Object of the Day

Swimming Coach Henry Grieser

We know that the man in this photo is the swim coach Henry Grieser along with David Dickson, but we don’t have any more information.

2002.038.069.001Did anyone know these two personally? Please share with us in the comments section below!


  • John Schmidt ( BHS 50 )

    I’d say that was taken at Pedro Miguel pool. In 1940, David was 5, That is according to the 1940 Census……..and I would say that David does not look to be 5. I was thinking that this show the diving boards in Pedro Miguel but then there appears to be some sort of building in the background…and my memory does not include anything like that during my time in PM (1936-46)
    Also note that David “Dabby” is wearing a Canal Zone Swimming “patch” and for his age – I think it mus be the “B” for Beginner……….I still have mine. Those “Dickson” kids could really swim

    • Nina Brown Kosik

      John — to me that’s the Balboa pool with the 2-family concrete house on Tavernilla right behind the diving area. (Bottom floor: Leves’; top floor: Benny’s). — Nina

  • Fred Sill

    Swimming coach Henry Grieser was an isthmian celebrity with his “Red White and Blue Troupe”, which received international attention thanks to “Life” magazine, newsreels, and champion swimmers he trained, including Olympic winner Alan Ford. My mother once told me that soon after she arrived on the isthmus as a teacher in Balboa, in the early 1920s (Miss Melgaard, in those days) Henry — who was presumably single as well — had dated her. When one of their early dates included a swim in the Balboa Pool, she was afraid she couldn’t match up to the curvy “bathing beauties” he coached, and stuffed padding into her bathing suit. (I asked he if she’d told my dad about this. She said “Perhaps. Perhaps not. But don’t YOU be the one to tell him.”)

  • Roland Green

    Henry John Grieser c.1891-1972
    Henry was born of German parents in Steinway, New York and shortly afterwards the family moved to Whitestone, Long Island. In his youth Henry gained a reputation as a swimmer and taught swimming at a number of clubs along the shores of Long Island and gave lessons to such notaries as Irving Berlin. In1919 he applied to the Government for a job in the Canal Zone and was accepted as a carpenter. His enthusiasm for swimming and teaching was undiminished and with the encouragement of Thomas Booz, Director of Clubs and Playgrounds, created the job of swimming instructor for the Canal Zone. Out of this he created the Red, White and Blue Swimming Troupe.
    Henry married in 1932, Kathleen Green to whom he remained married for the rest of his life. They had no children, however, Kathleen had a son from a previous marriage.
    In the mid 1940’s, Henry, in a lavish pageant and ceremony, retired and the couple initially moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan. In the early 1950’s Henry and Kathleen moved to Ireland to her ancestral home. Kathleen was born in 1896 at Blarney to a wealthy Anglo/Irish family who then still maintained numerous residences in County Cork. They bought a house in Crosshaven, County Cork where they remained until they both died in late 1972. Henry and Kathleen are buried in the cemetery attached to St. Luke’s, Church of Ireland in Douglas on the outskirts of Cork City.

    Roland Green.
    Cork, Ireland.
    Henry was my step-grandfather.

  • Fred Sill

    This is a follow-up to an earlier comment, which mentioned one of Henry Grieser’s swimmers, Alan Ford (Olympic medalist in 1948, and holder of two world records) . Another of Henry’s award-winning swimmers was Josephine McKim, who grew on Ancon Boulevard. She won three Olympic medals (1928 and 1932), and went on to Hollywood, where (among other roles) was the body double for Maureen O’Sullivan in the swimming sequence with Johnny Weismuller, in “Tarzan of the Apes”. She went on to have a stage career on Broadway. (I have been waiting for years to give a plug for Josephine, after hearing so much about her from her proud parents, who lived next to us when I was a kid.)

  • Cynthia Coughlin

    These postings are so old I do not know if anyone will read this but… my relative knew Henry. I have a post card issued on Henry Grieser honor day in Gamboa C.Z. Henry is featured in the middle.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *