The Championship Lake Swimmers
The 1939 Season
The Luzerne County WPA Recreation and Educational Division scheduled eight swimming meets in the Summer 1939. In the first meet at Wilkes-Barre Griffith Pool, Tom Hodorowski and Jimmy Campbell dominated the senior boys division winning five of the seven events. In late June the WPA sponsored a “learn to swim” program at seven county sites including Sandy Beach and the Picnic Grounds at the Lake.
A major long-distance swim event at the Lake was scheduled for July 29 with Campbell as the AAU coach of the local team. By mid-July Campbell, Hodorowski and William Reilly were the leaders for season champion – with Hodorowski a leader in diving events. In the junior womens’ division Ruth Williams was chasing Dot Malinowski for the title.
At a Sandy Beach event on July 15 Elwood Davis barely beat Campbell in the popular 440 yard free-style. Lorraine Jones, Hazleton, who recently competed in Ocean City, MD, won two freestyle events beating Dot Malinowski. The July 29, 1939, five mile swim was an AAU Championship event attracting 27 major competitors from as far as St. Louis, MO. The Wyoming Valley team consisted of Jimmy Campbell, Andrew Tryka, Elwood Davis, Thomas Dennis and Mike Cavanaugh confronting the American AAU champion Steve Wozniak, Buffalo. The course was a loop from the Picnic Grounds to Sandy Beach.
Wozniak was the first-place winner in the Saturday, July 29, event with a time of 2:18.04. It was his third consecutive annual win in the AAU event at various lakes. Only 22 swimmers completed the swim. The Canton Sea Lions (Ohio) won the team title, but the Wyoming Valley team took second place with a Scranton team in third place. Elwood Davis was the first local swimmer to complete the course finishing ninth among all swimmers. Campbell was fourteenth; Dennis was eighteenth, followed by Tryka. Apparently Cavanaugh did not finish the course.
As the 1939 Summer swim season progressed Lorraine Jones remained undefeated by late August. “Rip” Reilly was beating Jim Campbell in local pools and in the junior events, Jim Slamon of Meyers High was the leader. The Lake swimmers, Campbell, Roe, Davis and Jackson, did not compete in a series of major swim events in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania – a 1,071 mile road trip. The Wyoming Valley league was represented by Lorraine Jones and William Barranger of Hazleton; William Reilly, Wilkes-Barre; and Donald King, Pittston; with coach Clarence Obitz, who was now the swim coach for Bucknell University Junior College (now Wilkes University).
Obitz wrote a swim column for the Sunday Independent newspaper and chastised the community for not supporting the WPA swim team. At the end of the season Lorraine Jones won the WPA title and “Rip” Reilly the mens’ title with Jim Campbell in second place. Tom Hodorowski was the diving champion.
The Lake champions now had college or other plans. The 1939 WPA champion “Rip” Reilly was planning to enter dental school. Campbell planned to enter Bucknell University Junior College in Wilkes-Barre with a serious intention to train for the 1940 Olympics but World War II disrupted his dream – nor did he enter college at this time. Elwood Davis would be in the US Army during World War II. Robert Jackson became a “pattern maker,” a unique skilled trade. Irving Roe was already near the end of his college days.
(The YMCA coach, Bob Zubrod, also relocated to Florida in 1942, continuing his swimming activities until late in life. He was associated with Florida’s “Weeki Wachee” – or City of Mermaids act as a trainer. He also doubled in water scenes for actor William Powell in the movie Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid in 1949. Zubrod died in Florida in 2002.)
Four swimmers from the Valley entered the President’s Cup race in Washington, D.C., in mid-September 1939, but now it was a pool event at the Shoreham Hotel. William Waters, Avoca, finished first in the 100 yard breast stroke. Lorraine Jones finished in sixth place in the 100 yard free-style and fourth in the 100 yard back-stroke; Jack Allen was seventh in the 100 yard back-stroke; and 12 year old Mary Marusak, Weatherly, was ninth in the 100 yard breast stroke.
Copyright 2006-2008 F. Charles Petrillo