Rinnisland, Rhonda

Interviewer: Jean McMillen
Place of Interview: Grove Building
Date of Interview:
File No: 56 Cycle: 2
Summary: Twin Lakes, swimming instructor

Interview Audio


Interview Transcript

Rhonda Rinnisland Interview:

This is file #56, cycle 2. This is Jean McMillen. Today’s date is June 23, 2017. I am interviewing Rhonda Rinnisland. She is going to talk about Twin Lakes and her swimming coaching and anything else she wants to talk about. First we will start with the genealogical information.

JM:What is your name?

RR:Rhonda Katherine Smith Rinnisland

JM:When were you born?

RR:I was born December 5, 1949 at Rockville Center, New York.

JM:Your parents’ names?

RR:My father was Dr. Roger F. Smith, he was a dentist. My mom was Rachel Cronin Smith.

JM:Do you have siblings?

RR:I have 2 brothers; one is Roger and the other is Richard.

JM:How did you come to the area?

RR:My grandmother bought some property on Twin Lakes in 1922-23. She had a hotel there from the early 1920’s until 1967.

JM:What was the name of the hotel?

RR:Lakemont Villa

JM:How many rooms did it have?

RR:Well the main house had 8 bedrooms. Then grandma built a building that had 36 more. She had one hundred guests and three meals a day.

JM:How much staff?

RR:That I really don’t know. My mom and I worked in the office. I know grandma hired some local girls to help in the dining room. My grandfather had been the principal of Flushing High School in Queens. He brought a couple of the cafeteria ladies up during the summer to work at the hotel.

JM:Didn’t you say that your great uncle had a hotel as well?

RR:My grandmother’s brother owned the Twin Lakes Hotel which became the Twin Lakes Beach Club. (See Jack Silliman’s interview and Mike Haupt’s interview (#51) for more information about the Beach Club.

JM:I bet you have been a swimmer all your life.

RR:Yes, so far. It has advantages and disadvantages.2.

JM:Now we are going to start with your career as a swim teacher. Where did you start?

RR:My first job was over at the Canaan Pool the year the Canaan Pool opened in 1968. I was there until 1975. I did 2 summers at Washinee Woods Day Camp. This year is my 39th year at Lakeville.

JM:Really! That is impressive. Now here in Lakeville what are the things that you teach?

RR:I teach swimming and then I coach the swim team. We have different levels of swimming instruction starting with the tiny ones, the parent tots. The parent has to come and the children are under 3. Then we have tiny tots, pre-beginners, beginners, advanced beginners, intermediates swimmers.

JM:Does it go by age or skill?

RR:A little bit of both. The advance beginner class goes in the lanes in the lake. The water there is over the children’s heads so you have to be comfortable in deep water. We have lanes where they can swim; I call it lane-ophobia when a child’s toes cannot reach the bottom and they are afraid of really deep water. You can’t see the bottom; it is not like a pool. There are mats down. We have fish in the water so it can be scary.

JM:Does each level have a certain number of requirements in order to go to the next level?

RR:Yes, at level 1 they have to be able to put their face in the water, to be able to float on their back, and to jump into the water using a PFD (personal floatation device). There are different skill levels for each one. With the intermediates they have to swim a specific number of feet.

JM:Because you have done this for so long you can tell when a child is ready to go into the next level.

RR:Oh yeah.

JM:You do not have to do a test or anything?

RR: No we used to but we don’t any more.

JM:Tell me about swim team.

RR:We don’t have the numbers that we used to. There are too many activities, and people going away. We have the 10 and under and the 11 and up. They can stay until they are in their last year of high school because you are allowed up until age 18. That is generally when we have our life guards come over and swim.

JM:What are the requirements for the 10 and under?



RR:When we have them in the lake if they are comfortable swimming in the deep water over their head, I am fine with that. We will start them off with front fall, back fall. We generally work on the breast stroke and butterfly stroke.

JM:Those would be the harder ones, wouldn’t they?

RR:Yes because of coordination. You have to get the hands and feet to work together. First of all we teach them how to breathe properly. They must be comfortable in the water. First we wash our hands, wash our face, put water behind our ears, sit in the water and splash, sitting up and then on our stomach. When they are on their stomach, head to the side, breath, face down and blow bubbles. That is the main thing.

JM:Oh clever

RR:I started this with the little guys. Then I have then put their head back on the sand so they get the feeling of their head being back.

JM:That is clever; small steps so they don’t get scared and then they are very comfortable.

RR:They use kick boards, and swim noodles which they put under their arms. It is soft and they can paddle around and blow bubbles.

JM:All this paraphernalia I did not know existed.

RR:We did not have it before; I don’t know who invented them, I wish I had.

JM:I am assuming that the 10 and under will move up to 11 and up as their skills improve.

RR:Right, you might have an 8 year old child who is comfortable in the deep water so he can go into the Advanced Beginner class.

JM:Do you do competition?

RR:We do.

JM:How many do you do a year?

RR:I think we have 8. We swim against Canaan, Woodridge Lake, Litchfield, the country club at Litchfield. We used to go to Sharon, but Sharon does not have the numbers. Last year, I think it was the second year we said to the children in Sharon that if you want to swim competitively, please come over to our practice and then you can be part of the team. We had about 4 children last year. (See Maureen Dell file #39, cycle 2 for a swim team story).

JM:When you have a competition, how long does it last?



RR:They can last 3 ½ hours. There are 16 events. 8 and under girls free, 8 and under boys free, 9-10 girls free, 9-10 boys free; you break it down by girls and boys 11,12, 3,14,15,18.

JM:I assume swim team is only during summer.

RR:Well at the high school, student are from the region, we have a lot who swim together so we have a lot of swimmer.

JM:Does the high school have a pool?

RR:No, we swim at Hotchkiss in the afternoon right after school. It is very nice. Our meets are generally Wednesday nights.

JM:You also teach life guarding.

RR:I teach that with Jacquie Rice. We just finished our class; everybody passed.

JM:What are the requirements to be a life guard?

RR:You have to be in good physical shape and also a good swimmer and the knowledge that you learn during the class. You have to do your CPR A and B. basic first aid and water rescue. Now the life guarding has changed from when I started. You now use equipment; we use equipment. We have the rescue tubes that you use in the rescue.

JM:I assume the age to be what?


JM:How many did you have in your class this year?

RR:30 20 were first time and 10 recertified. Every two years you have to recertify to keep you skills up. There are changes sometimes.

JM:Do you have to progress from swim team to life guard or is life guard class separate?

EE:They are totally separate. We have a lot of student from surrounding towns. We have kids from Falls village, some from Sharon Beach, Cornwall, but we did not have anyone from Cornwall this year.


RR:Canaan, yes.

JM:What do you like best to teach?

RR: The little kids, the older kids are different.

JM:If the little kids have a good experience to start with and that is so important.


RR: I had one child come up to me, “Lady, lady, are you going to make me jump off that big raft?” I said, “ No, why?” “I had a teacher who took me up on the high dive and made me jump into the water.” The child was probably about 6.

JM:That is scary!

RR:That is scary. It took him a while to get used to it, but I have not had anybody who never made it. I had one young man, he is now married and has a child, who said, ”You were so good and so patient teaching me how to swim.”

JM: that is important. Isn’t it nice when they come back and tell you that. Then you know you have done a really good job.

RR:Right. Sometimes they come and say , “This is my old coach.” “No, I am your former coach.” Let’s keep the age out of it.

JM:I had a child who introduced me to his grandmother. Instead of saying, “This is my old 4th grade teacher”; he said, “This is my only 4th grade teacher.” Loved him!

RR:There you go.

JM:This has been wonderful.

RR:Thank you Jean

JM:Thank you so very much.

RR: I’ll expect to see you at the Grove; come over and have lunch.

JM:Oh sure.