Part Two of a 3-part series
A dam, built on Nattai Creek in the 1860s for the railways, provided steam locomotives with water until 1910 when a town water supply became available.
Boys attending Oaklands School that opened in 1875 soon made use of the nearby dam to enjoy themselves and it became a popular swimming hole. By the 1920s, no longer maintained, it was choked with debris and, as other local swimming spots also had their drawbacks, in 1928 Mittagong Council purchased the old dam from the Railway Department to create a town baths.
With the enthusiastic help of local volunteers, trees, logs and accumulated rubbish were cleared out (some quite gory, as it had become a dumping ground for unwanted pets).
Prominent among the team of volunteers were George Boswell and his son Reg who worked with council from 1930 to create the pool and build dressing sheds and a kiosk. They helped with ongoing maintenance and formed a swimming club.
During the afternoon of Saturday, February 7 1931, Mittagong Baths was officially opened by Alderman W G Worner, Mayor of Mittagong, with 400 people in attendance.
The mayors of Bowral and Moss Vale were present with their wives along with the local state member Mark Morton MLA and his wife. The ladies wore their best hats and gloves, as it was a very formal and important event in the history of Mittagong.
An inaugural swimming carnival and diving exhibition was held that same afternoon and into the evening,
Under the headings 'Carnival of swimming and diving in brilliant sunlight' and 'Gay times under electric light at night' a lengthy article describing the occasion appeared the following Tuesday in the Southern Mail.
"The picturesque site set amongst the beautiful bush which clothes the hills around the Mittagong Golf Links impressed all visitors. To the beauty of the natural surroundings was added the supreme beauty of youth gaily clothed in ordinary dress or wearing orthodox swimming costumes which vie with Joseph's coat in the variety of their colours."
"There was a good attendance, but it would have been much larger had the function been adequately advertised. Most readers of The Mail will hear of the carnival for the first time when reading these lines. They missed something well worth while."
In his address, the mayor said that Mittagong had made another step in the town's progress.
He felt sure it would have the approbation of all the citizens of the district. Briefly, as they had a big program and a lot of entries, he thanked Mrs Ingoldby in particular and the many volunteer workers who had helped to build the baths. He concluded by saying that the council had put in the Golf Links, the sports ground and now the baths and could not have found a better site for them.
Mark Morton MLA addressed the gathering, saying that Mittagong was fortunate in possessing so many natural beauties and a remarkable band of citizens who made a happy family whenever anything was to be done for the town.
He paid a compliment to the town band, one of the best he had heard. He finished by stating that the baths would bring more business to Mittagong and help them to forget the Depression.
Also in attendance to guide the Mittagong Swimming Club was W Hilton Mitchell, who was well known in swimming circles as having encouraged Barney Kieran (1886-1905), an Australian swimmer who set several world records and earned many medals.
Alderman Westbrook, mayor of Bowral, and Alderman South, mayor of Moss Vale, both conveyed their hearty congratulations to Mittagong upon its continued progress.
To finalise the official proceedings, Reg Boswell, president of the swimming club, handed a pair of golden scissors to the mayor who cut the ribbon and opened the baths amidst resounding cheers.
The results of the swimming carnival's events were listed in the paper and included the following categories: Boys', Girls' and Club handicaps; Girls' parade; Teams relay race, 400 metres; Breast Stroke Championship; Inter-Club handicap, 100 metres; Club and Ladies' championships, 60 metres; and Fully Dressed race.
The State Diving Team was described in The Mail as giving a spectacular exhibition of diving, which "evoked round after round of applause as diver after diver displayed the beauty of the many intricate modern diving movements".
Paths and landscaping were completed a few years later and concrete pylons supporting a timber walkway were extended across the pool to separate the shallow and deep ends.
Set in its leafy landscape, the Baths were Mittagong's pride and joy.
To be continued...
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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