Legends of Diving Articles

 

Bill McBride
Early Ohio Instructor and Dive Evangelist

Born in Defiance, OH in 1933, I took SCUBA lessons in Toledo at the YMCA from Instructor Don Lee. I enrolled with my boss and a fellow salesman. This was in 1959, about 16 years after Cousteau had “invented” the Aqua-Lung. My boss and I, upon completion of our basic course, ordered “wet suit kits”, which were comprised of a roll of foam neoprene, (unlined), a pattern, two cans of glue, and five zippers. Thus, we made our own “custom fit” suits. We also made our own lead weights, using a large soup ladle as a mold.

I chose a double-hose regulator, and used various types of these until lung surgery ended my diving in 2005. I found that the double hose worked especially nice for close-up U/W photography. And I also liked the balance of it, and the fact that the exhaust didn’t stream past my ear.

The Ohio Council Of Skin and SCUBA Divers had formed a few years before, and I enrolled in one of that organization’s earliest Instructor Certification courses, again at Toledo. Later I also earned YMCA Instructor Certification, then NAUI, (my NAUI Instructor number is A-16), then once

I got into the SCUBA business I was also certified by PADI, (#1386) By 1964, along with teaching classes I also became involved with Certification Courses for Instructor rating, both for the YMCA, the Ohio Council, and NAUI. In this capacity I helped to teach and certify dozens of new Instructors, who went on to certify thousands of sport divers. I always took particular pride in helping to standardize the tests and skill requirements that had been previously lacking in some of the agencies practices. During this

period we were successful at weeding out most of the “wildcat” SCUBA courses that had been being offered the public, many with woefully inadequate standards.

During this early period I attended a NAUI convention in L.A., where I made a presentation on the benefits of making “field trip certification dives” a part of all agencies training courses. Until then, only NAUI was requiring this, and their “check out dives” were conducted military style, befitting advanced SEAL training. I also argued for the modification of their approach to better fit with recreational divers. In the audience for my presentation was Jacques Cousteau, who afterward congratulated me for addressing a “very controversial topic”.

By 1968, at first with a partner whom I soon bought out, the start of Sub-Aquatics was born. This dive store operation grew to incorporate 4 stores in 3 cities, and eventually to a customized training pool with a 20ft. deep silo connected to the large pool with an underwater “tunnel”. We trained and equipped thousands of sport divers, many teams of underwater recovery units, and dozens of Instructors. For search and recovery work we developed and taught several innovative search methods, utilizing nearby rivers, ponds, and lakes, mostly with extremely limited visibility conditions.

Sub-Aquatics was also instrumental in the formation and support of several dive clubs, and contributed in many ways to the growth of the Ohio Skin And SCUBA Council.

We also promoted and escorted many trips to some of the more exotic diving areas in the world, and in some cases helped to encourage the establishment of dedicated diving operations at some of those sites.

During these years I became knowledgeable in the field of producing high pressure compressed breathing air by attending compressor factory training sessions. I established, in conjunction with our diving business, a new branch called Breathing Air Systems. With the benefit of “being at the right place at the right time”, (and doing business in a customer-oriented manner), this branch became the largest distributor of this type of equipment in the U.S. Fire departments use this same type of equipment to refill the “smoke packs” worn by firefighters, and this market soon far outgrew the sales of compressor systems we were making to fellow dive stores. This division has, by now, made over 3000 system installations, some in every State in the country and many overseas.

Another diversification we made was to build a nearby banquet facility. Named the Grand Host East, this up-scale hall could seat 700 for private events and regularly drew over 1000 for public holiday buffets.

We also, at one point, experimented with leasing the Portage Quarry from the Stone company that owned it, and operating it as a dive facility. This was prior to the present management, and failed to work that well for us, mostly because of the distance from our shops, and our failure to find a competent manager for it.

In 2007 my wife Alice and I sold out our majority holding in our company and retired. Surviving a number of cancer and spine surgeries in recent years, my activities are mildly limited, but we still enjoy travel, spending a couple of weeks each year in Maui, and usually a couple more two week trips to the southwest, Alaska, etc. 

Portage Quarry Recreation Club, Inc.
12701 South Dixie
Bowling Green OH, 43402
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