Boys at Swim in the 1950s




The burgundy Hudson Hornet maneuvered around ruts and navigated the limestone outcroppings leading to Sweets Pond, ten miles south of Rolla, Missouri, on the Sweet family farm. I had been to the farm many times: hiking, riding horses, and swimming. Jay Sweet, like me, was ten years old, and was one of my two closest friends. In the mid-1950s, Rolla boasted an expanding state university, a new hospital, a feisty newspaper, The Rolla Daily News (Jays dad was its editor), many new homes under construction, and a major military base. The biggest construction project was building the new US Highway 66 that touched the edge of Rolla as it traversed America.

         Jay and I did the things that adolescent boys did. We loved to watch Flash Gordon and The Little Rascals. We spent hours riding bicycles with our other close friend, Joan. We built wooden forts, played in the creek, and on rainy days played Tripoly on Joans front porch.

         One hot, muggy July morning Jay called.My dad is taking me to the farm to go swimming. Do ya want to come?” Of course I wanted to go. I loved to go to the farm.

         I will ask my mother.They picked me up shortly after lunch. We drove up 13th Street, past the Dairy Queen, turned left onto old Highway 66, left again on Nagogomy Road. The first mile was paved. Then the beetle shaped Hudson became covered with choking country road dust. We bounced along as the car stirred up clouds. The road disappeared behind us. Jay and I sat in the backseat with our windows open and wrote our names in the dust settling on the brown leather seats. Mr. Sweet and Tim, Jays brother who was three years older, had their front windows down to catch what little cool air blew in.

         Once we reached the front gate of the farm, Tim jumped out, unhooked the metal gate topped with barbed wire, and waited as the car passed. He closed the gate and repeated the procedure about one-quarter mile further into the property. Where a farmhouse used to stand we turned up the track to the pond. The Hudson stopped under a large oak tree.

         The Sweets had constructed the large pond several years earlier. A spring supplied fresh water, so the water remained clear. We emerged from the car; swimming suits in hand. Mr. Sweet said, You wont need those.

         Why?Tim was surprised, even angry.

         Were swimming naked. Its only us.

         The thought of swimming naked had never occurred to me. I had never swum naked. I was scared but didnt complain. Jay and I undressed as Tim complained to his father, who relented, OK, you can wear your jock strap.I piled my clothes neatly on the back seat of the Hudson next to Jays. I watched Tim change. I expected that he would be like us, but he wasnt. Dark hair grew around his penis; a shadow snaked up to his belly button. His dick was almost as big as his father’s. Tim was handsome, muscular, and tanned. I liked looking at his nude butt in his jock strap.

         Jay and I carefully stepped over the sharp flinty stones to the sand beach that had been added the previous summer. Mr. Sweet strapped on life jackets. We walked into the sun-warmed water, slippery as silk. As I sank into the water, the straps of the jacket pulled up against my dick and balls. I loved the feeling. Jay and I swam out to the float, splashed each other, and got into a water fight with Tim, who acted totally annoyed. After a while we sat naked and built sand structures. Mr. Sweet let us wash off without life jackets. I wanted to stay longer but Tim wanted to go. Thus ended my first day of naked swimming; a perfect day, though I never told my mother what we did.

         That fall my family moved to another town; I never swam naked in the pond again. The sensation of warm water touching my whole body in the sunshine permanently etched in my brain. As did the vision of Tim.

         When I was in sixth grade we moved to Jefferson City. Boy Scouts became an important part of my life. I loved being outdoors. At Boy Scout camp I had more opportunities to watch naked boys: in communal latrines and gang showers. I was shy and self-conscious but lost my inhibitions watching nude boys showering or sitting on the john. If they could, I could too. Soon, I was comfortable being nude with them.

         I was not a dry land athlete but I swam well. I progressed through all levels of Red Cross training and taught lifesaving in scouting and in college. That gave me plenty of time in locker rooms with boys. At Jefferson City Senior High School, swimming was an important part of physical education. Gym classes were single-sex, and the coaches told us to swim nude to avoid wet swimsuits hanging around lockers. Thirty naked boys would shyly scamper or proudly saunter up to the pool deck area, depending on how well their manhood was developing. Jocks loved this parade. We picked teams for water polo, tossed the ball up, and let the mayhem begin. Stronger swimmers got the most action, rolling on top of one another. I loved those gym days.

         One day, my friend Vic and I returned from the showers. As we toweled off, I said: Sometimes when I see naked guys I get a hard-on.

         He said: That means youre a homosexual.After that conversation, I never spoke of my feelings about boys. I did not know anything about homosexuality nor did I want to find out. I felt it had to be bad. I knew masturbating was bad; it said so in the Boy Scout Handbook. I was traumatized waking up after a wet dream. It was years before I could reconcile myself to these feelings, but that is another story.


John Lloyd lives with his husband in Pompano Beach, FL in the winter and Mazomanie, WI in the summer; and is the author of many gay love stories that have appeared on various websites. He writes a travel blog and is the author of Leaving Flat Iron Creek.


Articles in GLReview

Discussion2 Comments

  1. I can relate too those childhood memories of swim nude in the country swimming holes when visiting friends and family relations in rural Michigan in the 1970’s and 80’s. What was considered scandalous in suburban towns in the Midwest was the excepted norm just 45 miles out into farm country. Especially in communities where my Uncle’s and Grandparent’s farms were, that look the same today as they did a century ago, with the descendants of those original homesteaders who used their accumulated pay from service in the Union Army too buy up as much land as they could, at about 10 too 20 cents an acre of wild brush and forest land too be tamed and developed from scratch. Like the manmade pond you described, wild marsh land fed by glacial melt was dredged in some spots too provide fishing and swimming holes in woodland windbreak areas between farmsteads cultivated too avoid the dustbowl conditions of the West. Swimming naked with friends was inocent normal fun in that community, and definitive distinctions between inappropriate exposure too girls and ladies without their consent for self gratification, and required exposing of nude body for examination and hygiene by same when instructed too strip off were taught at an early age, and the nice girl who lied across the street from my great grandmother was my buddy and serogot sister who hosed me off after mowing and farmwork while lifting penis and testicles for cleaning and cheching me for worms the way she did her cousin and father with two fingers inside the poopshoots too make sure there wasn’t anything in there that didn’t belong. She used a bathing suit when I started too development into puberty out of consideration for my feelings rather than hers because I felt guilty for a spontaneous ejaculation while seeing her bent over too check for leaches. She insisted I not feel bad if I had a little stocky discharge while she checked me for the same because my great grandmother insisted I be protected from water moccasins even though they had been almost completely wiped out by the time I was born. She always feared that possibility because of the times she had too pick them off her older brother Leo back in the 1910’s and made him bend over coming out of the water because of their tendency towards wrapping themselves around his genitals and staying hidden between the butcheeckeeks if she didn’t spread them and take hold of it’s neck and unwind it before a lethal bite too the femoral artery could happen. I submitted too the same examination and did the same for her but she kept her trunks on and pulled them up too the pelvic regions, leaving her girlparts covered but the fabric tight enough that I could see the outline of any critter that might be hidden there. Other females were often present while swimming and they had already seen me bare on the farm when cleaning mud and manure off or changing clothes and they understood that male erecting is caused by all sorts of things and never took offense when it happened.

  2. In 1967 I started Grade One – I was not quite 6 years old. This is when I first experience the extreme fear and anxiety that has plagued my life for 55 years!
    Unbeknownst to me I was dealing with a severe Socially Avoidant Anxiety Disorder. This disorder made my life – I couldn’t use public/school washrooms, couldn’t change forgym class in frontof other boys, I also couldn’t go on sleep overs or play dates. To me it was all to scary – not sure what it was a major issue but I was terrified of being seen naked/or even in my underwear. Too embarrassing. And there was a sense of not feeling “safe”.
    Now for a 5 -7 year old child this was confusing,embarrasing and stressfull. I ended peein my pants numerous times because I couldnt get through the day not having to pee. (I think I must have used the washroom sometimes – when empty – but I don’t reacall doing so
    Then at 8 years old life throws me another wonderful “problem” This was when I realized I was sexually attracted too men and not women. But at 8 years old I already knew that this was unacceptable and NO ONE COULD EVER KNOW or my life would be over. So now I was an 8 year old child with a dangerous secret and a debilitating illness. Lucky me huh?
    What bothers me a lot is that at thew age of 5 – 8 years old there was no one to confide in. No one to ask about it. Being a homo meant you were a sexual deviant. And with the disorder I assumed I was just a huge wimp. BUt I doubt my parenst would have understood either of these issues. 5 year olds didn’t get mentally ill right? I don’t even know if i even realized that what I was experiencing was unusual?
    To make a long story short Ii didn’t get officailly diagnosed until I was 25 years old (about 1986) And guesss what? After being diagnosed (from my symptoms only – they ran no tests) I was told:

    “I’m sorry we have nothig to offer you. Thereis no treatment for anxiety type disorders. You need to Buck Up and move on with your life

    For the next 25 years I sat at home watching TV 6 – 12+ virtually every day with few exceptions. I could shop, drive my car, go to the movies, go to dinner with family etc but had ZERO social life. Home by 4:30-5PM Watch TV until midnight – 3 AM.Repeat the next day. I went kno where socially. My “treatment” consisted of regular visits to a GP for managment of my medication. THAT’S IT1

    Of course now I’m told that my view of the past is wrong. . My “treatment” was totally proper. When I ask why in 1986 I never received one actual medical test. (except blood tests) and the same from 1986 – 2021 I’m told it wouldn’t have made a difference. How do they know that? Not even one MRI scan in 35 years

    So much for Canada’s amazing health care system.

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