Bob Rajner (left) with fellow divers in Perrysburg,
Dwight D. Eisenhower was in the Whitehouse, Hawaii
became our 50th State, gasoline cost 30 cents per
gallon, and Bob Rajner took his first breath
underwater. The year was 1959, and the dive site was
Whitehouse Quarry. Bob's equipment consisted of a
single 72 cubic foot tank, a two-hose Jet-Air
regulator with an R-valve, fins, mask and swim
trunks. (No wet suit).
Those who have had the good fortune to know one of
Northwest Ohio's pioneer divers would agree that Bob
Rajner is a pretty tough customer in terms of
withstanding cold water temperatures. His first dive
was in swim trunks and a smile. The second dive (10
days later) was in 1/4" neoprene head to toe! Ken
Bauer, a neighbor and friend, was Bob's dive buddy
for those early dives as well as many more over the
next five years. Ken was a U.S. Divers dealer at the
time and it is safe to assume that a rush order for
the two wet suits took place shortly after that
first quarry experience.
Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to sit down with
Bob to develop a time line for diving in its infancy
in Northwest Ohio. Many people have played a part in
bringing scuba diving to the area, however, Bob
states that four individuals come to mind when one
goes back to the beginning stages.
Bob considers Dick Schonfield who owned and operated
the first dive shop in Toledo to be the first. It
was called Aqua-Products and was located on Monroe
Street. The second would be Dick Tiller who also
opened a shop a bit later, then Jim McCoy and Don
Dick Schonfield opened his shop in late 1957 or
early 1958, selling U.S. Divers gear with a little
of Dacor products thrown in. He purchased Air Force
surplus Ingersoll-Rand air compressors and would
sell air fills at Salisbury quarry. There was
friendly competition with Jim McCoy, and frequently
they would heat up to the point of having air wars
between them with one or both giving air fills for
In the 50s there were four dive clubs in the area.
One, Toledo Submariners still exists. The President
at the time was Franny Morelock. The other groups
were the Neptune Knights led by Don Lea, The
Toledo Sea Drifters led by Mary Follas, and The
Toledo School of Water Sports led by Don Loesch.
Bob Rajner and John Wasielewski were early members
of the Toledo Submariners. They would have monthly
meetings at Dick Tiller's shop on Reynolds Road.
There they would make plans for upcoming dives, both
locally and in the Great Lakes. Bob considers Dick
Tiller to be one of the true pioneers of scuba
diving in the area opening up his shop in 1960
promoting Scuba in Northwest Ohio.
Bob and John would be wreck diving in the cold
waters of the north with gear that was quite spartan
by today's standards. Bob recalls a dive trip that
they made to Flower Pot Island in the Georgian Bay.
The plan was that he and Dick Tiller would dive to
235 feet with a safety diver and stage bottles at
100 feet and at 30 feet all tethered to a down line.
The task at hand was for each of them to attach a
clothespin at the 235 foot mark and start back to
the surface. That was well before the dive world
knew much about Nitrogen Narcosis or inflatable BCs.
Bob is sure they were pretty narc?d when it was time
to clip on. He managed to get his in place, but Dick
did not. He will still vouch for Dick that he
completed the dive. Bob states, "I think if we
didn?t have the down line in place, to pull
ourselves up, we would still be down there!"
Bob states that the certification process in the
very beginning wasn?t a process at all. He requested
a copy of the Navy Dive tables from the government
and learned everything he could from them.
May 1st, 1966, is an important date in Bob's diving
career. He attended a seminar held in Marion, Ohio,
which was put on by the Ohio Council of Skin and
Scuba Divers for attendees to become Instructors. A
gentleman by the name of Bill McBride ran the
seminar for the Ohio Council. At that same time,
Bill was in charge of the Y.M.C.A. instructors and
NAUI instructors. Most of the attendees, Bob
included, did not have a C-card because it was
something brand new. When they finished the seminar,
they were recognized as Ohio Council and Y.M.C.A.
instructors, however, NAUI would only recognize them
as open water divers, not instructors. Bob can
honestly say that he became an Open Water diver and
Open Water Instructor on the same day " May 1, 1966!
Just one month later, Bob received a letter from a
brand new organization that congratulated him on his
accomplishment in Marion, Ohio. The organization
wanted Bob to join their ranks as an instructor. He
declined the invitation because he already had two
group affiliations and did not think a third was
necessary. This new outfit was called PADI. Had he
accepted their offer, he would have had an
instructor number in the single digits.
In 1964, Bob was working at the Toledo Shipyard
machine shop. The "Cedarville" was sent their for
her five-year inspection. It was determined that the
large ship needed a new propeller shaft. Since it
was Bob's project, they set about turning a 20 foot,
10,000 lb prop shaft for the vessel. Winter came and
went and the Cedarville left and went about her
business. Frannie Morelock, Ty Joudin, and Bob were
well on their way to driving to Tobermory, Ontario
in early May 1965. They had the radio on that night
and it was announced that the Cedarville had
collided with another ship in the fog and sank. Less
than one month later, John Wasielewski, Dick
Schonfield, Chuck Cousino, Al Slates and Bob drove
to the Straights of Mackinaw and dove the wreck of
the Cedarville for the first time. Everything was
still intact. That was long before anyone thought
about ship preservation. Bob recalls a fire hose
hanging straight down from the wheel house, its
brass nozzle was tempting treasure, but they left it
where it was.
Today Bob still teaches Scuba Diving and is the
chairman of the Friday night dives at Portage
He is known to come up with themes for these dives
and the delicious food. A dive before eating and
what better way is there to spend an evening with
friends and local divers. Bob is retired after
working at Chrysler for 30 years and has been
married to his wife, Sharon, for 47 years. When Bob
isn?t diving, he enjoys playing golf.
Bob and Ken in 1961. Bob is on the right with his
Bel Aqua Gumby
one of the first wetsuits for cold-water diving.
responsible for the Friday night gatherings at
Portage Quarry, Arrgh.