Half a century
Fifty years ago Palmerston North’s Lido Aquatic Centre opened with a splash.
It was Saturday, October 15, 1966 when 17-year-old competitive backstroker Val Mills completed the second official swim of the 50-metre outdoor lap pool.
‘‘I don’t remember anything else much except I was the second swimmer, and I had the eyes of everyone on me,’’ Mills said.
The honour of being the first official swimmer had gone to local Olympic breaststroker Vivien Haddon. Haddon had represented New Zealand at the 1964 Tokyo games, and had won silver and bronze medals at the Commonwealth Games in Perth, and a bronze in the 1966 Jamaica games.
Both had been members of the Palmerston North Amateur Swimming Club that trained at the old Ashley St Municipal Swimming Baths, opened in 1917 behind the Opera House.
Farmers and The Plaza carpark occupy the site now.
Mills has extensively researched the history of the old baths and the transition to the Lido for a book she is writing. Attracting a grant from the Earle Creativity Trust, Down At The Baths is due out in early 2017.
‘‘The options were to expand the baths or build a new pool. The first place the council considered for the new pool was on North St... and there were those who wanted it on the Railway Land.’’
The old pool with a 3-foot (0.9 of a metre) shallow end was no good for toddlers, and the council was under pressure to provide something for parents who had young children.
‘‘There was no filtration, and the custodian [Jim Woodhouse] used to mix the chlorine up in a bucket.’’
Mills recalled that during Lido fundraising there was a POP (Palmerston Olympic Pool) fashion show at the Izadium (a basketball stadium and dance hall on the corner of Ferguson St and Fitzherbert Ave) that had a tie-in, as many sports did in those days, with a tobacco company. ‘‘ As young competitive swimmers, we went around dishing out free
Val Mills swam the second official lap on opening day of the Lido aquatic centre in 1966.
cigarettes. You’d never get away with that now.’’
The pool’s 50th birthday is being celebrated with a family fun day on Saturday, December 10.
Manager Lynden Noakes said the 11am to 4pm event includes a bring-your-own-water-gun family water-fight, volleyball competition, inflatables, music, aquazumba, prizes and stalls. The event was moved from October to take advantage of more settled weather.
‘‘As young competitive swimmers, we went around dishing out free cigarettes.’’ Val Mills