The Cross Bay Swim - circa 1927
It was interesting to read about Rory Allen's efforts, successful I might add, to revive the Cross Bay Swim. It is particularly heartening to know that this revival is to honor the memory of Margaret Fischer.
One article I read concerning the swim indicated that it first took place in 1947. Actually, this event had taken place in summers as far back as the 1920's. My mother, Anna Dennis, competed in the swim around 1927. At that time she was known as Anna Zoeller. She was born in Manhattan (1909) and was a resident of Brooklyn in the 1920's. She and her two younger brothers, Robert and Edwin, lived in the South Third Street Industrial home in that borough.
Each summer, the young Zoellers along with the other children from the home spent their vacations at a camp in Hauppauge. The camp was located near the intersection of Route III and Townline road. That's the corner opposite the north side of the land Hauppauge High School occupies today. Some long-time residents might recall that a Robert Hall clothing store was on that site. Well, long before Robert Hall, the Locust Dale summer camp was there. Anna remembers that the camp was given its name because of the many locust trees that could be found in the area. She has fond memories of summers spent at the camp particularly bicycle riding with her friends throughout the area. They often went to Central Islip and toured the many gardens on the hospital grounds. Occasionally, they ventured as far as Bay Shore to see the town and take in a movie.
One summer morning in the late 1920's, 1927 she believes, her good friend Augusta Dixon woke her with the news that they were late for an important event. That event was the Cross Bay Swim and unbeknownst to Miss Zoeller, her name had been entered as a contestant by her good friend Augusta. Anna Zoeller was a fine athlete of some repute among her peers and was known to be a particularly good swimmer.
Whether it was held Memorial Day, the 4th of -July or some other special day escapes Anna's memory. In any case, Dixon and Zoeller were on the roster of entrants and they were both determined to participate. One of the camp counselors, Chet
Tanner, offered to drive them so off they went. How they got from some south shore embarkation point to Fire Island remains a mystery. All Anna recalls is that it was a mad rush all the way through. She remembers going down a stairwell in the lighthouse where she and Augusta changed into their bathing suits. Once attired, they ran back up the stairs to the starting line. The girls were in such a hurry there was no time to get "greased up" for the race.
Almost immediately, the signal was given to start and they plunged into the Great South Bay along with the other entrants and the Cross Bay Swim began. A rower and rowboat was assigned to accompany each swimmer as they swam the bay.
Anna remembers the long swim alongside the rowboat and peering over every so often during the race to see how Augusta was faring. She also remembers that both of them were able to complete the entire course but cannot remember the exact location of the finish. She thinks that it might have been Benjamin's beach. Anna is proud to have competed and for having the stamina to complete the entire course. She was also the second female to finish the Cross Bay Swim that summer day long ago.
Anna's last memory is that she was so tired and sore from the swim that she stayed in bed the entire day after the race. After a swim of 7 or so miles who could blame her.
Bill Dennis on behalf of the Dennis Children - Maureen Haag, Barbara Drowne, Vincent Dennis, Bill Dennis and Alice Dennis.