When I was about six years old I started swimming in the pool below our house called Wooley’s pool. I was embarrassed because I had to use water wings. The problem was that no one had taught me how to swim. I wasn’t a natural learner.
But all that changed when I went to primary school at Kalk Bay. I can’t remember the day but I think it was on Wednesday that we would go to the Kalk Bay swimming pools behind the railway station for swimming lessons.
Our swimming teacher Mrs Currie told us how to swim using a medium-sized board that we held in both hands and kicked like crazy to get from one side of the tidal pool to the other.
In those days there were three tidal pools. The “baby” pool was for kiddies and was surrounded by beach sand. The larger middle pool stretched out right up to the rocks where at high tide the waves would break over the wall and into the pool.
Towards the left of this pool and extending a little further out was the “men’s'” tidal pool. I don’t think the name was sexist; it was so named because only men really swam in it. Sea urchins and rocks were at the bottom of the pool and the waves crashed right over it making it potentially dangerous to swim there.
At the back of the pools were changing rooms for men and women. There were lockers and storerooms to keep swimming equipment.
Much later, I think on my 16th birthday, my father took our family for dinner at the small, cosy restaurant above the swimming pool changing rooms. The restaurant was owned by a German man. All I can remember was eating my first out-of-home rump steak with pepper sauce and how much I enjoyed it.
Even later when I was a diver in the Navy I would go to the outside area of the restaurant with friends. We could take our own wine and beers and buy fresh line fish for next to nothing which would be braai’d for us while we chatted over a glass of Cape white wine. I still remember those Sunday evenings as some of the best times I’ve had eating braai’d line fish.
All that – the restaurant and swimming pool changing rooms – changed over the years with the commercialisation of the place into some sort of overlay of restaurant and drinking holes. Swimming was never the same there because the swimming pool facilities had to make way for private business interests discarding the heritage of Kalk Bay.
I see the place was in the local news in August because of encroachment by the business interests. Claims are being made that the area was never a public beach.
Business is important to the local community but it is sad that what was once a public recreation area has been lost to the people of the community. With vision, it could have been one of the finest swimming facilities in the country and unique in the world being situated in one of the most scenic coastal spots.