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Splashing back into brisk plunges of yesteryear

Dozens of brave souls have taken the plunge every February, including this bunch photographed, circa 1997. (Courtesy Kahnawake Youth Center)

Over the years, dozens of local “celebrities” have taken the dunk into frigid waters to raise money for the Kahnawake Youth Center.

This week’s Blast from the Past brings us back to the late ’90s when Dolly the Sheep was a thing, Jennifer Lopez had her first marriage, and Public Safety director Arnold Lazare rocked a bright red onesie.

“It is the KFB official winter onesie,” laughed Lazare.

At the time, he was the fire chief at the Kahnawake Fire Brigade, as well as sitting on the board of directors of the Youth Center.

“Of course it was an attempt to get people to participate and have fun. I picked up the onesie years before. I saw it, and said, it’s a fireman’s onesie,” said Lazare.

“For a few years, I used that and then as I got older, I used a red exposure suit as a safety issue.”

Like several other community members, Lazare participated in the annual fundraiser for many years.

“I think it’s one of those things where we say, been there, done that. And it’s time for someone else to take over,” he said.

“The shock of getting into the water is always… as many times as I’ve done it, it’s still a shock when you go in. One year, they left the tanker out empty, so that the metal would attract the cold, and then they filled. So that year it was extra, extra cold.”

That year was the first time Gene Diabo took the plunge.

“It was really, really cold. The coldest one I ever did,” he said. “That was the first one I ever did, so after that, they were all a piece of cake because they were not really that cold.”

Diabo is pictured wearing a Lebowski-style robe, standing near his wife Karen Skye in the blue bikini.

“That’s just my house coat. I don’t even remember what I was wearing under there, but probably a pair of shorts. I don’t know!” said Diabo.

“My brother used to just sign me up without asking me, so I participated. I guess I did about five or six of them.”

Other questionable wardrobe choices that winter included Dean Meloche.

“Not sure what the heck my theme was though. Probably forgot my bathing suit that day,” said Meloche, about his bright green boxers, gray toque and Disney towel.

“I remember the spirit of fundraising for the youth Center and how people were so eager to give to watch people take the dunk. The day was a lot of fun too. I did it a few years then gave it up after a bad head cold after my last time. I used to stay out and watch all the jumpers, probably should’ve gone in after my jump.”

Not many participants The Eastern Door spoke to really remembered what the weather was like that particular year, how much money they raised, or who on earth the mysterious man with the balloon in front of his face was.

“Don’t remember who it was, but it was fun participating and the money raised is for a good cause, the youth center is an essential service-for our youth to help them develop physically and mentally,” said Michael Stalk Sr., who was another participant captured in the photo.

This year’s Polar Plunge takes place today at 12:10 p.m.
Jessica Deer
Jessica Deer is the deep-thinking, quick-witted (and perhaps heavily caffeinated) columnist. She began her career at The Eastern Door back in 2008 as a summer student. In addition to writing about youth leadership, ranting about Indigenous politics, as well as raising awareness of cultural appropriation issues in The Caffeinated Potadoe, Jessica has been a staff reporter since 2015 and does on-call layout and graphic design. She also updates the website, so if something is broken... it is probably her fault.