Relying on memory for my column

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 30, 2006

I really thought my sight would be back to normal by this week, but the &8220;gas bubble&8221; procedure that was used in an attempt to secure my detached retina failed.

After a second surgery that lasted 3 1/2 hours, further complications found were addressed by my competent doctor and I am back home today.

I told him that during surgery I had counted over 300 little points of light. He informed me that was the laser in action and that over 700 shots had been used. As a result, I must look straight down at the floor because of another gas bubble being held in place and wear a patch on my eye for the time being.

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That leaves me still writing from my memory as I cannot do any research or watch TV. It is a good thing this did not happen during my officiating career. I can just hear some of the coaches and fans wisecracking, &8220;I always thought you were blind &8212; now I know it!&8221;

When I mentioned last week my dad swam against Johnnie Weismuller, I failed to clarify that it was not while Weismuller was Tarzan. Competitive swimming in those early days was handled by the AAU and was not divided by age groups.

One swam as a junior. My dad grew up in Rochester, N.Y., while Weismuller was from Buffalo. Weismuller was younger and had not yet won an AAU championship, which put them both in the junior division of the Western New York AAU. I have no idea how their competition came out, but I do know Weismuller went on to win the Olympics.

I believe competitive swimming started in Natchez after the Duncan Park pool was opened in 1950. At that time all of the swimming programs in Mississippi were summer only. All of the meets were held in 25-yard panels, and all of them were outdoors.

It wasn&8217;t until the 1970s when federal law began requiring colleges to offer equal sporting opportunities to girls that indoor 50-meter pools began to show up. While there are still some short-course swimming meets held, most events are at the Olympic 50-meter lengths.

The only really Olympic-size swimming pools are 50-meters in length and eight lanes wide. The depth is uniform for the entire length.

Mostly swimmers who were dedicated to the sport were finally able to practice year around after the late Dr. David Steckler pushed through the updating and reopening of the old pool at the Carpenter School on Washington Street.

As all of the larger age-group swim teams in Mississippi now compete and practice year around, Natchez was finally able to again compete with Columbus, Jackson and the Coast teams.

This week&8217;s column, like the last, is being dictated to my wife Loretta, who has loyally proofread every column I have written since the beginning. However, after these two weeks, she tells me she feels a bit as the daughters of John Milton probably felt.

And that&8217;s official.

Al Graning is a former SEC official and former Natchez resident. Reach him at