830-629-1572 | Open Tue-Sat 10 a.m.-4 p.m., archives by appointment.

Aquatic expertise was abundant in old New Braunfels

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

Did you know that there was a water ballet in New Braunfels the July 4th weekend? No? That’s not surprising because it was a very private family affair out at the end of Krueger Canyon. And the star of the show was an 80 year old lady. Here’s the scoop:

Way back in the 1920s, NB was host to many water activities and shows, from the Venetian Water Carnival on Landa Park Lake to the 1950s beauty pageant competitions. Landa Park was the perfect setting for these shows with its clear lake and spring-fed swimming pool.

Carol Warwick Smith (Bucky) grew up in NB, and spent many hours at Landa Park. She was such a strong swimmer that she became involved in competitive swimming in San Antonio while she was in high school. Growing up, she was intrigued by a movie starring Esther Williams called “Million Dollar Mermaid” and through that movie she was introduced to synchronized swimming (water ballet set to music, aquacade).

Smith graduated from North Texas College in 1950 and joined the aquatic team called Corkettes that put on ballet shows at the famous Shamrock Hotel in Houston. Then in August, she returned to her hometown to organize the first aquacade for the Miss Texas Pageant held in the Landa Park spring-fed pool. Twenty-five girls answered the call to become Esther Williams in that first ballet. Those girls found out that synchronized swimming was not as easy at it seemed, but there was much camaraderie and fun attached to it.

According to the August 8, 1950, Herald, “Although the talent of the contestants was good, the numbers staged by Bucky Warwick and her Aquacadets stole the show”. A stage and ramps had been constructed leading to the center of the pool and one of the numbers was “Rockettes of Radio City” in which the girls came on to the spotlighted ramp, gave a high kick, and then moved in perfect unison to their places in the water. Another very popular number was one in which the girls swam with lighted torches.

When I went to TCU as a freshman in the fall of 1950, I took swimming as my physical education class (an easy A).When the instructor asked who knew what synchronized swimming was, I of course held up my hand. She asked if I would be able to organize a group, and with an “ignorance is bliss” attitude, I agreed.  I found out that not everyone in Texas had the opportunity to swim like we did here in NB and for that matter not everyone even knew how to swim. I finally got 10 girls together and we did a few performances. I wrote the script, got the music together and all because I was in Bucky Warwick’s aquacade.
Smith moved from New Braunfels and when she returned she was asked to reunite those who swam in the 1950 aquacade to perform for the 150th anniversary of NB.

Now let me fill you in on that July aquacade at the end of Krueger Canyon. The house where Smith had raised her children had a sizeable swimming pool that had filled up with rocks and mud through flooding. To continue giving swimming lessons, she had moved to her parent’s home. Secretly her daughters and her sons-in-laws, and her grandchildren cleaned up the pool and restored it. Smith was told that she was going to be honored by her family on her 80th birthday and all she had to do was to dress like Esther Williams in her 50s + bathing suit. When she arrived at the house, her four daughters, five granddaughters, and one grandson put on an aquacade in her honor, even using some of the old torches as props. Guess who swam the part of Esther Williams!

Bucky Warwick in the late 1940s.