It was swimming that filled the summers of Ronald Reagan's
boyhood years. As a kid, he would lead a group of boys down to the
swimming hole, just north of town. His trip to the local swimming hole
soon graduated to the treacherous Hannepin Canal and his crawl stroke became
unbeatable. From age 14, Reagan worked as the Lowell Park lifeguard from
1926-1932 receiving 18 dollars a week and all of the nickel root beer and ten
cent hamburgers he could eat. During the morning hours, he would teach
swimming lessons to children when he had time.
Parents from miles around brought their children to learn how to swim from
Dutch Reagan, who is credited with rescuing 77 lives from the water during his
seven summers at the park. He found that lifeguarding provided one of
the best vantage points in the world to learn about human nature. "There
was the life that shaped my body and mind for years to come," said
Upon graduation from high school, Reagan attended Eureka College in southern
Illinois, where he received an athletic scholarship as a member of the
swimming and football teams. His freshman year, he never lost a swimming
race and soon took on the duties as the college swim coach while competing
until his graduation in 1932.
Ronald Reagan's career encompasses many facets. He was a sports radio
announcer and broadcaster, he starred in over 53 Hollywood films from 1937 to
1964, 81 television productions from 1950 to 1966, and served on the Screen
Actors Guild from 1937 to 1960 and as it's president for seven terms.
Reagan was 55 when he first ran for public office, an age when most men are
considering retirement. His two-term governorship of the State of
California was the final of his many stepping stones to his two-term
Presidency of the United States. His warmth and understanding for
mankind is only slightly overshadowed by his warmth and understanding for
sports--his first great love.
His sense of humor will always be a part of his legacy. He is remembered
for this home-town moment while attending the dedication of Dixon's first
swimming pool with Adolph Kiefer. "You must be a bunch of
sissies," he exclaimed good-naturedly. "The river was good
enough for the rest of us." He then surprised everyone by stripping
to his bathing trunks and swimming several laps.