Never believe folks who tell you that nostalgia doesn’t have a future: there’s a lot to be learned from history. Particularly with regard to diving and the common misconception that ‘experience’ is a measure of how long a person’s been doing something rather than a gauge of any knowledge gained.
Based on the fact that there are, today, almost as many active divers in their forties, fifties and sixties as there are in the younger age groups, the local dive store recently initiated a scheme intended to get older divers back into the water and bridge the generation gap.
The idea – to show that physical age is no barrier to a person’s enjoyment of diving – had its genesis in the front bar of, “The Sozzled Cod”, a notorious hang-out for a group of chronological misfits who, for the price of a glass of warm milk, will tell anybody who cares to listen about their early diving exploits.
Unlike most of their peers in diving who have willingly embraced diving’s new technology and gracefully surrendered to the passing years by adopting a more conservative attitude to time and depth, this particular group remained unaware of the meaningful developments in diving since they first took up the activity back in the late ‘fifties or early ‘sixties.
Equipment proved the first sticking point in the plan.
“You paid how much for your gear? Why, when I were a young ‘un, you could outfit yourself with top of the range gear for less than three hundred dollars – and still have money left over to buy replacement ping-pong balls for your snorkel.
“My Aqua-lung – a 70 cu. ft. tank with harness, twin-hose regulator and a reserve valve – cost me just $160.00, and it’s still working. Of course, divers were tougher and fitter in those days, so we never had to worry about dive tables or decompression sickness. It was impossible to get bent doing a single dive.
“Mind you. I always kept track of depth with my wrist depth gauge that read to 220 feet. That set me back $2.45, but it was worth it for the peace of mind. Waste of time having other gauges. In any case you always knew when it was time to come up because breathing became difficult. Tell you what: Why don’t you borrow my gear for tomorrow’s dive?”
Showing signs of already crumbling around the edges, the scheme was finally scrapped on the following day when the divers detailed to buddy with the three old ‘crustaceans’ refused to get in the water with them.
“I didn’t object to the equipment that they planned to use – mostly heavy-duty black rubber.” Said Lisa, one of the volunteer divemasters. “Nor the fact that it took them twice as long as everybody else to gear up while they struggled into home-made wet-suits constructed of unlined neoprene held together with glue, tape and faith.
“And as for all the talcum powder that they smothered themselves and everything else in the immediate vicinity with”, she continued, “well … at least it made them smell better even if it did cake itself over everybody else’s gear.
“I didn’t even object to the fact that all three of them refused to wear a BCD; that one of them wanted to carry a speargun with powerhead, “in case we met a shark”; that they didn’t have a single contents gauge between them; nor that their dive plan was to go in and dive deep until it was time to tug the reserve lever on their old ‘J’ valves and ascend.
“No! The thing that really got to me was their insistence on showing everybody the kinks in their hoses and the wrinkles in their fabric – proof, they claimed, of plenty of ‘hands-on’ experience. Now that was disgusting.”
Back at their normal place in the bar, the three showed themselves to be unrepentant.
“These youngsters don’t know anything, do they? And what’s really sad about today is that one of them threw my flippers over the side of the boat.”
“Not your ‘Frankie Golden Flippers’?”
“Yep! Set me back $2.95, when I bought them in 1955. Don’t know where I’ll lay my hands on another pair like those.”
It’s true what they say, isn’t it? ‘Fins – and fings – ain’t what they used to be.
The above article was first published in Asian Diver Magazine in 1998. The prices quoted were current in May 1955.