AS THE 50th anniversary of the opening of the Howard pool approaches, Burrum swimmer and author China Johnson is launching a book on the history of the pool.
“The Howard pool may be small, relative to pools in other country townships, but it was put there for a purpose – that was to teach children to swim and it has lived up to this expectation,” China said in his book titled Howard Pool the History.
All proceeds from the sale of the book, to be launched at Howard’s Grand Hotel at 7pm on November 2, will be used to teach the district’s children to swim for free.
“I just love seeing kids get a chance in life,” China said.
He said in the 50 years since the 18m pool was built, it was believed that no child had drowned in the district.
John “Jesse” James said before the pool was built, swimming lessons were held in the Burrum River.
He said the pool stood as a memorial to those who worked diligently to achieve their goal of building a pool so children could learn to swim as part of their school learning experience.
“Its continuing operation is testimony of the will of the people of the Burrum District to provide well for the youth of the area,” Jesse said.
Along with many fundraising activities such as raffles, China said coal miners showed their support for the project by agreeing to voluntarily contribute one shilling or about $5 in today’s currency, a week for 40 weeks.
“It is believed that this pool was the first one built in the state by the community and then to be open to the community,” he said
The pool was officially opened on November 17, 1962, after four years and 10 months of paperwork and wading through red tape, and an eight-month construction period.
“One of the main attractions of the pool opening was a contest open to young ladies of the district,” China said.
The winner was judged, by an all-male panel, on her ability to parade in costumes and the title of The Siren of the Pool was awarded to 17-year-old June Bilsborough.
Her prize was a framed studio portrait and it has hung in her lounge room since 1962.
China said June still had the hand-stitched dress and the sashes worn in the photo and current swimming club member Lacee Froeschl would model the outfit during the 50th birthday celebration planned for November 17.
Among the records that China was able to dig up during his research, was the tale of the “flying tadpole” Leonie Joy who set a club record for backstroke in 1975 that stood for 24 years.
Leonie passed on her sporting genes to her daughter Larrissa Miller who represented Australia in gymnastics at the recent London Olympic Games.
China said Leonie, now living in Brisbane, planned to return to Howard for the 50th birthday celebration on November 17.
The author also discovered a record set by Brad Green, who grew up in Howard but now lives in Hervey Bay, that has stood for 37 years.
In 1975 when Brad was 10, he set a record for a medley swim that has never been broken.
While China spent about 12 months researching the book and found records “the club didn’t even know existed”, he said Pacific Haven’s John and Carol Mitchell pulled all the information and photos together in a book format
“They’ve done a marvellous job,” he said.
The book, priced at $20, will be available at Howard’s Van Cooten & Son’s Drapery after the November 2 launch.
Sourced from the local chronicle paper & published by Henry Sapiecha