THERE is so much more to Port Elizabeth’s 20 municipal swimming pools than azure water, diving boards, lifeguards and grassy play areas – some lay claim to a rich history and one of them provided the scene for an award-winning Broadway production.
Centrally situated on the main beachfront, McArthur Baths on the friendly city’s golden mile has fought for its survival since it was upgraded as part of a government-initiated programme to improve tourist facilities more than a decade ago.
St George’s Park pool, next to the cricket grounds in Park Drive, will go down in the history books as the inspiration for playwright Athol Fugard’s award- winning play Master Harold and the Boys..
In 1950 Athol Fugard – then a teenager – insulted his friend, Sam Semela, a waiter at the St George’s Park Tearoom run by Fugard’s mother. Thirty years later, haunted by shame, the now-famous playwright wrote his coming-of-age play about that day, Master Harold … and the Boys, which premiered in the US in 1982.
On February 6 1929, the Port Elizabeth city council voted £10000 for a swimming pool in St George’s Park. After several objections construction began and the pool was finally opened on November 12 1937 when the Empire Games trials were held there
All municipal pools have a standard entry fee of R8 per adult and R4.50 per child.
Many of the pools, like McArthur and Kwazakhele, expect about 1000 residents a day. Municipal spokesman Mthubanzi Mniki has urged residents to be mindful of their surroundings while having fun at one of the 20 municipal pools.
St George’s: Total 22/30
Cleanliness: 4/5. The grounds are well maintained, but a few packets are scattered on the grandstand.
Bathrooms: 2/5. Doors are missing, the toilets are dirty, there are puddles of water, and the taps are missing handles.
Lifeguards: 5/5. Five lifeguards on duty throughout the week.
Fencing: 4/5. Walls are high , neatly painted and the addition of barbed wire would assist in security.
Shelter: 3/5. There is ample seating in the grandstand. But there is not much grassed area and not enough shaded seating.
Additional entertainment: 4/5. The pool boasts a high diving board, baby pool, tuckshop and it is situated in the heart of St George’s Park.
Algoa Park: Total 21/30
Cleanliness: 4/5. Aside from two or three pieces of paper, the grounds are spotless.
Bathrooms: 3/5. Two tap handles are missing and there are black marks on two of the three men’s toilets.
Lifeguards: 3/5. A point given for each lifeguard on site – there were three on duty.
Fencing: 4/5. Walls are high and topped with barbed wire around the premises. It however requires a coat of paint.
Shelter: 3/5. Well-maintained large grassed area, which however lacks undercover shelter.
Additional entertainment: 4/5. The facility is equipped with a baby pool, gym and tuckshop and jungle gym.
Despatch: Total 22/30
Cleanliness: 5/5. Spotless premises.
Bathrooms: 4/5. Well maintained and generally clean aside from random spots of grime build-up.
Lifeguards: 3/5. Three on duty.
Fencing: 5/5. With the rugby stadium along one side and high, facebrick walls around the premises and barbed wire there is no way of entering the grounds beside the main entrance.
Shelter: 3/5. Sizable grandstand setting, but the premises are relatively small, restricting the grassed area. More undercover shelter is also needed.
Additional entertainment: 2/5. There is only a baby pool and tuckshop.
Gelvandale: Total 23/30
Cleanliness: 3/5. Grass is quite long.
Bathrooms: 4/5. Generally neat and clean, but with a random collection of dirty spots in the toilet cubicles.
Lifeguards: 5/5. Five lifeguards on duty.
Fencing: 3/5. High walls, although part of the barbed wire has been broken off and it needs a coat of paint to make it more aesthetically pleasing.
Shelter: 3/5. Large grassed seating area and big grandstand for seating. However the grass is too long and there is not enough undercover shelter.
Additional entertainment: 5/5. The pool boasts a jungle gym, tuckshop, baby pool, high-dive platform and a hall for hire which caters for 60 people.
Kwazakhele: Total 16/30
Cleanliness: 4/5. The premises are immaculate, the grass is short and there is no litter in sight. However the pool has a slow leak, according to the site superintendent.
Bathrooms: 1/5. Toilets and showers are working but windows are broken, tiles have not been laid, certain toilets are missing seats, taps are missing handles and the change rooms are quite dusty.
Lifeguards: 3/5. Three on duty.
Fencing: 3/5. High walls enclose the premises but parts of the barbed wire have been broken and the paintwork needs to be redone.
Shelter: 3/5. There is not a single table on site and one of the two undercover shelters has been torn off. However there is ample grassed seating.
Additional entertainment: 2/5. The only extras are a small baby pool and tuckshop.
Zwide: Total 20/30
Cleanliness: 4/5. Grounds are well-maintained.
Bathrooms: 4/5. Following a revamp of the premises earlier this year it has been fitted with new changing rooms, although certain toilets still have slight marks on the inside of the rim.
Lifeguards: 4/5. Four lifeguards on duty.
Fencing: 4/5 New fencing encloses the premises, complemented by a new administration block and entrance. However the transparent fencing is invasive for bathers as activities taking place inside can be watched from the street.
Shelter: 2/5. There is a small grass area which is scattered with random patches of dust. There is little shelter.
Additional entertainment: 2/5. There is a baby pool and tuckshop.
Malabar: Total 17/30
Cleanliness: 4/5. Grounds are spotless although the grass needs to be cut.
Bathrooms: 3/5. Well maintained, although certain taps and some toilet seats need to be replaced.
Lifeguards: 4/5. Four lifeguards were present.
Fencing: 1/5. The wall is relatively low and can be scaled. Random spots of barbed wire are missing. Walking to the pool, one is forced to cross 5m of long grass in a park renowned for harbouring drug addicts.
Shelter: 2/5. Small grassed area and hardly any undercover shelter. There is no other seating.
Additional entertainment: 3/5. Quaint baby pool, tuckshop and braai facilities available.
Uitenhage: Total 22/30
Cleanliness: 5/5. The grounds are spotless.
Bathrooms: 4/5. Very well maintained toilets, showers and change rooms despite minor patches of grime buildup.
Lifeguards: 5/5. Five lifeguards.
Fencing: 3/5. Barbed wire does not extend all the way around the premises and the back wall is very low.
Shelter: 1/5. What was once a well shaded and maintained grassed and undercover shelter has disappeared. After the trees which ran along one side of the pool were cut down, all that is left is one dilapidated undercover shelter.
Additional entertainment: 4/5. There is a large baby pool, high diving board and pool, braai facilities and a tuckshop.