Dip into the past

M EMORIES are made of these ... for me all the swimming pools that are becoming ghosts of the past. The open air pool at South Shore was unbelievable. Sectioned off to suit from babies to top swimmers.

There was a 100-metre length down one side of the pool. A 16 feet diving pit with boards graded to 10 metres (from where you see the mountains and hills of the Lake District). There were areas for little ones, fountains and slides – something for everyone. But very cold.

Cocker Street baths I loved. Walking in, you could smell the warmth and soap of the slipper baths. The little learner pool was warm and cosy with the luxury of its own toilet. The shock came when the teacher, Bill Shaw, took nervous pupils into the big pool – a canvas belt round the waist and a long rope to be pulled round the very cold pool.

Dad paid 2/6d (12.5p)an hour for the lesson. Expensive in the 30s.

Total luxury was the treat of the week (funds allowing). After a ride along Whitegate Drive to Lytham Road in a tram, we reached the lovely Lido. Warm and welcoming it had wicker chairs around the seating area with matching tables, carpets and lots of mirrors, plus a coffee bar.

During the evening underwater lights came on (magical) and the dancers from the ballroom above would stand and watch the swimmers.

The creme-de-la-creme and the jewel in Blackpool's crown was the magnificent Derby Baths which opened in 1939, just before the start of the Second World War.

Swimming galas for all the schools were held every July and November. The diving board was 10 metres with 16 feet of water to dive into. Walter the pool attendant would blow his whistle for top board divers and the pool became still.

Before Derby opened, galas were held at Cocker Street and also in the Tower Circus ring. For races, the ring was squared off. My last memory of these occasions was the warm smell that remained of the animals after their summer season.

I wonder what 'elf and safety would think about that today.

We used other pools for treats. A bus ride to Lytham Baths was a nice afternoon out in the holidays.

A dip in the pool at Norbreck Castle, the known as the Hydro, was enjoyed in the days when there were tennis courts in front of the hotel. The pool there is still in use. All the pools in those days were salt water which is what you would expect being near the sea.

We were spoilt for choice in days when things seemed to be affordable on very small wages. Entry fees, bus and tram fares and so much fun for very little.

Some hold on by their finger nails. The learner pool in Preston Street helped thousands of Fleetwood children to learn to swim, as did the Over Wyre pool at Cartgate, Preesall.

And St George's at Marton is boarded up and closed.

The closure of St Annes pool has been another blow to the Fylde.

What is the problem? The only answer to that is money. As many people with pools of their own know, they are very expensive to run.

Not everyone is prepared to support their local pool in dark and dreary winter months.

editorial@blackpoolgazette.co.uk