Sunday, April 12, 2009



Children Never Swim on Sunday

By George Siamandas

© George Siamandas


Fifteen hundred people attended the opening ceremonies May 6, 1912,opened by Mayor RD Waugh. Waugh a big recreation advocate in Winnipeg had been trying to get the Pritchard Pool built for years. Finally in 1909 ratepayers approved the $50,000 budget. Located at the corner of Charles St and Pritchard Ave, and costing $50,000, the Pritchard Baths tank measured 79 by 68 feet and was 2.5 to 7 feet deep. It had 38 dressing rooms, 72 lockers and 17 individual shower stalls plus 31 children's showers.

Everyone had to shower going in. A sterilizing machine guaranteed healthy supplies of bathing suits and towels which rented for a nominal 10 cents. Civic planners wanted a modest charge so that the pool would not be seen as a charity. While an orchestra played, a swimming show was given by Mrs Harrison and R Ernest Collins, a man with only one leg. Percy Cox officiated at the first water polo game ever held in Winnipeg. And the Manitoba Swim Club demonstrated scientific swimming. Staff had been hired to teach swimming. Mr J Harris would be teaching swimming to men, while Mrs Harris a bronze medal winner from the Royal Life Saving Society would instruct women.


There were only two places to swim in Winnipeg at the turn of the century. The only indoor pool was at the YMCA. The city operated an outdoor area with poolhouse along the Red River 200 yards east of the Louise Bridge. Elm Park a peninsula surrounded by the Red was another popular spot. The first indoor pool was the Cornish Baths built in 1909, followed by the Pritchard Baths in 1912. The plan was to set up pools in every district.


The sexes were not allowed to swim together. Men had the pool on Mondays. Thursdays were women only days. Strangely children were not permitted to use the pool on Sunday. During the rest of the week men had the pool from 10-12 while women had it from 1-10pm.


Indoor pools proved to be a shallow success. Expensive to operate, they received less use than expected. The Cornish Baths lasted 20 years and were closed in 1930. The Sherbrook Pool was built to take over this function in 1931. In the same year an outdoor pool opened at Sargent Park: the biggest in western Canada.

The Pritchard baths closed down in 1948 and were replaced by an outdoor pool. Never a success the outdoor pool was closed down and the new Kildonan Park pool opened in 1966 as a replacement for the Pritchard Pool. In 1970 a new indoor pool was built on the Old Exhibition grounds as a centennial project. Finally the north end had an indoor pool again.

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