Anybody remember Bill Barber and the Scuba Oceanography Explorer Post?

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Posted by Timotheus on June 08, 2001 at 16:47:19:

Are there any 40-somethings out there who remember Bill Barber and his Scuba Oceanography Explorer Post that was started up in 1970? Here's some preliminary recollections I have:

Some flyers anouncing the formation of a new scuba oceanographer explorer post appeared around Hawthorne High School (HHS) in about November of 1970. I showed up to the first meeting in the HHS cafeteria along with some friends and several of us joined up. People from several South Bay HS were there, so a lot of flyers must have been distributed.

Membership cost was $15 a month plus basic equipment (which Mr. Barber conveniently had for sale through his own company "Ocean Academics"). Required fins were those huge tan UDT Duck Feet - they were like boards!

We met once a week at the Hawthorne outdoor pool. Mr. Barber, a former Marine demolition diver, drilled us like recruits. How many scuba courses today make you do an hour of push ups, burpies, situps, etc. before you hit the pool? We had to pass a pretty tough swimming test just to qualify for the training. I still remember the harrassment swim we did one night - we survived!

We also met once a week at Westchester High School for lecture. Sometimes Mr. Barber brought in guest lecturers like Glenn Egstrom (sp?) from NAUI. Another guy came in from Beckman Industries and showed us an "Electrolung" - a rebreather unit with electronic controls - guess it beat the Draager unit by a few years. Mr. Barber also took us on a weekend field trip to San Diego to tour the Seal base and Scripts - one of the best memories of my high school years. I remember a guy at Scripps with the last name of Stewart (was his 1st name Dave?) who was a famous oceanographer and gave a real interesting lecture and had some incredible U/W movies.

I remember Mr. Barber as the best diving instructor I ever had - tough and strict, but sometimes very humorous when it was appropriate.

We made a trip to Catalina in March of 1971, but it wasn't a certification dive. 30 or 40 of us went over to the Boy Scout camp at Emerald Bay on the "Thunderbird." (Someone told me Desi Arnez [sp?] had willed it to the Boy Scouts.) For some reason, there was no way to dock in the bay there and I and a few others had to swim ashore in wet suits to get a rowboat to bring everyone else and their gear ashore. As I recall, we only did one tank dive the whole weekend - in the little cove to the west of the main bay. We returned to the mainland a day or two later on the "Velron" (anybody remember it?).

That trip led to the demise of the Scuba Oceanography Explorer Post. We had been told to report to the Thunderbird at Marina Del Rey on Friday night before the trip so we could make an early departure on Saturday morning. We slept on board in different areas of the 80' yacht, but apparently there was some mixing of the sexes that night in one of the bunk areas (Not where I was, honest! - anyone have any info on what went on?) and it got reported to someone's parents. The Boy Scouts then heard about it and they decided to take away Mr. Barber's charter as an Explorer Post leader. In a letter they sent out to everybody, the scouts claimed that NASDS had taken away Mr. Barber's instructor license, but I could never verify this.

So, me an my buddies had put in almost $100 in dues each plus our UDT Duck Feet, and still had no C-card. So in May of '71 we decided to go over to Pacific Divers Supply (PDS) in West LA and get NAUI certified for I think $35. They had their own pool in the back of the shop. Funny thing was, one day as we were leaving the shop towards the end of the 6-week course, we saw Bill Barber streaming into the shop with a number of new recruits, apparently to use the pool for instruction!

I still have my "Scuba Oceanographer" instruction book and the post's T-shirt (which for some reason doesn't fit anymore).

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