper.
It appears that the first event in 74 was a stroke clinic by Harry Chollett, the SPRD coach who was about to retire . I can't remember that there was anything great. The first recorded St Pete development meet was the 16th of March and the 22nd was the Southern Regional the 23rd I swam on the 35+ relay when I was 60, I don't know how we did and on the 24th I swam 5 events. That was a pretty good meet as I remember it.
On April 13 was number 2 Development Meet. On the 28th we had a Dual meet with Sarasota at the Batharaka Club in Sarasota and this was the first mention of Ray Burns who swam up until just a few years ago. I don't see anything in May, there may have been. April 28th was the dual meet. On June 15 -17 was the LMSC Annual Meet at St Pete. At this time we had a lot of one day meets. Even a one day meet that we had on the east coast. That summer I worked up at 75 Grand Hotel on Macana Island and went down to Knoxville, Tennessee on the 29th, 30th, 31st of August to Long Course Nationals. And it was interesting that on Saturday they thought the meet had gone on long enough so they said we'll swim Saturday's relays Sunday morning before we start. Which we did. I can't see them doing that today. Then we got the rest of that previously, the rest of 74. In 75 we went to Grand Hotel.
On October 19, was that meet mentioned previously at the Shieler Winton Gym and now I do remember that it was an inside pool. On October 26 we had a one day meet at Sarasota. In November 22 we had a one day meet in Sarasota. And we had a 150 Backstroke relay and a 100 Lottery picked from the two teams by chance. I remember we had other stuff in Sarasota. We had a Turkey meet once, we swam all kinds of crazy things, relays and individual events, one arms and all kinds of things which we could probably do again once in a while and have some fun with it. That about takes up to 75. Now we're going to go through the diaries now which I've got now at least up to 83. I'm just going through them. I'm not going to try to do every meet, as we go along.
I remember that the University ..... TAPE ENDS
Frank added by e-mail:
Sat am, 1/5/02, 37 degrees. I read the tape translation Meegan did. I will not subject either of you to another tape. There are a few errors I would correct. One, most obvious, is missing Bob Beach who swam in the Lido Beach, my first meet. He may be the most prolific and traveld master swimmer swimming. He has a multitude of photo is world wide and no, no, written accounts. We are pretty close friends and he has little to say about swimming in his world travels. He failed the channel because a crew member of his boat, hired, was an hour late and the tide turned before he made the French beach. He promised, generally, to do it again. I ask and he said that it was too involved to do it and an awful swim. I saw the tape of Doc Councilman's swim and he waited for a near perfect day, no wind, no waves, and tide best possible. Well more. "Swim in good health"
Frank, Oh. Dean and Jene refering to Jennings is Eugene, or Gene.