The Berea College swim requirement began in 1928, shortly after the completion of the Seabury Gymnasium, which included a swimming pool. In addition to the already rigorous Physical Education and Athletics program, where students were required to pass a range of physical ability measures and maintain physically active during their schooling, the faculty decided to require all students to pass a swim test (the ability to swim one length of the pool) prior to graduation.
According to longtime Director of Physical Education & Athletics, Oscar H. Gunkler, the swimming pool at the newly constructed Seabury Gymnasium was:
"the first full swimming pool facility in any educational institution in Kentucky. The new pool was a beautiful white tile structure 75 feet long by 35 feet wide, nine feet deep at one end and four feet deep at the other end. The water was constantly circulated... complete with three modern filters and a chlorination system kept the water in almost sterile condition. The college engineer, Mr. Biggerstaff, was in charge of the pool. The College owned and operated the water and electric utilities for the city of Berea. At the time, the constant circulation and filtering actually insured the purity of the water in the pool to be better than the drinking water in the town."
Gunkler also mentions how Dr. Cowley, the College Head Physician at the time "maintained that "if God had meant for man to swim, he would have given him nostrils like a hippopotamus," " freely distributed Dr.'s excuses from swimming, inhibiting Gunkler's efforts to enforce the rule, and to encourage water-wary mountain students to give it a try.
Since Seabury was the men's only gym facility, Mondays at the pool were designate for women only and women used the faculty men's locker room. Men swam in the nude, but women were required to wear suits, and caps if they had long hair. The general men's locker room and the faculty men's locker room of course shared a wall. Many a Berea alum can recall tales of the legendary "peep" holes and the resulting shenanigans which occurred over the years.