I am not sure when it was actually built, but it was one of the earliest and biggest ones around, with a length of 44 yards and 22 yards in width. The sides were brick, the bottom was gravel and the shallow end had a rusty old pipe running along the bricks as a kick bar to aid children and non swimmers. The water came in from the lake situated above the pool. It certainly wasn’t crystal clear and there was no way we could see the bottom, which made diving for things a challenge.
The biggest challenge, however was keeping clear of the leeches. It meant we had to keep moving while we were in the water, otherwise we’d find the black bloodsuckers hanging from our leg, which meant splashing vigorously until it dropped off. The young boys would catch them and pass the time turning them inside out on sticks and lining them up in the sun.
Just before the ladder halfway down the length of the pool there was a slide which provided hours of fun, and the kids came up with all sorts of ways to come down it into the water. I can’t remember any accidents and I must point out that there was no adult supervision other than a parent or two that may have accompanied their child or came for a swim themselves. Warm weekends meant the pool was enjoyed by many of the locals.
Each summer Chiltern hosted a carnival attracting swimmers from visiting towns. It was a big affair and the kiosk was opened to provide drinks, ice creams and other refreshments. There were events including breast stroke, backstroke, butterfly and relays, but the most popular to watch were the diving events and the skill demonstrated on that springboard.
Besides the big annual event the town held its own night carnival for the locals and the pool was lit up by green metal lights strung across the water. I competed in some of the events and am proud to confess to winning places in events including the diving. But the most exciting prize was the duck. The final event open to all was the Duck Hunt, where everyone lined up around the pool and someone released a duck in the middle. Everyone jumped in to try to catch the poor scared duck, which swam in all directions. I caught it once (only because it swam towards me), which meant I got to keep it. Although father rigged up a pen to keep it overnight, it was gone by morning. I could only hope it wasn’t a fox’s breakfast.
I am pleased to report that there were no drownings or diseases eventuating from our times in the pool, except for the odd earache. The only precaution taken was the pool was drained and cleaned during the season.