The Borrow Street Swimming Pool          - 24/10/2006      <--Prev : 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 
met 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 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 

The Superintendents name 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.

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

Unfortunately the pool was being emptied for maintenance so I missed
that wonderfully exciting chlorine smell, but I will go back again 
soon, take some more pics, and relive those ecstatically happy 
childhood memories.