Town North YMCA’s Drown-proofing Classes

by Lloyd Cates

The Town North YMCA of Dallas had an advanced life-saving class started by Jack Semones. Jack would take Alan, Gary and myself to demonstrations around Dallas. He would tie us up, then push us into the pool to demonstrate we could survive in the water. 

We would sit cross-legged on the edge of the pool. Each of us had our ankles tied together with cord, then the cord was tied around our waists so we could not kick or move. In addition, our wrists were tied behind our backs. 

After we took a large gulp of air, Jack would gently push us kids into the water. This would probably be frowned upon today. My mother, watching the class, said some parents always stood up and gasped in disbelief. 

All Alan, Gary and myself had to do was not panic. Initially, we would sink to the bottom of the pool, but with lungs full of air we would bob up like corks to the surface. If you exhaled at the wrong time, you sank to the bottom helplessly tied-up. Of course, Jack was in the pool ready to rescue us. 

Because we were floating face-down, when we lifted our faces to breathe, the weight of our heads being out of water would sink us down again. Then we would bob back up and repeat the cycle of sinking and bobbing for 10 minutes. The plan was to always keep air in our lungs except for a quick exhale before taking a big breath of air. To complicate things, Jack would tread water in front of us and splash water into our mouths and noses just as we needed that vital breath. 

Jack taught us if we stayed disciplined we could do it. We did, it worked. 

Later, Jack and Gary continued giving demonstrations at the downtown YMCA to Navy Seals. Jack rewarded Gary by buying him as many hot dogs he could eat at a place on Central Expressway on the way home.