Nearly 90 years ago, the residents of Traralgon swam in waterholes in Traralgon Creek.
Fast forward to today and they now have the opportunity to swim in the grand Gippsland Regional Aquatic Centre (GRAC).
In between, swimmers have enjoyed two other pools in Traralgon – in Hotham Street (opened in 1935) and in Kay Street (opened in 1959).
The Traralgon Creek reportedly provided the first swimming spots for locals to cool off in, with several swimming locations recorded in the history books.
One was a waterhole in Traralgon Creek near the north end of Franklin Street, not far from the camping ground at the time. Obstacles were moved and dressing sheds, showers and other amenities were added.
Health authorities later declared the pool unfit for public use due to increasing pollution as a result of the growing township and so the community looked for another option.
Led by Reverend J. H. Blundell of the Church of England, the community pursued a pool at the east end of Hotham Street, near the railway property.
Construction began in 1934, with the aim to build a pool spanning 90 feet long by 30 feet wide and able to hold 85,000 gallons. This pool was opened on 16 March, 1935 and was colloquially known as the ‘Duck Pond’.
Traralgon’s population continued to grow and in 1956, a public meeting was called in the town hall to discuss the feasibility of building an Olympic standard pool. A committee drove the investigations required with the support of Hugh Osborne, Shire Engineer. The park within which the pool was built was later named in his honour as the Hugh Osborne Memorial Park.
Further proof of the need for a bigger pool came in 1957 when enrolments for a learn to swim program tipped 248 – far more than the 40-50 expected.
A community committee drove the project, with the support of the Shire Council, and set about seeking funds for the project. Approximately 200 collectors were enlisted to seek donations from the community, eventually raising almost £10,000.
Excavations started on 16 November 1957, with Victoria swimming champion Alva Colquhoun having the honour of turning the first sod to launch the project, on the corner of Kay and Breed streets.
Funds sought via community subscriptions continued to flow as the main pool was built to Olympic standards and a separate semi-circular pool for small children was constructed next to the shallow end of the main pool.
Construction costs were reduced through the supply of cement and bricks made locally, and the contribution of voluntary labour, which is believed to have saved approximately £2000 in construction costs.
On 8 December 1958, the pool was filled for the first time and after commissioning, opened to the public on 23 December.
The pool was popular over the Christmas period and school holidays, and on 14 March 1959,
Mr W. O. Fulton MLC officially performed the opening ceremony, watched proudly by City of Traralgon President Cr F. Wilson, Victorian Amateur Swimming Association President F.J. McIvor, and the Pool Committee led by President T. Furlonger and Secretary Mr H. Blanche. Alva Colquhoun returned for the occasion.
The pool was managed by Mr S. Kaiser for three seasons, followed by R. Martin for a season before the Traralgon Swimming Club took control. Club member Mr Robert Billows, acted as manager before taking over the role officially and holding that position for many years.
That pool remained in use until it made way for the construction of the Gippsland Regional Aquatic Centre, another chapter in Traralgon’s – and Gippsland’s – rich swimming history.
Before 1930. Traralgon residents swam in waterholes in Traralgon Creek, with at least one near the north end of Franklin Street and another in what is now Victory Park.
16 March 1935. First official pool opened at the east end of Hotham Street, near the railway property.
14 March 1959. The second pool, at the corner of Kay and Breed streets, opened.
23 March 2021. The latest pool in Traralgon, the Gippsland Regional Aquatic Centre, opened.