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Eighty years of swimming

In the early 1920s Concord Council provided a netted area along the Parramatta River at the northern end of Cabarita Park for swimmers. It’s popularity prompted Council to embark on an ambitious project to build a swimming pool for the community during the Depression years of the 1930s.

Plans were drawn up by Alderman John Dalzell Wallace, a key supporter of the project, and Council’s engineer. Alderman Wallace turned the sod to begin the construction of the pool in March 1937 (shown below). With a grant of £1000 for the purchase of tools and materials from the State Government, work on the pool progressed quickly to make it ready by the following summer.

On 27 November 1937 the Concord-Cabarita Coronation Baths were officially opened by The Hon. H. P. Fitzsimons MLA (Minister for Health). Some 3000 people turned up on the day the pool was opened. To mark the opening there was a 200 yard race between several top swimmers. The race was won by Olympian Moss Christie.

On the following day, a Sunday, 2000 people paid to swim in the new baths. Adults were charged three pence while children could enter for one penny. Within a month over 30,000 people had tried out Concord’s latest attraction.

Now known as the Cabarita Swimming Centre, eighty years on the pool still plays an important part in the lives of local people.

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Local club made a big splash

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In the early 1950s the Cabarita Ladies’ Amateur Swimming Club had a big impact on Australian women’s swimming.

The club was founded by Lesley Thicknesse who had been a diver at the Empire (now Commonwealth) Games in London in 1934. Her three daughters Janet, Val and Pam along with Lorraine and Thelma Crapp were among the first members of the club. Based at Cabarita Baths (now Cabarita Swimming Centre), six members of the club were part of the Australian team at the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne.

In view of the regimens of today’s elite swimmers, it’s interesting to reflect on training 1950s style. Winter calisthenics classes were held on the backyard lawn of the Thicknesse family home. Participants were reminded to ‘bring a rug or small blanket’. However, training was under the guidance of Frank Guthrie, one of the great coaches of the period, who helped Lorraine Crapp achieve enormous success in the pool.

The photograph shows Pat Huntingford and Lorraine Crapp participating in a Cabarita Ladies’ Amateur Swimming Club calisthenics class in 1955.

City of Canada Bay is hosting a family fun day at Bayview Park, Concord on Saturday, 21 March 2015, 12noon – 4pm as part of the Parramatta River Catchment Group – Our Living River initiative, to make the Parramatta swimmable again. Come along, it’s free!