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