"We've got to be very careful about what we say. She's still very popular in many circles."
"She pushed off from the bottom of the pool. In competition, that would be considered cheating!"
Louise returned to Boston in 1946. She ran the swimming program at the downtown YWCA, teaching fundamentals by cranking up Three O'Clock in the Morning on an old Victrola: "Breathe-two-three, blow-two-three, breathe-two-three...." That same year the AAU sanctioned the first national championships in synchronized swimming.
"Here's a lovely new sport," she told her students. "I don't know anything about it, but let's try it." She divided her most graceful swimmers into teams: the Aquateens (teenagers), the Swimphonics (working girls) and the Mermatrons (housewives). With no other clubs to compete against, she staged pool productions with names like Alice in Y Water. Louise never took the plunge herself. "I just coached," she says. "At the time I was considered too old to swim."
In 1950, Louise and her squads put on the first meet in New England. In an extravaganza that rivaled Billy Rose's Aquacade for sheer splashiness, Louise knelt in a canoe and paddled broadside across the width of the pool while swimmers circled her doing dolphins to strains of Cruising down the River (on a Sunday Afternoon).
Her new beau was up in the gallery, gaping. "Boy," Fred says, "if you know how tippy canoes are, that was a real achievement." They had met at a retirement party thrown for her father. "Fred was invited to even things up," she says. But she hardly talked to him. She spent most of the evening away in a corner, knitting. "I was bored," she recalls.
When Fred got up to leave, he told her mother, "I like your children."
After he had gone, Mom told Louise, "Well, he hasn't met your brother, so he must mean you."
Fred showed up at the house every night after that. "I haven't done any knitting since," says Louise.