My Grandma Rohlich always said, “Aren’t we lucky people?”… Yes, we are!
I began my journey at Barton Springs as a young girl. My grandmother, Mary Rohlich, swam there every day, even throughout the winter. She would take us to Barton Springs anytime of the year, but my fondest memories are as a child, catching turtles and minnows in the shallow end… and then releasing them.
Once I moved to Austin to go to the University of Texas, I still would meet Grandma for swims on the weekends. My Junior year in college, I applied for a lifeguarding job at the Springs, and then began an even more intimate relationship with the Springs. This was during the time that the salamanders were put on the endangered species list and SOS was constantly battling with developers to ensure water quality at the Springs.
I met my first very serious boyfriend at Barton Springs, and some other very special friendships were nurtured during rainy and sunny days lifeguarding at the Springs. I met one of my best friends, Dan Inman there as well. He would come the Barton Springs after the night shift as a fire-fighter and swim with a double fin. I was always fascinated, as he kind of resembled a dolphin!
After college, I left Austin to join the Peace Corps in Bolivia. I always missed my friends, family, and swims at Barton Springs. When I returned to Austin and met my husband, Barton Springs was the first place I wanted to show him about Austin. He loved it as well, and still does. After my first child, Sadie, was born in December 2010, I remember taking her to Barton Springs for the Polar bear plunge on January 1! She was only 3 weeks old, so we just dipped her toes in! This is also one of my favorite traditions. Now, both of my children love the cold water of Barton Springs and the peaceful, magical surroundings of the grassy hills.
My Grandma Rohlich had 10 children, and we constantly had visitors to Austin. She would always invite people for a swim on Saturday and Sunday morning, but it had to be early, before they started charging entry. After the swim at Barton, we would have family breakfast with bacon and eggs at Grandma’s house in Tarrytown. This is one of the richest memories I have and will hold dear as my Grandmother passed away this year. The simple times of warm coffee, crispy bacon, and fresh eggs after a glorious swim at Barton Springs.
My grandmother was also pivotal in organizing the full moon party at Barton Springs in the 1990’s, which now attracts hundreds every month. She would post a index card with the date of the full moon, and it would read, “All welcome”. She was always inclusive and loved showing off Barton Springs to guests and strangers alike. I loved watching her delight in howling at the full moon. And, everyone loved the potluck because Grandma would make her famous oatmeal cookies.
No matter where I was in the world, I was always looking for a place similar to Barton Springs, but it doesn’t exist. It is one of the most magical places in the world. I hope that people continue to protect and value such a gift we have in our great city. My Grandma Rohlich always said, “Aren’t we lucky people?”… Yes, we are!