Shortly after arriving in Singapore, we joined the Singapore Swimming Club. My father had enrolled the family as members. The SSC was a most impressive place, to my young eyes. The building was built in the 1930s, I think, but it looked very modern to me. The style was Art Deco. A distinctive feature was the diving board, shaped like a pair of whale bones.
Driving to the club was enjoyable, as we had to cross the island from Woodlands. I seem to remember that we passed the Britannia Club (which I never visited), joined the Nicholl Highway and crossed the Merdeka Bridge. My father pointed out the old Singapore Airport building and runway at Kallang.
In 1961, the SSC was right next to the sea. The water in the pool was salt water, so I assume that it was sea water, hopefully filtered to remove fish, snakes and seaweed! Strange thought that we didn’t think twice about paddling and swimming in the sea, but we would have been horrified to think that any sea creatures could find their way into the pool.
Before we joined the SSC I couldn’t swim. I had taken swimming lessons back in England, but I was only capable of a special form of the breaststroke that involved hopping along with one foot touching the bottom. Within a couple of weeks at the SSC I was able to swim. No particular stroke, but I was able to flap around and stay afloat without a lot of effort. One of our friends said that the salt water improves your buoyancy.
My parents did a bit of swimming, but whereas my brother and I would stay in the water all afternoon, they would spend most of the time reading and chatting with friends.
The SSC was right below the Paya Lebar runway approach, and it was a great thrill to see the aeroplanes roaring overhead, not very high and extremely loud. In those days a Boeing 707 looked enormous when viewed from just below, and the jet engines were much louder than today’s planes.
My last memory of the SSC was the 1961 Children’s Christmas Party. This was an afternoon event, which for the most part is just a blur of images. There were lots of children in their party outfits, and I believe Santa Clause made an appearance. I remember being a bit uneasy because some of the games involved holding on to girls, and I found it all a bit embarrassing.
From the Google satellite view, it would appear that the SSC still exists on its original site, but the art deco buildings have been replaced. And of course, it’s nowhere near the sea.
At the end of 1961 we left the SSC and joined the Royal Island Club. My dad was interested in playing golf, and the RIC offered both golf and swimming. That’s something for another blog.
Singapore Swimming Club c 1909
Singapore Swimming Club 1930s
Singapore Swimming Club 1950s
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