Monday, 8 October 2007

Ramsgate Baths, Sydney, 1926

Update 29 Feb 2008: I was wandering around Hurstville this afternoon, and came across tiled murals embedded in the walls of the Council chambers. They depict many local famous identities. Michelle Ford was a local world record holding distance swimmer, who won an Olympic gold medal in the 800m at the Moscow Olympic Games. She was the only non-Soviet bloc woman to do so at the boycotted Olympics. Her great rival, Tracey Wickham, did not attend.

Michelle also went to my school, in my sister's year. She competed at Olympic and Commonwealth Games while still at school. Here she is depicted with her medals, with a school class photo. I just love this part of the tile collage because it also incorporates the wonderful photo of the Hurstville PS at Ramsgate Baths I've shown below.

Hurstville Primary School at Ramsgate Baths, 1926.

I went to these baths a few times as a kid. At least once with Bexley Public School, and a couple of times on weekends or holidays with friends. They were pretty awful! Filled with unfiltered sea water, they were none too clean. I can remember the bottom being really slippery and slimy and the whole thing was VERY murky.

The baths were demolished (1970s?) and the site is now a shopping centre - see I took today, 7 Oct 2007.(Coles supermarket)
Would love to hear from anyone else who remembers these baths!
Here's an anecdote by Clive James:
"I want you to know that it was only by an accident of fate that I did not become an Australian sporting hero, a successor to Murray Rose or Lew Hoad, a precursor of Ian Thorpe or Lleyton Hewitt.
THE ACCIDENT OF fate was lack of sporting talent, but it took a while for that to become manifest.
Growing up in Kogarah, on Botany Bay, I was within easy cycling distance of Ramsgate baths. I would spend the whole weekend at the baths, telling my mother that I had no time to mow the lawn because I was training for the 110-yards freestyle. In those days, the races were still measured in yards instead of metres, Australia not yet having separated itself from all the other English-speaking nations, including the USA, by converting its measurement system in order to
make it easier for the Japanese and Germans to sell us cars.
Unbeknownst to my mother, when I was at Ramsgate baths, I rarely completed the full 110-yards freestyle. What I completed was the five-yards freestyle. I was among the first of my generation to perfect the tumble turn. I mean among the first of my generation of amphibian dabblers, the boys who hung around the pool and occasionally dived in, but didn’t do much of all that swimming from one end to the other for hours at a stretch that the serious swimmers did. But my tumble turn was almost as convincing as theirs. Unfortunately, instead of employing my tumble turn to increase my speed over a given number of laps, I employed it to impress girls. For this, five yards of freestyle was all that I deemed necessary. Starting five yards from the end of the pool, I would execute a tumble turn, swim another five yards in the opposite direction, and stop, trying to look as if I had been engaged in polishing a minor technical point in my otherwise impeccable tumble turn.
One of the girls actually was impressed. Her name was Alison and she looked very beautiful in a Speedo. Eventually, I found that it was easier to go on impressing Alison by escorting her to the sandpit for a long discussion ofmy future as a swimming star, a discussion in which, you will not be surprised to hear, I did most of the talking. But her eyes shone, and that was all that counted, even if they shone with the porcelain glaze of boredom.

The full story of what happened in the sandpit can be read in my book Unreliable Memoirs (1980), and I won’t bother you with a précis of it now."
La Trobe University Essay Our First Book
Clive James
Archived at Flinders University:

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Caulfield Swim Centre, Melbourne

I used to swim here sometimes when I was a child. When I visited in October 2006, it was being readied for summer. One of the few pools I know which still has a diving pool and boards. Most have been removed for safety, or rather fear of litigation, reasons.