Youngsters celebrate end of swim lessons with treasure dive

Some First Baptist Church Daycare students surface for air while others dive in search of coins.

About three dozen young swimmers enjoyed an end-of-lessons “free swim” last Friday, June 23, where their aquatic frolicking was not monitored or judged by adults. Throw in the almost-daily rains that have fallen recently and the chance to dive for sunken treasure, and you have the makings of a party.

The youngsters, who spent the last three weeks learning to swim, splashed as they pleased in the municipal pool at Tom Byrne Park, but were driven under water almost as one when about $30 in rolled quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies was tossed into the basin’s shallow end.

Once Betty Warren, who oversees pool operations, counted down from 10, the surface came alive as young graduates with or without goggles, masks or other apparatus dived to the bottom to retrieve the scattered coins under “finders-keepers” rules.

“A graduation party, that’s a good name for it,” Warren said as she watched the junior treasure-hunters surface with money in hand. “Every year, at the end of swimming lessons, we let them do pretty much what they want, and we throw money in the pool. Anything they find, they get to keep.”

Tina Francis, who has directed the daycare program at First Baptist Church in Atmore for the past 10 years, said her 4-year-old class (some of whom are already 5) gained extra incentive when the money hit the water.

“Even the ones that didn’t want to wet their heads have wet their heads for a penny,” laughed Francis. “We haven’t been able to get out the last two days, so this helps me as much as it helps them. We come every year, and our kids learn, hopefully, that if they are ever in a situation where they have to swim, they’ll at least have the basics to keep their heads above water.”

The “cabin-fever cure,” for the youngsters and their guardians, was cited by everyone asked about the sunny morning and the kid-filled pool.

“It’s as good for me as it is for them,” said Darby Hooten of Alabaster, who was chaperoning her children, Kinsley and Konnor, but also her niece and nephew, Paisley and Hayden Coley. “This really breaks the cabin fever for all of us.”

Hooten, whose parents – Danny and Cathy Coley – live here, said she and her children “come all the way from Alabaster just to take swimming lessons” at the Atmore pool.

Sharon Poulsen, who brought her grandson, Rylan, her granddaughter, Presley, and her husband, Jerry, to the pool, said it wasn’t just her, the kids and their parents who were struck with cabin fever.

“The kids have been stuck inside, but I’ve been stuck with this one,” Sharon joked as she pointed toward her spouse. “He’s worse than any kid. He’ll walk from the window to the patio door to the front door. Then he’ll start all over. He’s the type that just can’t stand still. This today is as much about getting him outside as it is the grandchildren.”

Warren reminded local and area residents that the pool is open to the public from 2 to 5 p.m. each day, Monday through Saturday, with extra sessions from 7 to 9 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The cost is $1 per session for those ages 15 and under, $1.50 for those 16 and older.

Red Cross certified lifeguards are stationed at four locations around the pool during each public swimming period.

Pool manager Betty Warren (in white tee-shirt) begins the countdown to the ‘treasure hunt.’
Youngsters line up under the eyes of lifeguards as they await the start of the treasure hunt.
From left, Presley and Rylan Johnson dry off as their grandparents, Jerry and Sharon Poulsen, assist.