In 1927 Preston Council secured a subsidy of £1,000 to start work on excavating land in St Georges Rd to form a public swimming baths. As well as providing the area with a new facility, the project was also to help the large numbers of unemployed to find work.
Local schools and the Progress Associations had been pushing for a pool as a safer alternative to Edwarde’s Lake, creeks and old quarry holes that were used by local children.
The pool was officially opened in November 1928 by the mayor, Cr. G.E.Robinson. Not long afterwards an official Swimming and Lifesaving club was formed with Jim Donnett as instructor. The club originally consisted of Mr Donnett and eight young swimmers – Edna Kruse, Beryl Cull, Bobby Swan, Jack Maylan, Alma & Bella Newman, Loris Jones and Len Greens.
Over the next few years the club grew fairly quickly and by 1944 there were a hundred members, which is quite an accomplishment during the war years.
During this period the Manager of Preston baths, Mr H. Hazledene and Mr R Thompson are credited with teaching many children to swim as well as coaching club champion swimmers and divers. As well as swimming, the Preston Amateur Swimming and Lifesaving Club provided a wide variety of activities including diving, water polo, football, basketball, table tennis, billiards as well as holding picnics, parties and dances.
In the 1960s plans were afoot to redevelop the baths and work began in April 1964 with an estimated £100,000 from Preston City Council.
After some delays the new Preston Olympic Pool was opened by the mayor, Cr. Theo Cochrane on 30 October 1965. The pool was constructed to Olympic standards and sizes and had a separate diving, learner’s and wading pool on the same site which is now the car park of NMIT on St Georges Road just south of Cramer Street, Preston. The design specifications and supervision of the construction were carried out by the Council’s Engineering department under the guidance of the City Engineer Mr. R.B. Bramham and is assistants. The pool was entered in a world wide pool design competition and the Council was awarded a Certificate of Honourable Mention for the pool design.
Peter Cairns was appointed as Manager of the new Olympic pool and remained there until his retirement in 1986. The pool closed a few years later and the site was cleared. An account written by Peter’s daughter, Debbie describes the pool, the staff and her experiences whilst living in the house next to the pool. It must have been very exciting for Debbie and her brother Paul having access to such a wonderful pool virtually in their back garden!
Forster, Harley W. (1968). Preston Lands and People. Melbourne: Cheshire.
Bowen, Robyn. Preston Amateur Swimming & Life Saving Club; a brief history. Melbourne 1978
Preston Historical Society (1971). Centenary of local government in Preston: 1871 – 1971: a pictorial record with a brief review of Prestons’ progress and achievements. Preston, Vic: City of Preston.
Wright, Debbie (nee Cairns) A personal account. 2011