Ash­ley St baths book makes big splash

The Tribune (NZ) - - CONVERSATIONS - RICHARD MAYS

A book about Palmer­ston North’s first mu­nic­i­pal swim­ming pool has taken top hon­ours for Lo­cal His­tory Week.

Down at the Baths by Val Mills won Manawatu¯ Her­itage Trust ac­knowl­edge­ment for the best lo­cal his­tory book pub­lished be­tween July 2015 and June 2017.

Mills said since the launch of the book of in April this year, many oth­ers had come for­ward with sto­ries about the time they spent at the town baths.

The Ash­ley St swim­ming pool opened a hun­dred years ago on De­cem­ber 1, 1917 and closed 49 years later in 1966 when the Lido on Park Rd re­placed it.

The self-pub­lished book about the baths be­hind the Opera House where Farm­ers and the Plaza is now, was made pos­si­ble by a grant from the Earle Creativ­ity Trust.

‘‘A lot of peo­ple have thanked me for writ­ing about some­thing that was a big part of their lives, and had served the city for nearly 50 years.’’

Among the mem­o­ries re­counted in the book was one from the late John Clarke.

Mills said the snip­pet came about as the re­sult of an email con­ver­sa­tion with the co­me­dian.

Other sto­ries and back­ground were gleaned from coun­cil minute books.

‘‘I read all of the minute books be­tween 1906 and 1965. The early ones were all hand­writ­ten.

‘‘That’s 49 years of minute books, and it was much more en­ter­tain­ing than you might think. I kept get­ting side­tracked.’’

A thousand peo­ple at­tended the open­ing by New Zealand fi­nance min­is­ter Sir Joseph Ward.

The baths hadn’t been quite com­pleted, how­ever.

World War I was still rag­ing, and the ship bring­ing the tiles for the bot­tom of the pool had been sent to the bot­tom by a tor­pedo.

Down at the Baths took Mills two years of se­ri­ous re­search and writ­ing and she is pleased with the ‘‘best book’’ ac­knowl­edge­ment.

‘‘I didn’t re­ally see my­self as a his­to­rian, but my writ­ing is be­com­ing fo­cused more and more on so­cial his­tory.

‘‘I’m proud that a self­pub­lished book by a non-his­to­rian has won this recog­ni­tion.’’

Her next book, for which Mills had just re­ceived a $5000 Earle Creativ­ity Trust grant, is go­ing to be about post­cards of Palmer­ston North.

‘‘One of the aims of the new book is to bring a lot of ex­ist­ing ma­te­rial about Palmer­ston North post­cards into one place,’’ Mills said.

PHOTO: DAVID UNWIN/STUFF

Val Mills, her book and the Ash­ley St baths plaque now in the foyer of the Lido on Park Rd.

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