Legends of Diving Articles


Bob Rajner
Ohio Diver for 50 years with
Cold Water Experience

Bob Rajner (left) with fellow divers in Perrysburg, circa 1967.

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 Lea.

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 free!

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 Quarry.

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 50's
Bel Aqua Gumby wetsuit, one of the first wetsuits for cold-water diving.

Bob is responsible for the Friday night gatherings at Portage Quarry, Arrgh.

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

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