Monday, January 31, 2011

Manuka Pool celebrates 80 summers

Last Friday night, Manuka Pool, Canberra's first public swimming pool, celebrated its 80th birthday.

Friends of the heritage-listed pool were entertained by a ukulele band, acrobats and swing dancing as they picnicked in the garden. Others spent the night in the pool, enjoying a dip at dusk.

As old photos were projected onto the wall at the deep end of the art deco space, revellers gathered on the cantilevered seating surrounding the pool for a swimsuit parade.

Modelled by the pool's young lifeguards, some of the more retro cossies transported us back to 1931 when The Swimming Pool, as it was then known, was first opened. The young lifesavers also treated us to an Annette Kellermann-style water ballet display with the synchronised swimmers decked out in frilly red caps.

There were also plenty of older representatives at the party including 88-year-old Merv Knowles, who was at the pool's official opening on Australia Day 80 years ago.  Don Tier, 89, a member of the morning regular swimmers, known as the Coneheads, also dropped in for a night-time swim.

A former diving coach when the pool had two and three metres boards, Don calls Manuka Pool, a hidden treasure. Taught to swim in America by Gertrude Ederle,  the first woman to swim the English Channel, he says if he had nothing else to do he would swim all day.

The Taverner family were also well represented with current manager John 'Tav' Taverner running the show with his wife Pearle and daughters' Sophie and Grace. It was wonderful to see his mother Lesley there too, who turns 86 soon. She and her late husband Owen managed the pool for 50 summers from 1947 to 1997.

It was a great night and a fitting way to celebrate Canberra's much-loved oldest public pool.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

An Australia Day dip at Petersham Pool

A morning dip at our local pool was a nice way to start Australia Day. In the water I met the very tanned Joe, appropriately attired for a swim on 26 January.

It's a pretty relaxed place - Petersham Park Pool or I should say the Fanny Durack Aquatic Centre as it is officially called.

It was also nice to bump into Margo and her husband Steve, one of my Writer's Journey friends.

Happy Australia Day birthday to my niece Mary who turned 16 today, my aunty Mary, my friend Edwina and Bruce's mate Aussie Bob.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Moruya's War Memorial Swimming Pool

On our recent travels down the NSW South Coast I revisited the Moruya War Memorial Swimming Pool. Like many pools built across Australia post World War II, this pool was named in honour of those who served in the war.

Located next to a park and by the Moruya River, it was officially opened on 13 February 1965.  Back in the early 1970s when my family holidayed at nearby Broulee, I had a swim or two in the pool. In those days it was 33 metres in length and had lovely views over the river.

These days dark panelling on the fence impedes the river vista, and in 1992 the 33-metre pool was remodelled into a 25-metre pool to allow for a program pool to be added.

On the cool afternoon I visited I was made feel very welcome by manager Vicki and attendants Mick and Andy. I shared the 27 degree Celsius water with just one other swimmer. While some of the regular lappers  would like the water a bit cooler, manager Vicki said the temperature is ideal for swimming lessons,  and over January they were running an 18-day intensive program.

On the way home via the inland route, I discovered another memorial pool at historic Braidwood. As we headed out of town after lunch, the pool's colourful mural caught my eye. Just one year older that the Moruya complex, the Braidwood Memorial Swimming Pool in Ryrie Park is only about 20 metres in length. The pool was built in response to concern over a number of drownings in local streams and to create a safe venue for local children to learn to swim.

It was a pretty miserable day when we passed through, so the pool was empty of swimmers. Among a number of plaques near the entrance was one erected by parents and friends in 1992 dedicated to Kenny Corey for 15 years of continuous service to the children of Braidwood.  I wonder who Kenny was - the pool manager, a swimming instructor - do you know?

Across Australia there are many memorial pools. One of the more famous ones is the Tobruk Memorial Baths in Townsville. Opened in 1951, it was the winter training base for the Australian swimming team preparing for the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome.

Other war memorial pools are in the Adelaide Hills, York in WA, Sydney's Parramatta, Glenorchy in Tasmania and Redcliffe north of Brisbane. There are many more - do you know where they are?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Peaceful Petersham Park Pool

Yesterday morning when I went for a walk around the lovely Petersham Park I looked in on the pool. What I discovered was a very peaceful scene of about seven swimmers slowly lapping up and down the 33-metre pool.

With my regular swimming spot - Leichhardt Pool - crowded with holiday-makers at this time of year, I decided to switch to Petersham Pool. I will swim there until everyone goes back to work and order and rhythm is restored to the morning lapping environment at the 50-metre Leichhardt Pool.

Officially known as the Fanny Durack Aquatic Centre, the 48-year-old inner-west complex was renamed after the champion Australian swimmer in 1999. Fanny was the first woman swimmer to win an Olympic gold medal at the 1912 Stockholm Games.  In her latter years she lived in Douglas Street, Stanmore up the hill from the Petersham Park Pool as it was originally called.

While there were a few more than seven swimmers at the pool this morning I had a lane to myself, which made for a very pleasant swim in the somewhat patched-up, ageing pool. At the end of my session I had a nice chat with Uta, visiting from Germany and her daughter Bettina from Stanmore.

As well as swimming laps in the early mornings Bettina takes her children to the inner-west centre. She describes the pool as "a luxury because it's not too crowded". "It's not 50-metres but 33-metres is a good compromise," she adds.

Another swimmer I met recently at the new Annette Kellermann Aquatic Centre at Enmore is also a fan of the slightly grungy Petersham pool. Its appeal to Sue is that it reminds her of the 33-metre pools she swam in as a child growing up in country NSW.

With historic Petersham Park just outside the complex, the centre is surrounded by majestic established trees. On Saturdays during the cricket season the sound of willow on ball by Randwick-Petersham club players adds to the gentile atmosphere.

If you want to experience Petersham Pool in its original state, and 33-metres in length then you will need to drop by before it closes on March 31.  In mid-year it is expected that Marrickville Council will begin work on upgrading the site and redeveloping the main pool into a 25-metre, 8-lane pool. Among a number of additions and changes there will also be a new toddlers' pool and kiosk/cafe. Fanny Durack Aquatic Centre is at 1 Station Street, Petersham, a five minute walk from the station.