Don’t try this these stunts today, kids.

New Era, July 20, 1920, pg. 2
The New Era, July 20, 1920, pg. 2

As Labor day approached in late August 1920, Riverton’s hometown weekly gazette, The New Era, reported, “It is astonishing the great number of children from 12 to 14 years of age who have swam across the river and back. At least 30 have made the one-way journey, and over a dozen both ways.”

Just as it was once a Riverton rite of passage to walk across the frozen Delaware and touch the Pennsy shore (see GN 2013), so too, was it the custom for youngsters to swim across and back in summer months.

Mrs. Elsie S. Waters, Oct. 2013
Mrs. Elsie S. Waters, Oct. 2013

You can take Elsie Waters’ word for it.

She recalled learning to swim at five years of age and making the crossing at twelve in 1930, in this 2013 interview.

With safety in mind, Riverton Yacht Club’s Secretary and Treasurer and famous distance swimmer, Charles Durborow (see Mar 7, 2014 post), accompanied the juvenile tadpoles as they paddled into adulthood.

The New Era article noted that swimming had “…risen rapidly in popular favor in Riverton of late and the Yacht Club has been kept busy handing out bronze and silver medals to its members.”

Riverton Yacht Club - View opposite Lawn House, from Nick Mortgu's collection
Riverton Yacht Club – View opposite Lawn House, from Nick Mortgu’s collection

A week later, The New Era described how Riverton’s Miss Harriet Holder swam from Riverton Yacht Club to Race Street, Philadelphia in three hours and twelve minutes.

And I get winded backstroking across to the other side of my swimming pool!

Do you have more to add to this chapter of Riverton history? If anyone has a photo of one of those swimming awards or additional information, we would like to publish it.  – John McCormick

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