Bathing and Swimming

There were three baths to share between the 60-70 boys and everybody had a bath twice a week.
However every morning before breakfast we all had to have a cold plunge in a bath to help keep clean and to wake us up. The trick was to get in and out as fast as possible, but Matron was always watching to ensure that shoulders went under, and if they didn't she would push the offending boy down by the shoulders to make sure!
A former pupil (1955-1961) wrote:
"The bathroom wall was decorated with a Claude Harrison Mural of a paddle steamer and a smiling sun with rays. I used to steal another boy's Punch and Judy toothpaste. I didn't mind the morning baths. It was a point adding chore to fill the cold baths at night. If you added hot to speed the process, everybody said that made them colder in the morning. Illogical, but that was the received wisdom. Occasionally, tadpoles would come out of the taps."
 
  
During the Summer term, instead of a cold bath, the seniors would have to run down to the jetty at the lake and plunge into the cold water. Most of us soon developed a technique for diving vertically into the water, curving straight back up again and with a quick push of the hands on the jetty side we were back on our feet and getting dried.
 
Life was more spartan at the original school in Huyton, Liverpool. There is an article in the School Magazine, volume 1 number 8, December 1932, with the title 'Do you remember?'.
"The older boarders will remember the "early" gardening in June 1930, when the entire staff, teaching and domestic, plus the top dorm. got up at 5.45 a.m. and did some very strenuous work so that the men making the swimming bath should not be delayed in any way. It may also be of interest to some to know that the pond was finished by the light of a storm lantern and candle just as the witching hour of midnight was striking, and that the steps up to the bath terrace were all finished between eleven and twelve at night (one step per night) by the light of the garage inspection lamp an in unceasing rain. Before the swimming bath was made the weekly visits to the Adelphi baths (in Liverpool) were the prime joy and waste of time during the summer term. One bathe a week and an hour's travel to get it. Now the boarders get 21 bathes a week and the dayboys 10."
 
Swimming was fabulous on weekends during hot summer days. Wooden booms were tied out from the pier in a large rectangle to mark out the swimming area. If you couldn't swim then you were confined to a small bay at the shore next to the pier, and to encourage non-swimmers to learn to swim they could not wear swimming trunks! All boys quickly learned to swim to earn their trunks and be able to swim from the pier.
 
The pinnacle of swimming prowess was to complete the Island Swim, from Semew Cragg Island to the school pier (approximately 440 yards). Four boys at a time were rowed out to the island and then swam back alongside the boat.
"The swim was really scary as the water weed was like thick rope vanishing into the depths of the lake.  I was sure I was going to be eaten by a huge pike!"
A former pupil (1963-1968) wrote:
"I recall being taken out to the island in a rowing boat in the company of a small group of boys deemed capable of making the intrepid swim back to the pier (440 yards?). I was a very competent swimmer and held little fear of the distance, but must admit to another more basic fear.
I had been warned of the fearsome Pike that lurked in the lake’s depths, and it had been suggested to me that they had a penchant for biting anything that resembled a worm. Happily I remained intact, and no doubt their target was diminished by the cold and fear, but I remember my ‘Australian Crawl’ was particularly urgent that day. Nevertheless, I felt a great sense of achievement in having completed another HH ‘rite of passage’ and warmly remember the un-cynical way we boys celebrated each other’s endeavours."
 
The school pier in 1950
 
A former pupil (1947-1953) wrote:
"Fortunately for me I learnt to swim at seven in Sorrento in the summer of 1947 just before being sent home by air by myself from Rome to start at Huyton Hill School in September. This meant that, next summer, my time for being confined to the paddling side of the boom across the little bay by the pier (also used for sailing toy boats) was limited and I graduated fast to diving in off the pier - naked, of course, in true Huyton Hill tradition! (As we got older we kept an eye open for stray tourist boats and steamers so that we didn't get caught out of the water!) I have a photo of naked boys on the pier from my time, but dare not even print it for fear of being arrested these days! Swimming at Huyton Hill was a serious matter, so serious in fact that we did it every morning in the summer (instead of a cold bath) and right on until ice round the edge of the lake made it a health hazard (November in one year, I remember). One was woken up, got up, stripped off pyjamas, ran downstairs, grabbed a towel, then ran out and down the path to the pier and dived in - and then ran all the way back indoors again to dress and turn back the bed before breakfast. Then there was a chart on the noticeboard where one's swimming achievements were marked up. One could certainly get one's "200 yards" and so on by swimming to the boom (out towards the Boart House) and back  the correct number of times. Life saving certificates were a major issue. I got my Bronze Medal (Royal Life Saving Society) at 13 after weeks of training, among other things at rescuing a brick from six feet of water from a surface dive. However, the height of swimming achievement was the Island Swim (the little island at the top of the photo of the school) which some seniors completed."
 
Comments