LOCAL town swimming pools opened at Mittagong in 1931, Bundanoon in 1960 and Moss Vale in 1965, as previously told in this history column.
However it was not until 1971 that a swimming pool complex became a reality in Bowral.
With warmer weather now approaching, it is timely to relate the history of Bowral's pool and how people 'made do' prior to its existence.
Alf Stephens, Mayor of Bowral in 1928-29, was a strong supporter of a pool and favoured a site between Merrigang and Shepherd St now occupied by the Bowral Bowling Club. There were lengthy discussions but a town pool did not then eventuate.
Residents either journeyed to Mittagong for a swim in the summer months or made use of spots on the nearby Wingecarribee River and several creeks with swimming 'holes'. There were such spots on the western side of the railway line where the Mittagong Rivulet meandered south to the Wingecarribee River.
From the 1880s, these bathing spots were enjoyed by Bowral people and visitors. There are postcards dating from the early 1900s that bear the title 'Bathing Pool Bowral' and depict various images of a pool in a tranquil setting with willow trees.
In 1980 the Southern Highland News featured an article showing one of these postcard pool images. The reminiscences of local man Ray White were quoted - as a lad he frequented the spot, located on the rivulet near Kiama Street. However it was so very deep and cold that he and his mates preferred a warmer pool just behind the railway station.
Kiama Street runs off Oxley Hill Road near the railway line, handy for a summer's outing at the quiet and tranquil rivulet spot. By the 1920s, however, this site would have lost its charm as the nearby Bowral brickworks expanded into a thriving business.
Until the 1920s Bowral obtained its town water from a reticulation system fed by springs on the slopes of Mount Gibraltar. A new water supply was provided by the construction of a dam and pump-house at the Wingecarribee Swamp in 1922 but soon complaints began about the water's poor quality.
It was so bad that its ill fame spread and discouraged people from holidaying in the town. To rectify this, a water filtration plant was installed and opened by Mayor Stephens in 1929.
Once Bowral had a pure town water supply, thoughts soon turned to establishing a Swimming Bath. After all, Mittagong had just opened the first town baths in the district.
Bowral Council deliberated on a site for their pool aided by a Baths Committee that included a number of private citizens. Four sites were considered: Stephens Paddock in Merrigang St; Smiths Paddock at the junction of Oxley Drive and the Bowral-Mittagong Road; the Glebe or at Loseby Park.
There were lengthy arguments and differences of opinion for decades. Finally in December 1964 the matter was decided in favour of Smiths Paddock, suitably located at the northern entrance to the town centre.
The financial side of the project was handled by a War Memorial Baths Committee formed in 1962 to raise $20,000. Under the leadership of Arthur Beasley and with tremendous public contribution, this target was achieved in less than three years.
The NSW Government matched the money raised with grants totalling $20,000 and, with loan money and some revenue funds, the project was ready to proceed.
Bowral Council bought the land in 1966. The NSW Public Works Department designed a complex of four pools and work was started in August 1969 by the successful contractors, Adolfo Pittolo & Co of Moss Vale.
The amenities block was built by the same contractors using the finest traditions of craftsmanship. The pool complex covers some 4.5 acres of the seven-acre site with a six-lane Olympic pool, 50 metres long, a 25 metre teaching pool, and wading and toddlers' pools.
The Bowral Swimming Centre was officially opened on Saturday afternoon, February 27, 1971, by the Hon Davis Hughes MLA, NSW Minister for Public Works. In attendance also was the Hon Tom Lewis, Minister for Lands and Member for Wollondilly, and Alderman David Wood, Bowral Mayor. Proceedings were under the direction of A V Parry, Town Clerk.
A plaque was unveiled and afternoon tea provided for all in attendance.
A swimming carnival took place with ribbon prizes for each event and trophies to the best all-round girl and boy in each age group.
Ever since its opening, Bowral municipal pool has been appreciated by swimmers and enjoyed by young and old during the warmer months.
This article compiled by PHILIP MORTON is sourced from the archives of Berrima District Historical & Family History Society, Bowral Rd, Mittagong. Phone 4872 2169.
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