Oh how I miss holding a photograph in my hands.
I’ve searched through my parent’s albums looking for my lost late-childhood images; they all end at around 1967 because of the onset of color slides. Miraculously I still have this print of my summer
friends, the kids from swim team. From its dog-eared appearance, you can see I held it in my hands often.
I’ve told you before that living on the lake was a bit on the lonely side in the off-season having moved up from the bustling metropolis of Montclair, N.J.
Summer and Chabon’s swim team changed all that.
Coach Chris Christiansen put together a team of local and summer kids in the summer of 1966. Chabon’s Vikings included my brother, Frank; myself; our neighbors; the Morgans, the Erbs, the Randazzos. And then there were the summer kids, a bunch of kids from Jersey City and Bayonne, and a family from Brooklyn.
Just about all of the kids from our neighborhood joined the swim team. We practiced at Chabon’s beach on Brady Road, swimming in 25-meter lanes that were strung between the boat slips. There was a sandy beach for the moms and little kids to hang out at and picnic tables on the adjacent lawn. We’d come to practice on foot or on our bikes.
Once every summer the whole swim team would come to our place on Castle Rock Road and we would have a “gang swim” from our dock, near Bass Rock, to Halsey Island. Our parents surrounded us in their boats as we all jumped in the lake and attempted our long distance (1/4 mile) swim. Lots of the little kids would have to be picked up by the boats, but the big kids swam to the island and back.
During our season, we swam against all of the small lakes in the area: Shawnee, Horseshoe, Randolph, and Mendham, and usually got creamed because we were such a young, new team. The city kids saved our butts for the most part; they were serious and swam all yearlong in pools for their town teams. The Cuccis, the Crustics, the Buells, the Bronks and the Sassons were, in our minds, all professional-grade swimmers.
We did have some local talent—the Hillenbrands, the McConnells and the Erbs took the sport pretty seriously and enjoyed a great deal of success. I did OK, having some fun with backstroke and freestyle. I could hold up my leg of a relay. Coach Christensen’s daughter, Heidi, was in my age group and was one of our best swimmers, so I never brought home many ribbons.
The crowning event of our summer was our swim team picnic. Coach Christiansen would make some speeches and give out trophies. The moms organized a terrific potluck picnic. We grilled hot dogs. We ate my mom’s macaroni salad. We played games and had our “silly swim races” featuring the Frog Back (imagine the butterfly performed upside-down) and the “lifeguard dragging a victim” race. Our favorite part of the evening though, was chasing down Coach Christiansen and throwing him in the lake. It was the perfect way to end to an exhausting but fun-filled season.
The macaroni salad served at the swim team picnic was a standard in my mother’s, (Gertrude) repertoire. I’ve tweaked her recipe a bit, introducing more fresh vegetables, but the creamy mayonnaise-y goodness is still the same. Use Hellman’s mayonnaise—it really is the best.
Makes 6 generous servings, or enough to bring to a picnic
1 pound pasta (1 box) – elbows are traditional
1 tablespoon kosher salt for the cooking water
2 stalks celery, scrubbed well and diced
1/2 medium-sized onion (about 3 heaping tablespoons), diced
1 carrot, peeled and grated
2 average sized dill pickles, diced
8 or 9 large stuffed green olives, sliced
1 cup Hellman’s mayonnaise (not diet or low fat—come on!)
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
4 tablespoons pickle juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
lots of freshly ground pepper
Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until done. Drain and let cool. Put the pasta into a large bowl
Prep the veggies and put into a medium-sized bowl.
Measure the dressing ingredients into another bowl and whisk them together.
Dump the veggies onto the pasta and pour the dressing over everything. Mix well until all of the pasta is coated. Serve immediately, or refrigerate until it is time to go to the picnic. At the picnic, serve over a bowl filled with ice to keep the macaroni salad chilled and safe to eat.