Sometimes when I tell people everything my dad, Newton Perry, did in his lifetime, they really can?t believe it.
While just a teenager in the 1920s, my dad worked at Florida?s Silver Springs, a site renowned for its crystal clear water, which was the setting for some of the first underwater movies.
Those short films, depicting underwater picnics, schoolrooms and the like, were typically shown before the main feature. In my dad?s first shoot, he ate a banana, a sandwich and drank a soda, all underwater in one take. He wound up holding his breath for 3 minutes 50 seconds a record at the time.
A star swimmer in high school and college, he was a regular in the movies, alternately starring, directing and serving as an underwater supervisor throughout the next 20-plus years. He was Johnny Weissmuller?s underwater stunt double in several of the Tarzan movies.
He was also quite a teacher. In addition to the swimmers he instructed for the films, my dad helped train the military?s frogmen to swim underwater in the ?40s in Wakulla Springs. Over the years, he also conducted an underwater show and later started a traveling water show.
In 1955, my dad founded Perry?s Swim School, which I continue to operate today. My dad?s nephew, Olympic-medal-winner Don Schollander, was one of his most memorable students. To top it off, in 1981 Newt Perry who was called ?The Human Fish? and the ?father of underwater swimming? was inducted into the Florida Sportswriters Hall of Fame.