The Dandenong Baths was the social epicentre for Dandenong’s teenagers from 1925 when the pool opened, through to 1975 when the pool was decommissioned on the opening of the Oasis. The 120 foot outdoor pool was next to the Drill Hall in Dandenong Park. Former life guard and Dandenong Historical Society member TOM STEIN reminisces about his teenage summers at the Dandy Baths.
When I joined the Dandenong Lifesaving and Swimming Club in 1953 at the tender age of 14, the club president was John (Rockin’ Chair) Clayton, who remained in that position until 1957 and was later made a Life Member.
The first requirement of all new members at that time was to train and undergo examinations for the Bronze Medallion because in those days the emphasis was on life saving rather than straight swimming.
Looking back, those were truly our ‘Happy Days’ because we were, by then, a large number of boys and girls of the same age group, 15 – 17, and we all looked forward to weekends at the pool where Bill Haley and the Comets were belting out Rock Around the Clock in competition with Louis Armstrong and Dixieland Jazz, and there would always be someone jiving in the club room.
Sunday mornings we would meet at the pool around 9am to be collected by either Heather Matthews’ father in his sand truck or Elaine Sherry’s father in his furniture van, and 20 or more bubbling, energetic, singing teenagers would be carted to wherever the beach carnival was that day.
How great it felt to don our sky blue costumes with the dark blue lightning flash down the front and to march with our own DL&SC club banner flying in the breeze during the march past.
For most of us the club provided our entire social life and there always seemed to be parties where we would get high on lemonade and laughter (no one was interested in alcohol then) and dancing to Rock ‘n’ Roll music.
Some Saturday nights the few older members who had licences and drove 1930 model cars (all they could afford), would load up with kids and off we would go to a drive-in, which was a brand new form of entertainment.
There we would all pile out and sit outside or on top of the cars to watch the movie and gorge on hamburgers and Coca-Cola.
There were also picture nights at the now extinct Mayfair Picture Theatre in Dandenong.
As the years went by, many of the girls naturally dropped out because of boyfriends outside the club, but a solid core of the boys stuck together and, in fact, we are all still close friends today.
From this core we comprised the committee as well as being the active members and for the seasons 1957, 1958 and 1959, we organised a swimming carnival each year at Dandenong Baths, which attracted some of the best swimmers in the state, and also had the most impressive array of trophies which we had to personally canvas from Dandenong traders.
My own involvement with the club ended in the summer of 1959.
I must admit that I frequently stop at the site of the old Dandenong Baths, now converted into a children’s playground, and I experience a wave of nostalgia when I think of the great times we had in the club during those long hot summers of the Fabulous ’50s.