Sandra Church was a regular girl about town in the 1960s. She has written to me with her reminiscences about swimming and skating in Rochester in that swinging era.
I think of the old Rochester pool, demolished in the early 1970s, as merely the icy destination in a route march from the Math School in the years before the school got its own pool.
Sandra, however, has happier recollections. “There used to be a crowd of us in the Sixties,” she writes. “We used to meet up and walk from Warren Wood estate to the Delce and then on to Rochester-Maidstone Road, down to Love Lane next to the Coopers Arm on to the Esplanade and along to the swimming pool.
“We would go into the changing rooms, be given a basket to put our clothes in, get a band to put round our wrist and the enjoyment would begin. It was open air, but we loved it. The boys used to chase us girls with plastic bags full of water and throw them at us. After a lengthy swim we’d walk up the concrete steps to the kiosk to buy our hot drinks and potato puffs etc.” (Yes, I remember those potato puffs – great, weren’t they? Never saw them anywhere else.)
“We would then sunbathe on the elongated steps on one side of the pool,” Sandra adds. “I really wish some of the children of today could be transported back to those days. It was great fun.”
Sandra, like me, learnt to swim at Buckmore Park and recalls: “In those days we had to listen to a nature study programme on the radio and answer questions and get them right before we were allowed to get on the coach from Warren Wood junior school.
“I remember one week I was in tears because I got one wrong. My teacher relented though as it was only one question. Once there we had to get our cossies on and line up at edge of the pool to have our arm bands inflated. We then had to get in and swim a couple of widths with them on and then straight away at the third width take them off and swim across without them.
“It worked for me because you still had the feeling of the bands. It was great. My friends and I had brilliant times up there.”
Romance of the roller rink
Later came roller skating at the Buckmore Park rink. “In those days not many of us could afford the sturdy boot skates and many of us used to borrow them from friends who were slightly more affluent than us,” Sanda says.
“The boys used to wear black boot skates with red laces and the girls white with white laces. There used to be dancing skaters who would glide round the rink, skating backwards, forwards and sideways to the rhythm of the records of the Sixties. How I wished I was like them!”
Sandra, nevertheless, was keen: “I remember being a bit over-eager to go on the rink when the fast skating was announced over the Tannoy. I then had a very embarrassing moment when the Tannoy said, ‘Boys only!’ I beat a hasty retreat much to the amusement of my friends.” Romance was also in the air above the rink. “I think all of us girls fell in love with the stewards up there,” Sandra recalls, somewhat dreamily. “They were so good at skating and so handsome.”
Sandra and her friends were also pretty fit: “We all used to walk up to Buckmore from Warren Wood estate and the Delce.”
I wonder how many kids would do that now?