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BEHIND THE SCENES / Orange County

A School of Fish-to-Be

October 01, 1998

You could say Doris Maxwell has done swimmingly well. For 42 years, she's happily split her time between teaching kids how to swim and running the business side of her company, Blue Buoy Swim School in Tustin.

For 10 months out of the year, Maxwell oversees 22 instructors who teach 2,500 kids how to float, paddle and go the distance. (The school closes during the wintry days between mid-November and mid-January.)

How did Maxwell get started?

"My late husband, Melvin, and his friends were on the swim team at Occidental College [in Los Angeles] and they thought there had to be a better way of teaching swimming than to stand on the deck and holler at kids," she says.

The better way started with actually jumping in the pool with them and offering more hands-on guidance. From this simple notion, Melvin and Doris began their school.

Maxwell keeps the classes small, teaching only two children, often toddlers, at a time. The classes last 20 minutes, which, she says, is about their limit.

"It's long enough with their attention spans," Maxwell says. "They think they can play a long time, but [the class and play afterward] is tiring for them."

Maxwell now sees a third generation of swimmers at her school. "It's sort of fun to answer the phone and hear that the caller had lessons from us, some of them from me."

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