Photo (Concha, the author of this story “tangled up” in the diving board on Peña la Vieja with Vicente, who would become her husband. -1954-)
The summer holidays of my era, back in the 50´s, started on the 24th of June, the day of San Juan. From then on, swimming on Las Canteras beach began. I used to swim off La Puntilla, near the little fishing boats. There, I would meet my school friends. On Sundays, I used to go to the other end of the beach where my cousins lived. I remember that old people used to say that you had to swim 9 times in a row in order to prevent rashes. I used to go swimming at midday but I wasn’t allowed to leave until I had done the household chores my mother said I had to do if I wanted to go to the beach. Once I had finished them, far too hot, I put on my bathing costume and left in a flash without even saying goodbye. I was so excited about getting there that the distance from my house to the beach seemed never-ending. I would rush into the water jumping and diving until I was exhausted. In those days, I didn’t take a towel and I’d lie in the warm sand, covering myself with it, until my bathing costume was dry. My mother made my first swimming costume from cretonne with a green background and colourful flowers. On top, I wore a skirt held at the waist with elastic. At that time young girls were very modest. How times change! Later, the latex swimming costume appeared. It was a novelty that was all the rage among young people. The disadvantage was they were so expensive at that time. The first ones that I saw were on sale in the Indian bazaars. I remember that I drove my mother mad asking her to buy one for me.
When I told her the price, she almost fainted with the shock. She began to fan herself furiously and I thought she would have an attack. I danced for her, I sang to her and I insisted so much that finally she could not resist my pleading. You only have one mother. She opened her piggy bank where she kept her savings, and she gave me the money for my first real latex swimming costume. I remember the colour: it was petroleum blue, and it fitted me like a glove. Beautiful. It still had a little skirt, but it was more daring. It looked like the one which Esther Williams wore in her film Bathing Beauty which caused a sensation among the teenagers of my generation. We copied the way she walked, on tiptoe, putting one foot in front of the other in a straight line. We used to imitate her swimming style, which was extremely elegant. We never missed any of her films. She was our idol, the image of femininity.
The summer was a time for meeting our family and friends on the beach. We’d go early on Sunday morning in order to get a place and put up the beach tent. Inside, we would put on our bathing costumes and leave the beach bags with the food in. My uncles and aunts used to put up their tent in front of the P.A.L.A. Club where the Reina Isabel Hotel is now. They brought thick hot chocolate and churros (like fried doughnut mixture) from La Madrileña. After that, we’d play in the sand until midday when we’d go in the water before lunch. I remember that we used to swim to reach a raft made of wood and empty oil drums; from there we’d jump and dive into the water over and over again. We never got tired of doing that.
On Sunday afternoons, people held dances in their homes or on their friends´ terraces. I remember the Marrero’s get-togethers in Ferreras Street and the ones in Asensi’s house, on her seafront roof terrace, where a lot of relationships started; some even ended in marriage! And here I am today, remembering these unforgettable times of my youth more than 50 years ago.
Translation: Students from the 2nd Year 2008 at the Faculty of Translation and Interpreting, University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.