Wrinkled Fingers And Toes

A Memory of Aldershot

From Chrismas Avenue to the bathing pool, come rain or come shine, every day of the summer was bathing pool fun time for us lads. With our towels rolled up and tucked under our arms and our costumes on to save time, a bag of sandwiches and your entrance money if you were lucky... otherwise it was over the fence.
On arrival it was through the turnstile and with a quick glance at the water degree board straight in at the deep end.
The pool was nature's babysitters from morning till night, seven days a week

The pools in those days were full of servicemen American, Canadian and many others stationed, passing though, or just plain taking a hard earned rest from terrors of war, and I can describe them in one word, "boisterous", but glad to be alive and they showed it... A lot of them were missing their familes far away and latched on to the local children, be it in the town, or at the pool. Many a time with no money to get in we stood outside the the entrance and the soldiers would club together and get us in.

Our pool had everything, the baby pool that I fell into age about eighteen months old and nearly drowned, I just remember sitting on the botton watching the bubbles going up past my eyes. The biggest water silde in England that I had ever seen, and the running and diving board, coupled with that fabulous multi tiered fountain in the centre of the pool.

Most of the pool in the play areas were not to deep even for us six, seven and eight year olds as we were learning to swim.....and we were mostly self taught, if we got into any difficulties there was always someone to save you.
Last but not least we had the diving boards, four spring boards and a top platform. Us lads used to stand at the edge of the platform looking down into fifteen foot of water daring each other to jump...when suddenly you were lifted from behind by some para and off you tumbled twenty feet down into fifteen feet of clear blue water, but the para was always just right behind you to make sure you got back to the side O.K.
Happy days at the end of the summer, us kids used to go back to school with more wrinkles on us than your average 80-year-old.

A memory shared by Raymond Hay , on Aug 24th, 2011.

Comments & feedback

Tue Aug 19th 2014, at 1:12 am

Robert Hill commented:

Hi Ray, my name's Bob, and I just enjoyed sharing your memory "Wrinkled Fingers and Toes" at Aldershot swimming baths. You don't set the date, but it has a late wartime feel about it, which precedes my arrival (1944) a little. Coming from a North London family, my only knowledge of Aldershot was when in 1953 I was transferred to the Camberley location of my old boarding school, which was of orphanage origins. This transfer was only temporary, during a major restructuring of the school, which resulted in a further (final) transfer in 1954 to Reigate, Surrey. The swimming-baths aspect mirrored in many ways, my own experiences between the ages of around 7 - 13, when it was hard keeping us kids out of the water. We used to go mainly to Redhill closed-in baths (6d for all Saturday afternoon). Trouble was, it conflicted with my other interest - train spotting! In my school days in the 1950s whilst the Southern Railway had electrified most of it's suburban commuter routes, it still ran a heck of a lot of steam locomotive-hauled trains, which were a mixture of both freight and passenger stock, so there was plenty of variety - and plenty of scope for logging all the numbers in our "Ian Allan ABC" books, the 'Bible' of 1950s schoolboy train spotters! Many hours spent on the platforms at Redhill station esp in the busy summer Saturdays, when huge amounts of extra trains were laid on for the mostly car-less travelling public. So often the decision for me was whether to spend 6d on an afternoon's swimming, or 1d (I think it went up to 3d later) for a platform ticket - and 9d for a bar of "Palm" toffeee to suck in between train movements! Happy days!

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