PART two of a three-part series
FROM the mid 1930s, motorists with caravans in tow began travelling the Hume Highway.
In April 1939 the Mittagong Oval and Baths recreation area was chosen by the motoring association NRMA for a special event.
The Southern Mail of April 7 reported that: "The NRMA is conducting the first caravan camp in Australia at Mittagong during the Easter holidays. It has attracted wide attention and has already given the town a fine advertisement. Given a fine weekend, the eyes of the motoring world will be turned to the 'Playground of the South' this Easter."
The procession of caravans was expected to arrive at about 10am on Good Friday. Fifty caravans of varying sizes and makes had secured camp sites and these were expected to be a revelation to locals of the progress made in this recreation at that time.
The Nattai Shire afforded every facility to the visitors. The grass on the sportsground was cut, fireplaces erected and everything necessary to ensure the comfort of the campers was provided under the direction of the Shire Clerk, Claude N Lee, and Shire officials. After the Easter event, the Southern Mail provided a summary of the proceedings.
"The Mittagong Sports Ground and camping area presented an unusual sight over the Easter holidays when over two hundred people spent their time under canvas or in caravans. The visitors were loud in their praises of the manner in which they had been catered for.
The Mittagong Swimming Club cooperated with the Shire in entertaining the visitors, and gave them free admission to a dance in the School of Arts on Saturday night. Swimming and foot races for the children, in addition to a tennis tournament for adults, were organised by the club and the visitors greatly appreciated its efforts.
A huge bonfire on Sunday night gave the campers an opportunity to indulge in community singing and, to the accompaniment of a piano accordion, they sang lustily."
This event ensured the ongoing popularity of Mittagong's recreation area as a tourist stop. From 1950 there was a boom in the use of caravans for holidays. Holden's affordable family cars allowed people to enjoy their freedom like never before. Towards the end of the decade, Mittagong Shire Council (an amalgamation of Nattai Shire and Mittagong Municipal Councils) commenced a major restructure of the recreation reserve and purchased a further portion of land for an expanded caravan park.
At the Baths, the original old dam wall of the pool was demolished to make way for a modern Olympic Pool, one of the first in the state to be built in a country area. Bill and Phyllis Goodwin took over the lease of both the Mittagong Swimming Pool and the Caravan Park in November 1959.
The Southern Highland News ran a feature on January 28, 1960 at the completion of the park and pool, stating that Mittagong Shire spared no expense to provide first-class facilities. The caravan park was described as follows:
"A gently sloping sight on the south-western side of the Recreation Reserve was chosen to ensure perfect drainage while a number of well-spaced trees give protection and added beauty to the area.
Outlet points from the town power supply are provided for some 20 units. A fully sewered, brick amenities block provides modern bathing, washing and toilet facilities with ample hot water freely available at all times. Visitors who choose to stay longer than overnight are offered reduced rates, and already out of the 500 caravans which have stopped at the Park, many families stayed on to enjoy the Swimming Pool and other attractions.
A kiosk and petrol filling station stand at the entrance to the Park.
As part of this building, the lessee, W J Goodwin, has a three-bedroom cottage, so the whole area is under his personal supervision or that of his family at al`l times. Already the results of his work can be seen and the Park is always in a spotless condition, ready to receive the most fastidious travellers."
The NSW Public Works Minister, P N Ryan, officially opened the Mittagong Caravan Park on January 30, 1960. He described it as by far the nicest and best arranged park he had seen in the state. "Mittagong with its great natural beauty is an ideal tourist site" he said.
Many tourists were soon booking in to the Mittagong Caravan Park and Bill Goodwin sometimes had to back and park vans for the more inexperienced drivers, who had no idea how to handle a caravan in tight conditions.
To be continued