Memories of Rushden Swimming Baths20:00
|Rushden Swimming Baths - date uncertain but thought to be circa 1950s|
The class was always under the charge of a certain Mrs Cross
Despite all the lessons during junior school, I did not learn the art of swimming until the early years of attending the Wellingborough Technical Grammar School where we would occasionally be taken to the Croyland Park baths. On such occasions non-swimmers were tasked with fake swimming in the toddlers pool. This was a pursuit which enabled those without swimming ability to pretend to swim aided with polystyrene floats. The floats would be grasped between ones oustretched hands leaving ones legs to provide power to move forward. Fake swimming in all its glory and something I was good at. However, on one occasion I somehow managed to lose grip of the board and started chasing after it, kicking with legs and frantically splashing with my arms and hands. The realisation struck me I was swimming unaided. A sort of frantic doggy paddle, but swimming nonetheless. I have distinct memories of waiting for my dad to get home from work to announce my revelations.
This new found skill immediately earned me my own Rushden Swimming Baths season ticket and an inauguration into my Dads early morning swimming rituals. As soon as the swimming pool opened he would be the first person through the gate at 6am for an half hour of swimming, the perfect way to fire ones awareness into a new day. So it was, despite all weathers, we would roll a towel and trunks and stroll the short distance down the length of Station Road to the baths. The name of the man in charge was commonly known as Ned (I believe this must have been Ned Lines) and my dad and Ned would swap a bit of banter before Ned would announce the current temperature of the water. It was usually in the low 60s Fahrenheit although on occasion, if there was a problem with the boiler, it would be distinctly lower.
|The metal changing box used at Rushden Baths - Courtesy of the Rushden Research group|
By this time there was usually a least a couple other chaps making ready for an early morning swim. No matter how many stood there looking at the uninviting waters it was always my dad who made the first move and present a perfect dive followed by two lengths of the pool.
|Rushden Baths originally had a high diving board which was removed c. 1960s|
|A rather haphazard dive of which my dad would be rather critical as he could perform almost acrobatic dives|
My dad continued swimming throughout his life, being a regular at Rushden Swiming Baths and Wellingborough's Croyland Park pool, where he encouraged both me and my brother to attain the Bronze medallion for life saving. As a founder member of the Rushden and Higham Canoe Club my dad also undertook evening canoeing lessons at Rushden Baths, where they were able to practice such skills as Eskimo rolls. In later life he continued to swim at the Rushden Splash pool and eventually, on retirement, took up a part time post as the caretaker/maintenance man for Splash. Despite his age, well into his 70s, he could outclass any youngster in a swimming or diving challenge. He only gave the swimming up when he needed to be moved closer to family due to illness.
- Rushden Heritage Site pages for Rushden Swimming Baths http://www.rushdenheritage.co.uk/leisure/swimming-pool-mainpage.html