Legends of Diving Articles

 

Charles Richard Blakeslee
Skin Diver Magazine Founder

I was born October 29, 1925, in Manitou, Oklahoma, where I lived for my first five years. I spent most of my growing up and school years in

southwestern Missouri near Joplin and Neosho, first attending a one-room school house. Frog Pond, with approximately thirty students from first through the eighth grade. My father was a telegraph and station operator on an oil pipeline. We moved to southern California when I was thirteen. I attended Lynwood, CA, and Clearwater, CA, junior high schools, then Compton High School and Compton Junior College, Compton, CA. I also took several technical courses relating to the oil industry and maritime radio at that time.

After working as a machinist in the shipyards and aircraft industries during World War II, I was employed by Texaco, Inc. as a lab technician, essentially in Bacteriology, for nine years in Long Beach, CA.


Chuck and Jeri in New Orleans in 1994,
DEMA Reaching Out Award

In 1948 I married, Geraldine Stone (Jeri), my lifelong diving companion, to whom I have now been married 61 years. We have four adult children, Chris, Jim, Carol and Renee.

I started diving in 1946 after a lifelong interest in what lies beneath the waters of the earth. First receiving an LA County Diving Instructor's

Certificate (#2UICC) m 1954, I obtained a NAUI affiliate status in 1963.1 am the inventor of the C02 speargun, "the Barracuda", receiving a patent in 1953.

In 1951, Jim Auxier and I founded The SKIN DIVER. As co-publishers and co-owners of the magazine, a California Corporation, Jim became Editor and I was Advertising Manager, while we alternated annually as President and Vice-President We published the magazine for 12 years before selling to Peterson Publications in 1963. In my opinion, SKIN DIVER MAGAZINE of the 1950's and 60's is, for the most part, the only American source for reference material relating to recreational diving, its activities, personalities,

and the manufacturers and retailers of early diving equipment. Many myths exist about the history of skin diving, as so few records were kept early on. SKIN DIVER began to investigate, to record, to follow and dispute, to compare and add to, and to question. It was a forum for divers and historians, a place to post one's opinion and ideas.

During my years of involvement with SKIN DIVER MAGAZINE, I received many awards and honors, personal, as well as professional, in the 1950's

and 1960's. As a member of the Dolphins Diving Club of Compton, CA, I dived with the winning 1954 Pacific Coast Champions in 1954, and competed in the 1954 National Competitions in Key West, Florida. Jim and I received the NOGI award for Art in 1960. I was a regular contributor to Colliers Encyclopedia Yearbook and Selling Sporting Goods, was a member of tile Board of Directors of the International Film Festival, a NAUI organization participant, and served on numerous ad hoc committees, such as that of selecting and promoting the Diver's Flag. I appeared at numerous Fish and Game meetings in support of divers' rights and beach access, and served as an advocate for safety in diving through restriction of ads determined not to be safe - "a good friend to all that was good and wholesome in the industry."


Jim Auxier about 1960

After selling SKIN DIVER MAGAZINE to Peterson Publications in 1963,I retired to devote my energies to raising avocados in Carpinteria, CA. for 23 years, where I continued to dive regularly along the California coastline and the Channel Islands, along the coast of Mexico, the Gulf of California, Baja California and its islands, British Columbia, Hawaii, Fiji, Tahiti, and Australia. Over the years I also dived in the Florida Keys, the oil rigs in Louisiana, the Mediterranean on the Grand Congloue wreck and the Aeolian Islands, and most recently, in the Cayman Islands.

I was inducted into the DEMA Diving Hall of Fame and received the Reaching Out Award in 1994, was a Historical Diving Society Conference speaker in Santa Barbara, CA. in 2002, and was inducted into the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame in the Grand Caymans in 2003. My interest has continued in the underwater world and the industry that supports responsible diving.

My wife, Jeri, and I live in Nevada City, the Sierra foothills of the Gold Country, of California. I am now 84 and owe my longevity to my years of breath-hold diving and ocean swimming.

HDS Speech, History of Diving, 2002, by Chuck Blakeslee


Autobiography and Speech transcribed in December 2009

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