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Catalog Number 2013.55.10
Object Name Video
Title Marilyn Bell
Scope & Content Marilyn Bell:
1 of 3; 1:31On the CSHoF: Sports Hall of Fame is a passion that I think is wonderful not only for the sports but the Canadian kids.
2:08Childhood: 1949, age 9, was the summer she swam her first mile in the Oakwood swimming pool; was at the lakeshore watching the training for the CNE marathon swims and met Winnie Roach's father, Winnie was the first Canadian to swim the English Channel; Marilyn was with her Dad and did not want to swim in the lake because she was afraid of the fish, Winnie's father said to come back and Winnie would help her, he thought she could do it; (3:32) he threw out this challenge"; Winnie helped to swim in the lake and Marilyn swam her first mile in the exhibition swim, Cliff Lumsden encouraged her
5:11Got into distance swimming because I was such a lousy short distance swimmer, always coming in 4th or 3rd. (5:32) "I didn't fit into the box of a lean, mean competitive swimmer that raced a clock and other people."; met Gus Ryder - "I had no idea where was going to take me" and switched to his club
7:11Hard headed and stubborn, determined - perfect fit for a marathon, patient, let things happen and change things along the way; just an ordinary kid, shy, private
9:24Push came from inside, I had a fire inside of me to go to the Olympics, realized would not going to do that but gradually changed goal and direction, got tired of being 4th or 5th. Gus said "You are going to do something great".
Talks about Winnie Roach, Cliff Lumsden and Barbara Ann Scott. BA was the model for Canadian women at that time.
12:12First pro swim came in 4th. Her teacher (went to a convent school) said they were proud of her and that swimming was a more ladylike sport and to set a good example.
13:55Trained in pool over winter; serious training was at Port Credit in the river
15: 20"Gus is larger than life". He set a high standard - checked with her former swimming coach before she could switch clubs; trusted him; tight relationship; she also helped with teaching handicapped children through Gus and this turned into a life-long love. The life lesson she learned from Gus "It was about living, eventually the tide will change".
19:331954 - totally naive, the media was driving the swim scene; Florence Chadwick, an American, was to swim across "our" lake; Florence had a business arrangement for the swim and Canadian challengers, such as Cliff Lumsden who were established marathon swimmers, were being left out and were upset; Cliff was training for a 26 mile marathon in Atlanta at the time and Gus suggested Marilyn train for it also. She entered and came in 9th overall, beating the rest of the women and some of the men
24:48Talks about being scared and thinking she couldn't do it but taking one stroke at a time and wanting to do one more stroke than Florence; never told Gus but he knew - he didn't tell her Florence was out of the race until she was really down, used it to motivate her
27:05Had about 2 weeks to train for the swim, the CNE had started in August 20-21st; funding problem - her family could not afford it, needed a boat, medical personnel, security, etc; Gus approached 2 Toronto newspapers and the Star agreed to sponsor her - her loyalty was to the star and she became their media star
31:10 Talks about her father wanting her not be pressured to do the swim; talks about the night swim and the eels, talks about Gus reminding her of the Atlanta swim and taking her past experience and building on it
32:54Talks about how Gus had a light focused just ahead of her and that she reached for the light and how it was psychologically very strong
34:36She weighed 119 pounds and didn't lose weight on the swim; the water was 55-60 degrees, hit a warm patch then hit a cold patch, since she trained in cold water she was conditioned to swimming in the cold and better able to handle it
38:04Talks about the start - Florence Chadwick was in charge of deciding on the start time, depending upon the conditions; they were to get 40 minutes notice but her Dad and Gus had gone for a walk when they were notified; a photographer from the Star helped her get to the start at the Coast Guard station
2 of 3: 0:07(Continuation of above) Gus could not be at the start so she had to start out on her own, in the night, and trust that he would find her; never considered turning back
4:32Talks about using Vaseline to reduce chaffing of swimsuit
5:04Talks about using the feeding stick to get her drink of pablum and corn syrup, she gained a pound on the swim, not allowed to touch the boat
6:00Talks about the waves, the currents, being blown by the wind and getting shifted off course, talks about her support group in the boat
8:00Talks about sunrise and how it made her feel hopeful; (9:02) talks about being ready to quit knowing she had done better than the others but Gus moved the boat away and she had to swim for it; she was angry but he know she would never forgive him if she quit
12:04Talks about friend Joan Cook who came out to the boat and then joined her briefly in the water to keep her moving; she has no recollection of the ending and touching the shore or the crowds waiting for her; "I missed the best part"
15:33Talks about being in good shape despite the swim and the media scramble to get her in their respective ambulances
17:26After the swim: her life was totally changed and she refers to her life as "before the swim and after the swim"; she went from being a private, shy little kid to a public person; she remembers getting letters from parents saying they wanted their child to be like her and set a good example; talks about it being a heavy responsibility and refers to BA Scott as presenting a strong image of Canadian womanhood
20:34English Channel swim: not experienced in salt water or with tides; lesson in patience and determination since it took so long to reach the shore because of the tides
22:50Talks about Winnie Roach and Cindy Nicholson swimming the English Channel and why she wanted to do it for the challenge
23:49Juan de Fuca Strait swim: dealing with treacherous tides and very cold water; she had planned to retire at age 18, she had already met her future husband; did not do a good job of her mental preparation, didn't have the right attitude, let all the mental stuff destroy her; (26:55) decided that she didn't want to leave swimming that way, wanted to go out on top; second attempt she was in poor condition but since she was swimming towards "home" she was psychologically better, back to being driven again
28:00"I felt good, all those years of determination and training came together."
28:28Talks about this swim being life changing since she had to deal with failure, when everyone was expecting her to finish the first time and she didn't make it; (28:59) "Failure is not something, you don't have to be afraid of failure"; she realized she was still going to be loved
28:37"From that I learned, for the rest of my life, if I failed at something, if I really believed I did my best and I failed, then that was ok. There wasn't anything negative about that. If I failed because I didn't put out the energy and doing what I should have been doing, then I had to really talk to myself about it. It's a life lesson because throughout my life I've had ups and downs, sometimes the ides are with me and sometimes it's against me, sometimes you have to stop something. But the key is you don't give up. Change your goal, change your interest but do something, don't stop."
30:14Talks about the Lou Marsh award, that it was the most wonderful that had happened to her at that point - "I've arrived"
3 of 3: 2:19(part of this section is missing) she talks about the radio broadcast of the swim and how a young man had listened to it and when he was lost at sea he thought if she could do it, so could he
3:42Induction to the CSHoF: inducted in 1958; came to Toronto in 1963 and attended a luncheon with other women and had her Dad there so it was very important to her
7:01Talks about the swim being you against the lake. She considers herself to be unsophisticated at this point and Gus was everything to her. Talks about his life coaching, the changes in technology from then to today and how primitive it was then. She is the most proud of being the first person and first woman to swim the lake and have a sense of satisfaction in beating those who said it could not be done.
11:31For a young person in her sport of swimming it is important to be water safe and to be able to help themselves if they get into a trouble spot.
12:30"When kids are involved in sport and they want to be involved, and they are not being pushed by this vicarious need that some parents might have - 'I didn't get to do this, but you are going to get to do this' - that is so wrong, so negative and you run the risk of damaging the young person's self esteem. When kids are allowed to participate, they have good coaching, they learn the rules of sportsmanship, they learn that there are going to be times that you are going to be last in your event. There may be times when you come in the middle and sometimes you even come out first. But the really important thing is the participation and that I want to do this for me - I'm not to be first but I'm getting better, I'm trying."
13:36Another thing that is important is that you allow kids to chose what they want to participate in.
15:25"I had then and I continue to have a deep will of fire, passion, determination. I need to be who I am and I need to be allowed to be able to be who I am. And I may not and I may not get it right all the time but I know that I'm better off trying and messing up than not trying at all."
17:35She talks about trying to be a model for kids her age and younger kids and still trying to do that
18:41"I would really like to be remembered as someone who just swam along, my own pace, my own values - It's who I am."
20:05Talks about Gus Ryder and the deep relationship and trust she had in him. For parents - "Allow your child to grow, to try and to chose the right find of people to guide your child". Talks about her parents choosing wisely and that they picked a good man, a good solid man - we were a team
21:09Shows feeding sticks and explains how they were used.
23:24Shows her swimsuit and talks about it.
24:23Shows her goggles and talks about them.

Year Range from 1949
Year Range to 1959
Subjects marathon swimming
Lake Ontario
English Channel
Juan de Fuca Strait
Canadian National Exhibition
women in sport

Search Terms determination
true to yourself
work ethic
presenting a good image of Canadian womanhood
believe in yourself