Watching the Olympics brings back some memories of a weekly exercise program at the New York Athletic Club. My father was a member of the NYAC. In the summer, our whole family would go to the salt-water pool at Travers Island almost every day. In the fall, winter and spring, my father would take me to the club’s downtown headquarters for “Saturday Morning Boys.”
The dress code at the club required us to wear jackets and ties. My mother recently found the patch that I would pin to my blazer pocket. When we got to the locker room, the sons of members changed into white t-shirts and shorts which had the logo on them. I remember that opera singer Cesare Siepi and his son Ezio had a locker nearby.
The activities started at 9:00 a.m. with calisthenics led by a man named Hassan Dib. When I looked him up on Google, I got the impression that he still works at the NYAC. After the calisthenics class, the boys would head off to take lessons in various other sports. Famed referee Arthur Mercante helped with the boxing lessons, which I only tried a couple of times. I preferred the fencing lessons which were taught by a man with a French accent who had been to the Olympics.
I didn’t grow to love swimming until 1997, which is when I bought a house in Burbank with a private pool in the backyard. It’s a good thing that the swimming sessions at Saturday Morning Boys didn’t scar me for life. Even in the 1970s, it was common for the senior citizens who swam at the NYAC’s all-male City House to do so in the buff.