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


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