Billingham “Billy” Baths is where I and many many others were taught to swim by the marvellous Olive Atkinson.
The shot of the building I can date to around 1960, to the right of the picture there can be seen a car on the perimeter road leading to the ICI offices, these were opened in 1959, straight ahead is the roundabout at the junction of Central Avenue and Cowpen Lane, St. Johns church was later built on the corner and it opened in 1961/62.
When facing the baths, to the left were a number of single storey pre-fab buildings, these housed the welfare and medical centre, it is where we went for our Polio jabs in the 1950s, also they supplied the famous National Dried Milk and exceptionally tasty orange juice.
To the right of the baths were some tennis courts surrounded by a high fence, I never saw tennis being played there but I did see the Police running the Cycling Proficiency Examinations during the 1950s.
The shot of the diving board dates from the 1950s, one of our favourite escapades was for a group of lads to gather near to the boards then we would all run up the boards and with a loud yell all jump together and “Bomb” the pool, this led to a lot of whistle blowing and finger pointing by the attendants, we were never thrown out but we did get some ear bashing.
The long shot of the pool is also from the 1950s and was taken from the diving board area looking toward the front of the building, the opening behind the man in the dark suit was the entrance to the lads changing rooms, the balcony and part glazed roof can be clearly seen.
The pool had underwater lighting along the two long sides, we used to sink under the water and we could see past the bulb and reflector and see the maintenance men going about their business.
The shot of Olive Atkinson and her prize winning team is a newspaper clipping from 1962, my thanks to Ann Martin for the loan of this image.
Before being taught the correct way to swim I used the usual dog paddle method of swimming, neither of my parents could swim so we were very much on our own when messing about in water.
Two of the things I disliked about the baths were the foot trough between the changing rooms and the pool and the huge extractor fan in the changing rooms that caused a near gale, both were freezing cold.
I was very lucky learning to swim as I was a pupil at Billingham South Modern School for one year 1957/58 and we had swimming lessons there, when we were transferred to Stephenson Hall on the Billingham Campus site there were no swimming lessons available.
Swimming was one of the great loves of my life and I continued swimming well into my 50s, I taught two of my younger brothers to swim, both gained the ASA gold badge and one became a professional diver, they in turn taught my two sisters to swim and they in their turn taught my two youngest brothers.
Details courtesy of Bruce Coleman.