Did you take the plunge

• Diving demonstration at Beatty Park, 1960s. Photo from the City of Vincent local history collection, COV PH0886

FEW sports combine athleticism, grace and courage like diving. 

Divers never fail to mesmerise us with their skills and strength during the Olympic or Commonwealth Games. 

However, we rarely see or experience diving up close in local pools anymore. 

HBF Stadium in Claremont is one of the few pools in Perth to still have a dive tower and springboards. 

Back in the day, West Australians could bombie or swan dive in many different places. 

From 1914 until their demolition in 1964, Crawley Baths on the Swan River had diving boards and a rickety 10-metre wooden tower structure where the bronze statue of diver Eliza is now situated. 

Many Perth divers remember the challenge of navigating the tide and avoiding hitting objects on the muddy bottom. 

Kalgoorlie also had a diving tower and boards at its Lord Forrest Olympic Pool built in the 1930s.

In the 1960s, the construction of Beatty Park Aquatic Complex for the VIIth British Empire & Commonwealth Games brought diving to a whole new level in Perth. 

Beatty Park included a diving pool with a 10-metre diving platform and springboards used by diving competitors in the 1962 Commonwealth Games.

After the games, Beatty Park was used by the WA Diving Association to train divers, and by a generation of Perth school kids who remember the fear and thrill of climbing and hurtling off the 10m tower into five metres of water.

A recent photo of the towers on a Facebook page unleashed a torrent of memories from Perth residents about this local rite of passage: 

• “The first time from the top I belly flopped. Hurt like hell – but I did it again and again.” 

• “I jumped off it when I was 10. I had to wait for my mum to fall asleep sitting in the sun because she wouldn’t let me jump.” 

• “Growing up in the late ‘60s in Perth, the top board at Beatty Park was just something you had to do. Did it once – never again!” 

• “Climbed to the top, crawled out and looked over the edge – and made a hasty retreat.” 

• “I was way too scared to even climb up there let alone jump off, but it always had a fascination for me…” 

• “A lot of people used to come into the pool just to dive off that top board. I remember the whole thing used to shake.” 

Jeff Fondacaro, the current coordinator of operations and aquatics at Beatty Park, recalls the difficult decision to remove the dive platform when Beatty Park was redeveloped in 1994. 

“Diving had become an elite sport. Challenge Stadium had the infrastructure to cater for that sport. We were finding that we were ostracising our regular swimmers who wanted access to that pool for a handful of divers. We had to make a decision.” 

Jeff was recently interviewed as part of the Sixty Years of Beatty Park video series available at https://www.beattypark.com.au/about/sixty-years 

His video features fantastic old footage of the divers in action at Beatty Park from the former WA diving coach, the late Bruce Prance. 

Visit the City of Vincent Local History Centre in person or online for interviews with Bruce, Jeff and other diving enthusiasts who recall the days of diving at Beatty Park. For more great photos of Beatty Park, visit the City of Vincent Local History Centre image gallery at https://cityofvincent.imagegallery.me

• What’s your plunge story? We’d love to hear it. Send it to news@perthvoice.com

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s