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by Graham Johnston

July 19, 2000

Started Texas Gulf Masters, first team in Houston

Mildred Anderson (89) passed away on June 5, 2003. With her husband, Hamilton "Ham" Anderson, they were responsible for starting Masters swimming as an organized group in Houston, Texas, in 1972. Together they built swimming pools under the name "Crystal Pools." Ham passed away in 1995. They attended and participated in the first organized National Masters swim meet in 1970. "Texas Gulf Masters," organized by Millie and Ham was the name chosen for the first official Masters team in Houston. The first informal team meeting to inform and encourage participation was attended by some who will be remembered as charter members, including Stan Flanagan, Jim Crane, Jo May, Tom Boak, and Graham Johnston. Houston held its first short course yards meet at the Dad's Club (now Westside Y) in 1972 and a long course meet at the Jewish Community Center that same year. Both were organized with the Anderson enthusiasm. In later years, the Andersons jointly produced a Masters history publication, which captured those early days and brought the organization up to date. Mildred disappeared from the Houston swim scene in 1992 due to failing health. She will always be remembered as the "Mother" of Masters swimming in Texas. We are indebted to her, and to Ham, for all their time, effort, expense, and love of the sport in starting Texas Masters.

Mildred writes:

When I was about ten years old, self taught, I learned survival swimming at our Municipal Carter Lake Pool in Omaha. I will always remember how embarrassed I was, when a lifeguard, thinking I was in trouble, came beside me in a rowboat to offer help. And I thought I was swimming quite well!

I really didn't learn to swim until I was 14. I learned elementary backstroke in beginning swimming. Next I learned the side stroke. Later the front and back crawl and a very poor breaststroke. I was not able to master the breaststroke, until I swam with coach Hubbard when I was 17. I had not swum in any competition, until I was almost 18.

About 1946, a group of adults, including my young daughter, then ten years, swam an exhibition race at the YMCA. And in 1950 I swam on a relay team with my daughter in a meet in El Paso.

When Ham and I first heard of Masters swimming, it was very new to us. But we were interested. It was the National SC Meet held in Amarillo for swimmers 25 years and older. John Spannuth sent me an entry application, as I am the coach of the Crystal Pool Swimming team. A strong incentive was the chance to win awards through eighth place.

I had a group of 25 and over women swimming about twice a week and the men swam, when they could find the time. Mr. & Mrs. John Green from the Dad's Club YMCA, organized as a special attraction to their age group meet relays for men and women 25 and over.

Our men were beaten by the Astronauts from Clear Lake in the first relay meet. Our women's team had no trouble winning, as the other two teams got cold feet and scratched. Our next relay meet was held by the Houston Swim Club. The younger swimmers were amazed that adults could swim so well and be so competitive. Our adults were thrilled with their medals.

Breaststroke turned out to be my best stroke although I did swim a number of individual medley races in my youth. The Masters swimming program has forced me to learn the other strokes better. And I'll tell you a secret, the mile swim is a lot tougher to swim now than it was when we were 22 years old! I always swam short races. The 100 yards was considered a long race. I would never have believed I would be swimming the distances I now swim in meets. I don't know what the awards mean to others, but to me they are a great achievement. "Ham," my husband, during our swimming years, always won five to six medals to my one. I am now able to give him a run, but I will admit his competition is a little tougher. But it won't be long, when those younger swimmers move into my age group.

No one will ever realize, except Ham and me, how important Masters swimming has been for me. It has given me a sense of achievement, and has been excellent therapy for my back. Because I have arthritis, swimming exercise is most important. But I, as I am sure most, need an incentive. The SC and LC Nationals are spaced right to force me to stay in condition. Without exercise, I could be a cripple. I strongly advise everyone to join and be active in the Masters program, especially those with any kind of back problem. I have had four back injuries. The first when I was only 16 years old.

Besides therapy, Masters swimming is FUN, FRIENDS, PHYSICAL FITNESS and ACHIEVEMENTS.