"I've been to Canada many times," she says wistfully. "But I never did make it to Spain."
Back then, swimming was not for proper young ladies: It wasn't until she was 10 that a local YWCA opened, with a pool for girls to use. Though she excelled in school at science, her father, a research physicist, advised her against going to MIT. "Women work three times as hard," he said, "for one third the pay." So she went to Sargent College at Boston University, and earned a degree in phys ed. Lured by a newly built pool, she did graduate work at Wellesley. Her 129-page master's thesis was titled The Mechanics and Kinesthesiology of the Half-Gainer. It's now buried somewhere beneath the artifacts in her living room.
Louise couldn't keep away from water. She enlisted in the Coast Guard in 1943 and did a tour of duty in Palm Beach, Fla., teaching women in the service how to swim. She was stationed with 600 other women on the USS Biltmore Neversail.
"That's a joke," she says. "We'd actually commandeered the Biltmore Hotel. My job was to guard drunken sailors."
"Is that a reflection on the Navy?" asks Fred.
"No, the Coast Guard."
Around the same time, water ballet pioneer Esther Williams began surfacing in pools full of chorines and corsages in such movie confections as Andy Hardy's Double Life and Easy to Wed, and later in Neptune's Daughter and Million Dollar Mermaid.
" Esther Williams had nothing to do with the sport," says Louise.
"Don't say that, dear," says Fred.
"Well, it's true. The dolphin was the only figure I ever saw her do. Compared to what we do today, she was just a pretty face."