As part of the Arlington 150th celebrations we organised a special event for longstanding members to get together for tea, cake and sandwiches and share a few recollections of days gone by.
Also on show were some old photos, gala programmes, books and some of of the cups and trophies for people to take a look at and discuss.
We were so pleased that lots of lovely people came to share their memories! Here’s just a few of the stories we heard.
It was exciting to go to the Baths after school, recalled one member. The children would rush to the Baths as quickly as they could, stand at the bottom of the stairs, sling their school bags as far as they could up the stairs, then leave them all in a big pile while they went for a swim.
Someone else described how sometimes young children would swim, get into their pyjamas, have their tea in the lounge, and then fall asleep in the car on the way home.
Bob Sadler, the Bathsmaster from the 1930s to the ‘50s was remembered as very strict, though, to be fair, Ken did describe himself and his young pals as “hooligans!” so perhaps the occasional ‘telling off’ was justified!
But any child who was reprimanded more than once – for example for running around the pond – received what was known as a “holiday” – three weeks barred from coming to the Baths.
Mr Sadler also sold chocolate to the children. One person recalled him opening the lid of his Victorian desk to hand out Fry’s Five Boys chocolate bars.
Some of the changes in the building were brought to mind.
One person remembered the pool being dark – nothing like it is today. That was because the glass skylights had been painted in the Second World War, and the paint wasn’t removed until into the 1950s.
Well into the 1950s the lounge still had heavy Victorian furniture, and the Baths still had a Russian steam cabinet until the 1970s at least.
In the Junior Baths there was a brass duct with valves that the girls opened to get hot air to dry their hair. Also in the Junior Baths was a bathtub so big and deep that the children could slide down it into the water!
Several women recalled the towelling robes that girls and ladies wore around the club – though apparently men didn’t have them. In fact Christine brought her robe in – specially made for her in Arlington red – to show us, along with her 1970s red costume and one of the red squares with a white ‘A’ that were sewn onto the ladies’ swimsuits.
The galas were big occasions with three tiers of benches erected around the pond out of scaffolding and planks. There were tarpaulins around the front, lowest tier to prevent spectators getting splashed. Apparently it was all kept in the basement and took about a week to set it up.
People also enjoyed seeing the cups and spotting their own names and those of their friends and family.
Dorothy told us a lovely story about when she won the Girls’ Centenary Diving Trophy, a small bowl with two little rings at the side. Once she’d taken the cup home, her pet budgie would admire his reflection in it, bang the little rings against the side to make a noise, and jump right into the bowl to flutter about.
The social life of the Club was missed by lots of members; facilities such as the café which was run by a man called Roddy. Liz explained that ladies would come to the Baths on Tuesdays and Thursdays, not only for a swim, but also to get their hair done and have lunch or tea with friends in the café.
Other regular social events included Burns Suppers and laying down a green carpet in the Reading Room for games of indoor bowls.
Huge thanks to all the people who came along and shared their stories; it was wonderful to hear them!
If you have any photos or memorabilia from the Arlington Baths, we’d love to see and hear about them: just drop a message to Lucy Janes at email@example.com
Lucy and Kay