The Murrumbidgee River has always been a focal point for the recreational pursuits of Wagga’s inhabitants.
Unfortunately, the river’s sandbanks, snags and strong currents have often proved to be quite dangerous, particularly for inexperienced swimmers.
As early as 1917, members of the South Wagga Swimming Club were providing lessons for anyone who wanted to learn how to swim.
By 1919, the Department of Education was supplying qualified instructors, with the aim that each attending child would be able, at a minimum, to swim 20 yards of breast stroke without stopping.
Lessons continued to be held at the Wagga Beach until the Public Baths were completed in 1953.
On January 4, 1954, more than 700 children and more than 50 instructors, most of whom were members of the Wagga Amateur Swimming Club, crowded into the Olympic Pool for the first day of lessons.
Perhaps the most unusual “Learn to Swim” campaign was conducted at Uranquinty Public School in 1965 by the school’s then headmaster, Mr Alec Strong.
Mr Strong decided to construct his own pool shortly after he moved from Tamworth to Uranquinty and discovered that almost none of the school’s 36 students could swim.
According to The Daily Advertiser, “some of them had never been in anything deeper than their nightly bath”.
The pool was three feet wide, 20 feet long and three feet deep and consisted of sheet metal sides supported by iron posts, braced with timber.
Mr Strong believed that the shape and dimensions of the pool gave the students extra confidence as they could easily grab the sides of the pool or stand up if they got into difficulties.
Apparently, Mr Strong’s ingenuity had been rewarded as The Daily Advertiser reported that “the students recently attended Lake Albert where many of them confidently took the plunge into deeper water”.
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