Holyoke Woman Stayed in Water For Seven Hours

by Laurel | January 17th, 2012

Upon first glance at the article title, one might suppose this is yet another story about someone falling into the Connecticut River or a Holyoke canal. Instead, this is a report on Mrs. Della (Hebert) Sullivan, who, in 1927 entered the Wrigley Ocean Marathon. William Wrigley, Jr., of chewing gum fame, had bought an interest in Catalina Island and this marathon was an event meant to promote the island. The marathon, a 22 mile (35 kilometer) course from Catalina Island to the California mainland took place January 15 – 16, 1927. With water temperatures hovering in the 50s, over 2/3 of the contestants dropped out after just a few hours and only one person completed the race, George Young, a 17 year old Canadian from Toronto, taking him 14 hours and 44 minutes.

18 January 1927

Mrs. Della Sullivan Found Water Too Cold in Catalina Swim, Her Husband Wires Home

Holyoke, January 17 — The first word from Mrs. Della (Hebert) Sullivan, Holyoke’s entry in the Catalina swim was received this morning by her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Frank Hebert of 121 Center Street, in a telegram sent from Long Beach, California. The telegram read: “Frozen out after seven hours, Della feeling fine.” It was signed by Dr. Thomas Sullivan, husband of Mrs. Sullivan, who accompanied her on the trip to the west coast and acted as her manager.

It was the first official notice that Mrs. Sullivan had participated in the swim, the press dispatches not mentioning her name as one of the starters.

When seen this morning her father said the he was glad that George Young, youthful entrant of Toronto, had covered the distance. “I don’t know what happened to Della, all I know is that the water at that point is very cold at times and I told Della that before she started west. I lived in Oakland for some years and am acquainted with the changes of temperature in the water along the West coast. You see I was very fond of the water myself and was in and out half a dozen times during the day.”

“There is one thing I do know,” he continued, “If Della saw that the task was hopeless she would not be fool-hardy enough to carry on, but would promptly get out of the water. I know that.” he added with emphasis.

Mrs. Sullivan gained aquatic prominence last summer when she won the 40-mile swim on the St. Lawrence River last year. Her success during that contest encouraged her to undertake the marathon on the west coast and she and her husband left New Year’s day for California. They will return about February 1.

Adapted from The Springfield Republican.

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