The Borrow Street Swimming Pool

      11/12/2019       Next-->

Many of Bulawayo's Baby Boomers will remember the legendary Borrow Street Swimming Pool. It was indeed the focus of our young lives as children in Bulawayo in the forties, fifties, sixties and seventies.

Remember that amazing tang of chlorine that pumped out of that massive filtration system at the back of the pool grounds. Remember the tall tall trees that housed those smelly herons who pooped on your swimming towel

Remember those red, blue and yellow change room doors, row upon row of them, all painted with brilliant gloss paint.

These were forbidden to us all until we reached sixteen I think it was, maybe thirteen, and only then were you privileged to use them Until then you had to contend with the communal change rooms at the far end of the change room block.

Remember those eternally wet floors, always soaking as we raced in and out with the zest of childhood to collect whatever we needed from the cubicles.

They were tiny cubicles with but a hook on the back of the door and a slatted bench the width of the cubicle.

At one time we were allowed keys to the cubicles but as sanctions hit us and keys became costly, we had to search for the enormous change room attendant, who would begrudgingly slop along and open the door for us.

My own personal love affair with Borrow Street pool began when, as Coghlan Infant School Children, we would line up in pairs in a long plumbago blue crocodile, and walk the four blocks to the pool for swimming lessons.....

And then as we became fully fledged swimmers, Mom would allow Gavin and I to go to the pool ON OUR OWN !!

Hours, days, weeks, months were spent in teeth chattering bliss from the very first day of September every year until the end of April.

The school holidays were sheer bliss, we would form a rowdy queue outside those turnstiles, armed with the tickey to get in and one and six for a coke and packet of crisps.

It was there that we fell in love with those pink marshmallow fish and those yellow soft candy bananas. It was there that we used to much on those long liquorice sticks or those liquorice rulers that you could wrap around your finger and watch them go black..

After three hours of swimming until one's fingers went white and wrinkly, we would flop down on those deliciously warm brown sandstone blocks, cover ourselves entirely with our swimming towels, and with teeth chattering furiously, would warm ourselves up with anecdotes and sun, until it was time to go back in the pool again.

Marco Polo was a favourite game, diving off the one meter and three metre boards was just the most exciting thing you could ever do, and there was always a senior at the bottom of the boards to ensure law and order was maintained.

The kiosk was heaven, coke floats, ice cream, those little black shiny balls that would last for at least an hour if you sucked on them slowly, and those giant yellow balls - gob stoppers, that would not quite fit in your mouth and were oh so chewable.

The baby Pool was quite a new addition and was reserved for the under sixes. But when the superintendent was not looking you could sometimes sneak in and belly crawl from one end to the other to get warm.

The Superintendents name when I was a child was Mr Meal and my memory served me right his son Louis took over for a while.

Remember we used to get chased out though during the lunch hour so the nice people could sun themselves in peace and quiet. Then we could go back at about three when the sun was not so fierce.

Of course the piece de resistance was when they had "night swimming" during the very hot season. That was absolute bliss, nothing will ever feel as magic as those special balmy Rhodesian evenings ever ever again.

The pool has undergone quite a few changes recently, the trees have been cut down so the herons have nowhere to roost. There is a second pool now, built for the All Africa Games, and the giant filtration plant under the ivy is no more.

I have posted some pictures on the website of the Borrow Street Pool.

Watchdog !!