Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Wartime Swimming

My search for great-great Smiths is on hold until I can get to the library to search (Yes, I could subscribe and get access from home, but it costs $25 a month, and I’m now a poor pensioner – also cheap.) In the meantime, I’m returning to my parents’ war years.

London, 1944 or 1945 - Roehampton Pool

I was intrigued by some pictures in my mother’s collection showing known and unknown figures cavorting in swimming costumes at “Roehampton pool.” There is at least one featuring Betty and her girl friends, and one in which John Blackwell appears. (He was unrecognizable at first, probably because I’d never seen him in a bathing suit before.) It’s not clear if these are the same occasion or different.

On the back of the one with John, Betty has written, “We are thinking of sending them on tour with this act – Pat [Hillis, Betty’s room mate] & I have hysterics every time we look at this! [J]ill, John, Richard & Pat at Roehampton pool.”

The Richard in this picture is elsewhere identified as “cousin Richard.” He looks to be somewhere between 10 and 13. Betty seems to have made a bit of a pet of him. My third cousin Mort Smith in England, who knows the Smith family tree well, could not place him, which suggests Richard was a Gladwell (grandmother Edith Smith’s family.)

Roehampton Pool, it turns out, was a very popular cooling-off place for war-weary Londoners – as the crowds in the background of the picture of Betty and Richard (above) suggests. A Google search turned up a fabulous British Pathé newsreel clip about the pool, made in 1943, probably the year before Betty’s pictures were taken. (It wasn't possible to embed the video in this blog, so you'll have to click on the link and go to the British Pathé website – it will open in a new window.)

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