WHO was the first person to swim in Beatty Park pool? Sixty years on from the centre’s opening it remains a contested historical question, and this week the Vincent Local History Centre brings us the stories of a few of those who claim the mantel of first one in.
OVER the years there have been many stories and legends associated with the pool, including the story of the first swimmer.
The first ‘official’ swimmer in the pool was Herb Taylor, a former WA State swimmer who christened the pool on the night of the official Council inspection on October 30,1962.
The first swimmer to unofficially christen the pool is a bit less clear.
Some say it was Len Spence, the project manager who worked night and day at Beatty Park from November 1961 until its opening in November 1962.
Spence was a New Zealand-born carpenter and builder with a special knowledge of concrete construction, which landed him the job of managing the build at Beatty Park.
After a year of dealing with various challenges, including a last-minute plumber’s strike that threatened completion of the pool, Len was relieved to deliver the project on schedule for the British Empire and Commonwealth Games.
According to his wife Joyce, Len and his three daughters dived into the pool when it was first being filled to help stir the sediment and move the water through the filters.
“He was very thrilled with his pool. He was a swimmer and I think he just wanted to be the first one to swim in it. He got a wonderful ‘hoy’ from all the men who were working there.”
The local newspapers carried stories of various other ‘first swimmers’, including five-year-old Gemma Hounslow, the daughter of the Beatty Park assistant manager Rod Hounslow.
A frog called ‘Ferdie’, which was found in shallow water during a pool inspection on 18 August 18, 1962 was also feted in the papers as Beatty Park’s first swimmer.
Another first swimmer story is told by local resident and former CBC Highgate ‘old boy’ Peter Kora. Peter and a group of young mates, including former Vincent mayor Nick Catania, broke into Beatty Park for a cheeky swim on November 22, 1962, the night before the pool officially opened for the Commonwealth Games.
“We climbed the fence and then we just slid into the water. We thought, this is wonderful, we were the first ones in the Empire Games pool. Anyhow, one of the guys decided to dive off the diving board. He dived and made a big splash and, of course, the guard spotted this. We scurried along, getting out of the place, running down Vincent Street with this gentleman trying to chase us … So we christened the pool – it was the highlight of my life!”
Peter’s story has been captured as part of the Beatty Park: Sixty Years video series. The videos are available at http://www.beattypark.com.au/about/sixty-years
If you have memories or photos of Beatty Park you’d like to share, please get in touch with the City of Vincent Local History Centre at email@example.com