Sunday, February 26, 2017



The Story of the
Palmerston North Municipal Baths
By Val Mills

DATE: 3 APRIL 2017      TIME: 5.30 PM
George Street Entrance

PRE-ORDERS AVAILABLE from 3 April.                           PRICE: NZ$25

Friday, February 3, 2017

Three Years Research and Writing Over

This blog may have lain idle, but I certainly haven't. I discovered that researching and writing the story of the Palmerston North Municipal Baths demanded more time than I imagined. For more than twelve months I've spent several hours most days either researching or writing the book, leaving no energy left for blogging.

However, writing this story has now come to an end. The book is finished, the story is told and in another two months Down at the Baths will be launched. It's time to return here and share some of the story with you.

This photo was taken in the late 1950s by the custodian of the time, Wes Hayward. For any public facility such as this to have a story to tell, people are needed. The custodian has prepared the baths for a swimming carnival and they sit waiting for the swimmers and officials to arrive.

The baths story unfolded over nearly 50 years, between opening in 1917 and closing in 1966. The story could be that of any swimming facility from that era.

Maybe this will remind you of your own local baths or swimming pool? I'd love to hear of your experiences.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Aligning Two Journeys, Baths of the Past and Writer of the Present

Procrastination can be one of my major enemies, creating indecision and a tendency to drift. That has been my case, not in researching and writing my book, but in maintaining this blog to keep up with recording my progress. I'm an old-fashioned girl. I've been writing in my journal instead. Maybe my major problem with the blog has been that, until now, I've not been able to see the journey clearly.

In a similar way, the local Council displayed a similar inability to make the decision to build the baths back in the early 1900s. No one could see the finished product clearly enough to push
 decisions forward, enabling progress to happen.

Just as the Council were forced into making a decision, so I am now determined to have this blog reflect the progress of the story of the baths. The baths story and my writing story are finally aligned.

Monday, September 28, 2015

From Swimming Log to Writing Log

Photo of swimming sqaud at Palmerston North Municipal Baths in the early 1960s. Val Mills

Time passes quickly when you're having fun, and so my presence here has been neglected. A lot of research and writing ground has been covered in the four or five months I've been absent, but the time has come to include this blog as part of my regular writing process. It's all about becoming more organised and consistent.

You see, I'm now only one year away from when I want the first draft of 'Down at the Baths' to be completed. I have books filled with notes, lists of people still to interview, and of practical things that need to be attended to. But, everything is going to plan and I seem to be on schedule.

In reflecting on my success as a swimmer I have fond memories of the little pink log book in which we set our goals, recorded our daily training and reflected on our successes. I'm sure that book was instrumental in developing my strong competitive nature.

And so, success in one area needs to be transferred into other areas. It's back to a log book, this time to plot my research and writing progress. It's all set up and ready to go, with a weekly blog post included in the plans.

There's weekly goals, a daily diary of achievements, notes to myself and space for reflection at the end of each week. Now, it's full steam ahead, one year to cross the first finish line toward the completed project. Wish me well.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Finding A Place to Write

Gathering research is one thing, but until now I've put off doing the actual writing. I kept telling myself I don't have enough information yet. Thankfully I realised this is silly. As a one time boss of mine once said when I told him I wasn't ready to take the next step, when will you be?

So, I gave myself a talking to this week and chose to take the next step. Yes, I'm finally getting on with the writing. There's much written already of course, little disconnected bits, all filed away, hoping they'll find the right place to settle in the larger scheme of things. Writing at home is fine, but as yet I haven't disciplined myself to ignore interruptions.

Have you ever noticed that when the time is right things happen? My thoughts strayed to a room, a writers room, with nothing more than a table and chair. And tucked away at the back of my head the answer had been waiting for me.

To cut a long story short, I've found a room in a community house, free of charge, that I've hired for three hours once a fortnight. Imagine that, a room to shut myself away from the world, where I can't do anything else but write. Won't that be exciting? I can't wait to get started.

Friday, March 20, 2015

The First Time

I first came into contact with the old baths in Ashley Street when Mum and I went to watch cousins Victor and John swimming in the Manawatu champs, probably early 1960. Of John I remember very little, but I remember watching Victor in a breaststroke race.

Mum and I sat in the midst of the crowd on the long wooden seating above the dressing sheds, looking down on the pool below. The water, divided on the surface by black lane ropes, sparkled under the bright lights. The sky above was dark and clear enough to see the stars. Up there on the seats I felt drawn to both the black above and the blue below.

Apart from the school swimming sports, I'd never been to watch swimming races before. Being a spectator didn't suit me. I wanted to be down there with the competitors, diving into the water, part of the action.

That night, my first time at the Municipal Baths, a swimmer was born.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Why Didn't the Baths Open On Time

For, example, in my own research into the story of my local baths, I couldn’t work out why they were late opening for the 1918 – 1919 swimming season -remember, I live down under in New Zealand so the swimming season is October to March.

The answer became evident. A terrible influenza epidemic was sweeping the world after World War 1 and New Zealand, being a small country was hit particularly hard. Of course the swimming pool wasn’t open, when schools and other organisations were closed.

Knowing a bit about what was happening  at the time helps the reader understand your story better. It’s worth making the effort to include the bigger picture to give a better understanding.