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The demolishers moved in, walls toppled and another of Levin’s landmarks bit the dust this week.

Levin’s old swimming baths site is being cleared while across the Domain construction of the new $2.2 million indoor pool nears its July completion date.

Many Levin residents will remember the old baths for the tragic death of a young swimmer in 1985, soon after which the pool was emptied for the last time.

But for others like Levin historian, Corrie Swanwick, memories of the baths conjure up happy summer day recollections of a time when swimming costumes and customs were different from what is planned for the new pool.

The baths were opened on January 11, 1912 and cost the Levin Borough Council of the day £500 to have built by Mr Hocking, a Palmerston North builder.

Half the cost came from the Government who granted the £250 to mark the coronation of George V.

The remaining £250 came from the council coffers.

The baths were then named the Levin Coronation Swimming Baths, although in later years the royal commemoration was dropped.

Mr Swanwick said basing the inflation rate on the rise in postage from the penny post of 1912, the baths would have cost in today’s money about $50,000.

“Five hundred pounds was a lot of money in those days, when peanuts and honey were four pence a pound and the honey came in hard blocks that the grocer cut with a wire.”

The first custodian was a Mr Daniels who was paid one pound five shillings a week for this work.

Seventy-eight years on, the new pool will be staffed by a team with a management contract of almost half a million dollars for the first year.

Early bathers paid three pence for adults and one penny for children.

And Mr Swanwick can remember when going for a swim was very much a splash with the boys because for many years swimming was segregated for the sexes.

And it was not just the public baths that separated the bathing belles from the shoulder to knee clad male swimmers.

“Even down on Hokio beach the women and girls were down one end and the men and boys up the other.”

The levelling of the baths comes just months after another building designed by the same architect, James Bennie, was dropped to the ground to make way for progress.

Mr Bennie designed the Municipal buildings, also on Bath Street, that had to give way for the new Telecom building.

He was also the architect for the Central building and old library.

Mr Swanwick said the fact that the baths were on Bath Street was a coincidence because the street name hankers back to early English settlers who named the street years before the baths were built.


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April 7, 1990

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