Coach News publishes articles on the history of Moe and District. This is one of them.
Moe Newborough Swimming Holes
Can you remember the days before chlorinated water when you would hop on your bike as a teenager and ride to the town’s favourite water holes for a swim? The summers seemed hotter and longer then or is that just memory playing tricks. Around Moe and Newborough the following places have been identified as swimming spots or at least a place to cool off if you couldn’t actually swim there.There were probably more spots than the ones listed here as youth often made their own swimming areas in private dams and spots along the creeks and rivers.
Edward Hunter Reserve – the Railway
Built for the provision of water for steam locomotives by the Railways Department, this small storage reservoir became a swimming pool after the railways no longer needed it. This was probably after the formation of the water trust in 1933 and the provision of piped water into the town. The water was quite deep near the dirt wall. It also had a concrete spillway for any overflow. It was in this deep area that a diving tower was constructed. The Railways leased the area to the Narracan Council for use as a recreation space and much later when the City of Moe was created it was sold to the City. So popular was it for swimming that a kiosk actually operated there for a time. The photos show the area which included a small jetty. The water was clear and free of weeds and rushes unlike the state it later reached.
It was not without problems because the deep areas were a trap for non-swimmers. Youngsters did drown there and many others probably got into difficulties. Eventually in 1955, after a drowning, the Council decided to blow out the concrete spillway which allowed the water to flow freely along the water course and the swimming pool no longer existed.
As the Narracan Creek drops out of the Narracan Valley and into the Latrobe Valley it winds past the steep cliffs at the top of Bailey Street. Just before it goes under the railway bridge there was a deep pool which became a swimming hole. The water hole was large and deep enough for a person to swim in and it was often used by local youth. It had the big advantage of being close to the housing area of the town at the time. In its early days it was a girls only swimming hole for the boys were supposed to swim at another spot further down river in the area where the Botanical Gardens are now. In the early period of the 1900’s it was not ‘suitable’ for males and females to swim together. This attitude was to change and both sexes then swam at the better swimming hole near the railway bridge. In its early days the swimmers would share the creek quite happily with a family of platypus.
Two local men would go to this spot early each morning for a swim, both being keen swimmers. Hubert Kelly and Jim Thorbun. One day Jim died while swimming and it was an observant railway man who saw his body floating in the water as the train crossed the bridge and alerted the police.
There were two places on the Latrobe often used for swimming. One was at Becks Bridge and the other at the next bridge up the river where the Walhalla Road crossed the Latrobe. It was the Walhalla Road Bridge area that became a community favourite. As the Latrobe swept around a large bend it deposited sand on the inner bank to create a mini beach. Reg Biggs was to organize a community group to beautify the loop on the river to provide an ideal spot for families to gather and swim. With funds for the Councils (Moe and Narracan) a toilet and change room was erected to serve the many families who came.
This area appeared to become a spot for the newspaper photographer to find a bathing beauty for a photo for the Advocate in early each summer.
The sand was so abundant that Rolland Barrett had a washed sand business operating there and no matter how much was taken out of the Latrobe supplies never ran short. In fact, when the Edward Hunter was drained at one point it was suggested that the swimming area be improved with sand from this site but the offer was not taken up.
The more adventurous might venture out to the Yallourn Storage dam after it was built in the mid 1950’s despite protests from the Narracan Council and the Borough of Moe. It was argued that such good farming land should not be lost. However, the government prevailed in support of the power industry and it became another place where you could swim. Here water skiing would also appear by the 1960’s and 70’s and championships were held there later on. It was the place for a day out on a hot weekend or a family picnic, especially if you had a boat. No doubt the more adventurous cyclists would go there as well.
The Yallourn pool was built in 1956 and was the envy of the towns in Gippsland. So if your family could easily drive over to Yallourn from Moe or Newborough or even peddle the bike, a visit to the pool was well worth it. There were the two diving boards – a metre board and the 3 metre high diving tower. This was a place to demonstrate that you had no fear of heights.
There was a kiosk too which meant you could stay all day with refreshments always available.
Bottom of Coach Road – Sandy Creek
This creek at the bottom of Coach Road was also a swimming area which at one point the Council drained to reduce the level of the water because of concerns about drownings. A sign was erected pointing out the danger of swimming there due to the depth of the water. We know little about this spot. It was probably only used after Newborough housing developed in the late 40’s and 50’s and then went out of use once the Olympic pool was built.
Olympic Pool Moe
After a number of drownings and a few near drownings the Edward Hunter Reserve was drained so that it could not be used as a swimming pool. The Borough Council believed that it was too dangerous to be left as it was.
In 1955 with the Melbourne Olympics in the news and Olympic pools being built in country towns, and following the drowning of two children, a public meeting was held to pursue the building of a pool. An Olympic pool was now considered an essential part of a town’s infrastructure so a group of citizens set about raising funds for an Olympic pool in Moe.
Reg Biggs was elected the chairman of the community group which set about the task of raising funds. Over time they were successful in raising money and obtaining government grants. However, politics became a problem. The residents of Newborough decided that they should have a pool of their own and they began to raise funds for the same purpose. However, the government was not about to provide grants for two pools in the Borough and the Council being aware of this was not keen on funding two pools either. The Newborough residents began to wilt in the face of the amount required and finally a meeting was called to consider what to do. The Moe group wanted to fund raise in Newborough if the Newborough residents were no longer going to pursue their own pool. At first not enough people attended to make a quorum but at a subsequent meeting it was decided to work for one pool in the Borough.
By the end of 1960 the pool was ready. We have no details of the opening so if a reader can help we would be keen to hear the stories of the day.
Once the pool was opened a Swimming Club was very active in the Borough and successfully participated in Gippsland events. Their achievements were often reported in the Advocate.
Much later, in the 1970's when recreation facilities were being built around the state to encourage a more active population and provide up to date facilities, a heated pool was built in Newborough. It was opened by the Minister, Mr Dixon in 1976 and has since been renovated. It continues to provide a year round swimming facility as well as a training centre for learning to swim and other aquatic services.