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Liz Ciancone

May 24, 2011

MS. TAKES: Stifling a giggle over old swimwear

TERRE HAUTE — We were on our way home from the grocery a week or so ago when the heavens opened up. Again!

As we splashed through puddles formed in low spots and in potholes along the streets, my Best Friend asked, “Do you remember when we were kids and when it rained we would ask our mother if we could put on our bathing suits and play in the gutters?”

Sure. I remember that. I remember my bathing suit had a sort of waffle panel in front. I can’t remember the color, but every little girl playing in the rain-filled gutters with me had a suit almost exactly like it. Then I graduated to a more adult swimming suit.

My family vacationed in Northern Minnesota. Dad could fish and Ed and I could swim in Burntside Lake. We prefered that to getting marooned in a boat in the middle of the lake until Dad was ready to call it a day.

Mom and Dad took their swimming suits too and when I finally got old enough to notice, I was afraid they would go swimming with us.

Both his suit and hers were black wool, and both were two-piece jobs. The lower part of Mom’s suit hit just above the knees while the top part had a rather high rounded neck and short sleeves! Dad’s suit boasted a tank top with a couple of white stripes about hip level, and the bottoms also hit below mid thigh.

I knew we couldn’t swim at night, but I prayed they wouldn’t swim in daylight when we went to the lake. But they did, and they wore those awful suits.

The next year before packing for Camp Van Vac, I dug out the Sears Roebuck catalog and pointed at bathing suits. Something a bit more up to date, I pleaded.

I guess Mom got the message. She ordered new bathing suits, one for her and one for Dad. He insisted that his old suit “still has plenty of wear” but he got a new one anyway.

Mom’s was bright blue — no bikini, but no one wore them then anyway. At least it wasn’t two-piece black wool with sleeves.

Dad’s new suit had blue trunks and a white tank top which could be zipped off if he felt daring. He didn’t. He complained that the old black wool kept his mid section warm and the new one didn’t. I can always stifle a giggle when I think of him encountering speedos.

I wonder what happened to those black wool jobs. They would probably be collectible as vintage clothing by this time. 

Liz Ciancone is a retired Tribune-Star reporter. Send e-mail to

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