A pool party 90 years in the making
ON SUNDAY March 25, the Lismore Memorial Baths will celebrate its 90th birthday with a family fun day.
Along with the traditional cake and sausage sizzle, there will also be prizes for the best dressed green and gold Aussie-themed outfits in support of athletes attending the Commonwealth Games in April.
Lismore City Council's Major Recreation and Cultural Facilities Manager, Tony Duffy, said the baths was a huge success from the moment it opened.
He said the baths had been an important part of the Lismore community since 1928 when it was originally built as a monument, honouring the lives of 200 men who lost their lives in World War I.
He said in 1926, proponents of a memorial said they wanted to combine beauty and utility, and decided the memorial should take the form of a public swimming bath.
The proposal was sponsored by the Lismore Returned Sailors and Soldiers' Club and was enthusiastically endorsed by one of the largest public meetings ever held in Lismore and and their concept was approved by council.
In 1928 the Lismore Memorial Baths which cost approximately 10,000 pounds was officially opened by the then Premier of NSW, the late Sir Thomas Bavin, .
"On the first day, 633 people paid admission, and on the second day, 840 people visited the pool," Mr Duffy said.
"It was immediately popular and well used by the whole town."
Mr Duffy said the baths continues to play a central role in the life of our city.
"It is a place for families and children to cool off in our notoriously hot summers," he said.
"Of course, it also remains a memorial to this day, and our annual Anzac Day and Remembrance Day ceremonies, as well as many others, are held outside the baths at the cenotaph."
Looking back, the baths has experienced its fair share of historic moments and brushes with fame since the beginning.
The foundation stone was laid by Lieutenant General Henry Chauvel, the first Australian to reach the rank of Lieutenant General, who was the commander of the Anzac Mounted Division that captured the town of Beersheba in 1917.
In 1934 His Royal Highness, the Duke of Gloucester visited the region and his first port of call after flying into Lismore was to lay a wreath at the Memorial Baths, watched by some 300 diggers and their families.
The baths was also the training ground for swimmer and diver Lurline Hook, who competed at the 1938 British Empire Games (now known as the Commonwealth Games) where she won gold in the women's 10m highboard (platform) diving.
"It has been the sight of some important and sombre moments, but also just the simple local pool where most Lismore people went swimming as children," Mr Duff said.
"We gave the grand old dame a facelift after the 2017 flood, and knowing that the 90th birthday was on the way, we chose to focus on the history of the baths as it means a lot to the people of Lismore. The history is now recorded in black and white photographs and story panels around the walls of the facility."
Entry will be $3 for everyone and there will be a $2 sausage sizzle, inflatable fun and birthday cake.