Monday, 23 November 2009

A little of Emerald Lake - by Graeme Legge

With the advent of a local swimming pool in the 1930s, residents had ready access to the refreshing coolness of water in the summer heat as well as having a facility in which to swim. And even many who couldn’t swim were not too self-conscious to simply walk into the water and splash around. In all honesty, in the days of rainwater tanks and when water-levels ran low, some were seen at the Lake cooling and refreshing themselves with the benefit of a block of soap! So it was that the younger generation of the time were often the first in families to be able to swim.

Emerald Lake Park, looking back from the Lake towards Main Road.

Swimming lessons for local school children were conducted before World War 2 in the 1930s. Miss May Aisbett was one teacher who conducted these lessons. Then there was Arthur Bolton, propagator at Nobelius Nursery who also gave lessons. Swimming lessons became part of the School curriculum in the late 1940s.Head Teacher, Phil Skelton of Emerald Township State School (now Emerald Primary School) taught swimming to the older pupils in the Lake. At afternoon recess (‘play time’) on Friday afternoons, those going swimming would leave the School, run down the road and along the tracks to the Lake and quickly change into their bathers and be ready for Mr Skelton’s arrival by car. The Children’s Pool was used for instruction in leg-kicking and arm-stroke practice. Upon swimming one length of the Children’s Pool a swimmer qualified for the ‘Herald Certificate’; two lengths earned the ‘Junior Certificate’.

Diving instruction saw children lined up, standing on one of a stone wall at the end of the Children’s Pool. In turn, each stood at the end of the wall, feet together, arms raised above the head followed by the instruction ‘Go in head first’. For any who seemed likely to jump instead, Mr Skelton was not beyond thrusting out his arm in front of the would-be diver’s ankles thus ensuring that ‘head first’ it was.

Children were dismissed from swimming lessons at the Lake to make their own ways home from the Lake. This was often an adventure in itself – passing fruit trees with delicious (but ‘green’) apples to feast upon and playing games. It was usually a leisurely trip home walking up the hill from the Lake. Later, with ‘safety’ in mind, School children were ‘bussed’ to the Lake and return for one shilling a week. Ray Lockyer, Jack Eudey and Hilda Van Den Dungen were among the volunteer, trained instructors who led the program.

The Lake and Kiosk in the 1940s.
An anchored ‘raft’ floated in the centre of the Lake as a safety measure upon which tired swimmers could rest. The distance across the Lake was underestimated by some swimmers, so the raft provided relief. But it was also a great source of play as a floating platform. The raft was made of eight ‘forty-four gallon’ drums with sturdy timber decking. A number of lifebuoys were also strategically located around the Lake ready for immediate assistance.

The Lake Kiosk. The first kiosk was built in the 1940s and the popularity of the Lake is evidenced by the number of cars and tourist buses in the car park.

There came a time when Emerald Life Saving Club was formed and went into action when swimmers ‘got into trouble’. In February, 1960 the Club Rooms were officially opened and a grand occasion it was. Sir John Latham, escorted by the bagpipes of the Victorian Police Pipe Band to the grounds of the Club House. Sir John said in his gracious remarks that ‘Emerald is no less a jewel than the stone after which it was named, and that the Lake is its highest facet.’ Residents continue to cherish the Lake and its beautiful surroundings with all its walks, parklands and playgrounds far beyond the swimming season.

Cr Graeme Legge is a Cardinia Shire Councillor, local historian and an Emerald identity. This article was first published in Signpost, the Community newsletter.
The photographs are from
Emerald In Focus : a photographic history published by the Nobelius Heritage Park and Emerald Museum, in 2006. It is a great book with over 300 photographs on all aspects of the history of Emerald. It is available for loan from Casey Cardinia Library Corporation or you can purchase a copy from the Emerald Museum. The Museum can be contacted on 03 5968 2152 or P.O Box 578, Emerald, 3782. The Museum and Heritage Park occupies part of the Gembrook Nurseries, operated by Carl Axel Nobelius and his sons from 1886.

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