Sixpence or so entry fee
Visits to Black Rock swimming pool played such a large part of my life in the late 1940s and the 1950s as one of my favourite places. I lived about ten minutes away in Bennett Road. If I remember rightly, the pool opened in April at the start of the season. You went through the big turnstile, paying the sixpence or so entry fee. Then on to the changing rooms where you exchanged the ticket you were given at the desk for a clothes rack which was numbered that had a little corresponding numbered disc on it which you pinned to your bathers.
Freezing in the early season
The changing rooms were freezing cold. When you had changed and pinned on the little disc you handed your clothes rack to the attendant just keeping a towel to take with you. You were supposed to go through the little shower, or sometimes we dodged it as it was freezing that early in the season. The big pool was also freezing cold so early on in the year, but the quicker you were in water the better and warmer it seemed. I always looked at the high diving board and wanted to try it. I could already swim as I learned very early on to get the hang of it.
Plucking up courage for the diving board
I remember starting at the board at the side of the pool and gradually working up the courage to climb those slippery steps to the first diving board. It did not look too far up from the ground but when you were up there it looked a lot higher. After a few times jumping off the intermediate board, you could get brave and go on to the highest one. Again it did not look too far up from the ground, but my knees were knocking by the time I got to the top.
No chance of ‘bottling out’
I remember dithering for a while but that was thwarted as there was another swimmer waiting to dive off, and there was no chance of cowardly ‘bottling out’. So I just jumped into the water feet first. What an experience that was, it seemed like a lifetime until I broke the surface again. I got used to the height of the board but always jumped off instead of diving, as diving hurt my ears too much for some reason. I never did get used to how slippery the steps were and would hang on for dear life going up.
Reluctantly home for tea
When the summer gradually came around and the weather was warm it was hard to go home after such a lovely enjoyable day. Even though we always took sandwiches along, hunger always got the better of us. So it reluctantly it was through the little shower to wash the salt from our bodies, then to the attendant where you swapped your numbered disc for your rack of clothes.
The price of progress
This was a very vivid part of my young life which I will never forget. It was so sad to see the destruction of those beautiful Art Deco buildings being smashed to pieces in the name of progress. But the Marina has brought so much happiness to people as the pool did for me all those years ago, so I suppose that is progress.