Old Monovians; Memories

Robert Barltrop - Swimming

Swimming

I did not learn to swim until some time after I left school, although we had weekly periods at the baths in the winter Several forms went together, and some of the masters came in the water and swam about. Ninnim would stand on the side and direct boys how to dog paddle, but there was no organised instruction; the swimmers swam and the rest of us played in the water. Before going in we had to pass a little wet tiled cubicle where the attendant eyed our feet. If they looked grubby we had to stop in the cubicle and wash them on a huge block of hard mottled soap. In the third year we had the second half of Thursday morning. A new row of shops had been built on the other side of High Street, in the place of Gillards' wall, and one of them was a fried-fish restaurant; it was good to go there feeling fresh and hungry after the spell in the water, and eat a threepenny and a penn'orth.

The school had a swimming team, which had contests with other schools, and there was a Monoux swimming gala every year. It was transferred from the High Street bath to the more modern Leyton one at the Baker's Arms; there, I remember, a superb exhibition of acrobatic diving from the high board was given by a boy named Ken Pawn. He was an all-round athlete and gymnast, and at the beginning of the war he won the title of 'Britain's best-developed man' awarded by Health and Strength magazine. Later he became an actor under the name John Dearth.

The worst of the depression was over, although there remained more than a million and a half unemployed until 1939. In this relative improvement, all kinds of physical exercise were popular. The hiking craze continued; at summer week-ends Chingford station disgorged people of all ages in shorts, carrying knapsacks, striding across the Plains or along the Epping Road. Sun-bathing too - that was part of the attraction of Larkswood Pool, to try to get ones limbs bronzed.