Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, March 20, 2011, pg. 11
As the weather is getting warmer, we are reminded that it will soon be time to get back into the water. We are fortunate that Michigan has many lakes in which to enjoy the sport of scuba diving. This sport has a special place in Albion history, for several Albionites were involved as participants when the sport of scuba diving was still in its infancy.
The Albion Swimming and Diving Club was organized in 1960 by Duane Johns and Edwin Moore. It was in existence for more than a decade, into the early 1970s. The nickname for the club became the Albion Water Warriors. Duane had been diving since the early 1950s, and the first scuba tank he owned was a 70 cubic foot one purchased through Sears and Roebuck. He also purchased a wetsuit "kit," where you had to cut, piece, and glue the neoprene together yourself to insure a proper fit. Other equipment was purchased through Army surplus. Scuba diving was still relatively new in those years, and many Americans got their first look at the sport via the television program "Sea Hunt," or a Jacques Cousteau TV special.
Duane became a certified scuba diving instructor through the NAUI organization (which is still in existence today; Sub-Aquatic Sports in Battle Creek certifies divers through NAUI) in 1960 and was the first NAUI instructor certified in Michigan. He took his training for that in Chicago. Duane subsequently taught the sport to many Albion young people, as well as helping train Michigan State Police divers. It cost one dollar to fill a scuba tank back then, but Duane purchased his own compressor which turned out to be a big help, especially on club dive trips.
Members of the club included: Robert Biggs, Red Cross instructor Donald Bigley, John Cheek, Rev. William Erickson (Free Methodist Church pastor), James Hart, Tom Humphrey, Duane Johns, Rick Johns, George Johnson, Shirley Kabel, Mike Kulikowski (uncle of yours truly), Jerry Lauer, John Luedman, Tom Maynard, Albert "Butch" Morgan, Wayne Proudfit, Mike Sadger, Gary Sadger, Sue Sadger, Bob Sharp, Gloria Sharp, Tom Struble, Art Veramay, Roger Vitale, and Jon Williams.
The club held regular meetings and pool practices. They also learned numerous diving techniques, such as buddy breathing, underwater mapping, and underwater photography including movies. The club participated in many diving events held in Michigan amongst various diving clubs, and even went diving in the Great Lakes. Of course nearby inland lakes were the most readily available for area divers. Gregory Lake south of Swains Lake was a favorite diving spot, as well as Gang Lakes and Duck Lake. The club belonged to the Michigan Skin Diving Council, and Duane Johns served as president of Region 6 of that organization for a time in the 1960s; some meetings were held here in Albion.
On January 14, 1962, the club gave an ice dive demonstration on the future hockey pond next to Rieger Park. This public demonstration gave Albion residents a close-up look at this new sport. That event made the front cover of the January-February 1962 issue of the Union Steel Messenger. The pond was only about 8 feet deep. Divers entered the frigid waters in wetsuits, in the days before dry suits became readily available.
Today diving has been made much more easier and safer with the advent of underwater air pressure gauges, computers, buoyancy compensators, and contemporary dry suits. The Albion Water Warriors had none of those modern-day items. They enjoyed the sport they loved however with the equipment they had. Their pioneering spirit served as an example for what today is a popular and exciting sport not only in Michigan, but around the world as well.
Special thanks to Duane Johns and Art Veramay for information for this week’s article. In going through Duane’s photo album and scrapbook, it was hard to choose a photo for this week’s article from amongst so many. From our Historical Notebook this week we present a photo from the January 14, 1962 ice dive in the future hockey pond by Rieger Park, showing (L-R) divers Duane Johns and Mike Sadger entering the water. Standing in the back are: Tom (last name unknown) placing the dive flag on the ice, then Jon Williams, Donald Bigley, John Cheek, and Gary Sadger. How many of our readers remember the Albion Water Warriors?
The Albion Water Warriors, January 14, 1962, Rieger Park
All text copyright, 2020 © all rights reserved Frank Passic