FROM the muddy Swan River and Crawley Baths to an international-grade swim centre, this week’s tale from the Vincent Local History Centre goes back to a time when going for a swim in Perth involved a lot more mud and jellyfish.
BEFORE the construction of Beatty Park in 1962, a generation of school children braved the muddy waters and jellyfish in the Swan River and the Indian Ocean to learn how to swim.
Crawley Baths and the sea baths on the Esplanade, Peppermint Grove, Claremont, Nedlands and Fremantle were popular swimming spots.
“Crawley Baths was full of jellyfish. Oh God, it was awful!” a swimmer Lyn recalled.
The Lord Forrest Olympic Pool in Kalgoorlie, which opened in 1900, was Western Australia’s only proper swimming pool before 1962.
After the Commonwealth Games, Beatty Park Aquatic Centre opened to the public and was used for swimming lessons as well as competitive swimming and diving, water polo and scuba diving.
The original centre included an Olympic-sized main pool, dive pool and outdoor learner’s pool, which made way for the indoor pool in 1994.
A generation of Perth school children and swimmers were forever grateful for swimming lessons without mud and jellyfish.
“Particularly after Crawley Baths, everything at Beatty Park was an upside. I was just so excited about being in a brand-new environment where you could see the line at the bottom of the pool and not swallow jellyfish and blowies and you would come out with that grime too – a seaweed-ey sort of silt across you and your mouth,” said former junior swimmer Belinda.
“Attending Wembley Primary School in 1962, we were the first to have swimming classes in the beautiful Beatty Park. After previously using dirty, slimy Crawley Baths, we were thrilled to use the new, clean facilities,” said former Wembley Primary School student Margaret.
In a 2011 interview, former Beatty Park swim instructor Geoff White said Beatty Park was the first proper aquatic swimming venue in Perth.
“It was all very exciting, and especially when it was so close to home,” he said.
“The big change Beatty Park made for me was that I could then go there for swimming lessons in the Christmas holidays.
“Previous to that, it meant catching two buses each way to go to Crawley Baths.
“I got my instructor’s certificate and I was then able to the following summer begin teaching at Beatty Park in the vacation swimming classes.
“The practice pool and the main pool were chock-a-block.
“We had the paddling pool with the real young ones.
“I remember probably 40 teachers teaching four or five lessons a morning. It got that crowded that they had enough for some teachers to have a fifth lesson.
“So with five classes going, it was a significant number of children but that’s how important Beatty Park became to the population … it really opened up swimming lessons to virtually thousands of children.”
Today, the Beatty Park Swim School has thousands of swimmers of all ages and abilities.
The centre is also home to the award-winning Angelfish Disability Program, which is an inclusive and integrated swimming program for people living with a disability.
These classes are for children aged three years through to adults and provide swimmers with lifelong skills that enables them to get involved with a wide range of aquatic activities.
If you have memories of swimming lessons at Beatty Park, come and share your photos and stories with the Local History Centre librarians at the all-ages Retro Family Fun Day at Beatty Park on Saturday, 26 November, 2pm-6pm.