First swim team was in 1970. We had 100 members at Nassau and membership was restricted to Princeton University and Institute for Advanced study. I am guessing we had about 40 members on the team – ten of them were Bolsters!
In order to have home meets we made lane lines out of clothes line and multi colored plastic toys, most of which would float. A couple of members made four starting blocks which were placed at the shallow end of the pool. We were more worried about the depth for flip turns than possible head injuries! That first year we had not had the foresight to put in lane lines so more than once an eight and under would get turned around and head back towards the starting block. The first year was limited to freestyle and backstroke before we introduced breast, fly and IM’s. Most of the teams had real problems finding enough older swimmers, so the older relays had to have at least two fourteen and under. The diving team was begun with the help of Mike Mahoney, a volunteer parent who had been a college diver and swimmer. Diving began every meet with only two age groups (until Championships), 12 & under and 17 & under, followed by the swimming events. As we added more swimming events and the meets got longer we devised the format of limiting swimming events and having an ‘A’ and ‘B’ schedule. For many years, however eight and under only did free and back in every meet. Finally swimming and diving became so popular and the teams so large that diving had to be separated from the swim meet. This only happened about 10 years ago.
The peak of Nassau’s overwhelming dominance in PASDA occurred in the late seventies and early eighties. At one point the league suggested we form two teams in order to give the other teams a chance. That year we more than doubled the score of the second place team and may have resulted in a first and second place for Nassau!
With less turnover at Princeton University and an older membership we began to see an alarming decline of youngsters at Nassau and fewer swimmers on the team. This was the catalyst that allowed the board to change the by-laws and membership requirements to join Nassau. With this more open policy Nassau was able to continue to compete very favorably with the best teams in the league.
Nassau used to be famous for its giant horseflies – in fact a lot of the kids thought that the kick boards were at Nassau in order to kill them. So as we began our search for a good mascot to represent Nassau, my personal favorite was the Nassau Horseflies – those were some tough flies. Fortunately, I left it up to the kids to decide and while reading an encyclopedia of animals a group of girls came up and asked what I thought of the lemming. The rest is history and explains why generations of Nassau swimmers have to put up with: “Why do you have a rat on your suit? Or racing cap?” Well if you’re going to be a lemming and jump off a cliff into the cold water you better learn to swim – well and fast – to survive. And when the Nassau seniors jump off the board for the last time most of them mimic that first doggy paddle they showed on the first day of lessons at Nassau when they were 4 – 5 years old.
When I was at River Road Pool in Rocky Hill in the sixties, a rival was Pine Brae. They had this game (sharks and minnows) that always started with Pom-Pom. We liked the game but we all (boys and girls together) felt it sounded too girlish and weak and after all that pool was a snobby country club whereas we were a free community pool (maybe that’s where the idea of free swimming lessons came from). We felt we were tougher and we had a much wider and deeper pool. So we had to change Pom-Pom to something closer to our roots – River Road Pool somehow became Rackety Poo and was bequeathed to Nassau.