In February 1963 the inaugural pool manager, Mr. Herb Jeffrey, had asked interested people to attend a meeting to discuss the possibility of establishing a swimming club in the town. There was sufficient interest for this to proceed and, as a consequence of this meeting, the Lara Amateur Swimming and Lifesaving Club was established, with Mr. Herb Jeffrey being appointed as the coach. In the early years, senior swimmers at the Club also acted as lifesavers to assist the manager on busy days. Herb’s daughter, Robyn Jeffrey, became the Club’s first registered swimmer.
The inaugural President was Mr. F. Doughty, Senior Vice-President Mr. R. Hughes, Junior Vice- President Mr. W. Young, Secretary/Treasurer Mr. W. Armstrong and Assistant Secretary/Treasurer Mr. A. Gillett. The Club’s first official swim meet was held in conjunction with the pool opening, with eleven events being contested by eighty swimmers. The minute book records that there were 109 members at this time. Swim meets were held on Thursday nights, with this being changed to Sunday mornings in the following season. Following objections from some local residents regarding the Sunday time slot, a further change was eventually made to hold the meets on Saturday mornings.The Club affiliated with the Victorian Amateur Swimming Association (established 1893) and a points system for trophies was introduced.
The Club’s first Invitation Swimming Carnival was held on 14th February 1964. Mr. Leon Touzel, Mr. Max Parker and Mr. Herb Jeffrey provided much advice and practical assistance for this meet. The first Annual General Meeting was conducted on 6th May 1964 and the first Presentation Night was held in the Lara Hall on Saturday 9th May 1964. Around this time Mrs. June Richardson was co-opted onto the Committee, with a view to teaching young people to swim as part of the Club’s activities. Learn-to-swim classes have continued throughout the Club’s history and we are proud of the efforts of many dedicated teachers who have taught countless children to swim since our inception. Our Club participated in the first Inter-District Competition at the new Norlane Olympic Pool on 18th December 1967.
The minutes of the Annual General Meeting held on 6th May 1975 record that the Lara Pool had been heated, and membership stood at 205 members. The Napthine Pairs Relay was introduced for the end of season break-up in 1976and was a great success. Club Coach, Mr. Vin Napthine, conducted the Club’s first winter training at Tresize’s Pool in Geelong in the early 1970s. Mr. Napthine was later awarded an MBE for services to swimming.
In an effort to provide funds to build the clubrooms, many special fundraising events were held over a number of years. In addition, each swimmer of school-age was required to pay ten cents per week towards the Building Fund, whilst those in employment paid twenty cents per week. The Club’s minutes also record that monthly social events were run by the Committee to add to the Building Fund. The significant funding required from the Shire of Corio for this type of project had been delayed, due to the devastating effects of the Lara Bushfires in 1969, so it was 12th March 1976 before the clubrooms were finally opened.
During Australia’s Bi-Centennial Year (1988) our Club celebrated its silver anniversary with a well-attended cabaret at the Lara Hall. Many early members attended this function, providing the opportunity for newer members to meet the Club’s founders.
After local council amalgamations in 1993, management of the pool transferred from the Shire of Corio to the City of Greater Geelong. Having been an eight-lane pool for much of its time, a change was made to six lanes in the late 1990’s, thus providing much-needed additional width for senior butterfly swimmers.
Since early times, our Club has continued to flourish, with most swim meets still being held on Saturday mornings. Both championship and handicap events are held, with learners’ lessons being conducted at the same time. A small number of ‘semi-retired’ handicap races are also held each week to provide the opportunity for senior Club members to participate in our swim meets.
In 2007 the Club’s inaugural autumn training program was introduced, enabling swimmers to train throughout the year and this has been continued. For winter training our swimmers travelled to Waterworld in Norlane for many years, as the Lara Pool only operated over the summer months. In 2008 winter training and the first Club Meets for the year were relocated to the Handbury Centre for Wellbeing at the Geelong Grammar School. Due to increasing lane hire costs at this facility, winter training in 2014 utilised a combination of the Grammar School and Waterworld Pools and this arrangement will continue. Swimming training is based at our home pool from the beginning of November each year until the pool closes at the end of each season.
Our members have ranged from those who have participated primarily for fun and exercise, to others who have competed in swim meets conducted by other clubs. In recent years there has also been an increase in the number of our swimmers who have competed at the Country and State Championships, with the highlight of each year being the Country Swimming Championships at the end of January. The location of these championships varies from year to year. For those swimmers who have been awarded medals at these events, the Club proudly displays both individual and relay team photographs in the clubrooms. In addition, the names of all the Club’s age group champions, semi-retired winners and life members are also printed on the honour boards.
Our uniform colours of navy-blue and white have been used since the Club’s inception and, in more recent times, the range of uniform items available to members has been extended. The Club’s logo has undergone two changes since the original one. The Lara Swimming Club Inc. (name change in 1994) is committed to improving equipment and facilities, whilst also implementing changes to meet the needs of its current members.
Numerous activities were held on 2nd March 2013 to celebrate our Club’s 50th Anniversary. A large crowd of past and current members thoroughly enjoyed the day’s events in magnificent weather, as well as the cabaret which was held at the Elcho Golf Club in Lara that evening. A 50th Anniversary Booklet was published and an extensive memorabilia display was set up in the clubrooms. Individual certificates were awarded to all the past and current members who swam in a special anniversary freestyle event.
For the commencement of the 2014/2015 season, the City of Greater Geelong installed new starting blocks at the pool, being the first permanent blocks at our home pool. These are greatly appreciated by the swimmers, as they are of the standard design now used at outside meets.
Our members were saddened to learn of the passing of Mr. Herbert (Herb) Jeffery on 8th May 2017. Herb initiated the meeting at which the Lara Swimming Club was established in 1963 and he became our inaugural coach. Herb and his wife (Alvie) had thoroughly enjoyed meeting up with past and current members at our 25th, 40th and 50th anniversaries.
The Lara Swimming Club now has a website and Facebook page, so it is easy for prospective new members to gain information about us, as well as providing two important means of communication with our current members. In addition, monthly newsletters (Splash Notes) are distributed to those who provide their email addresses. Other Club information is also forwarded to members via group e-mails. Hard copies of our Annual Booklet have been provided to members for about twenty years. This year our annual Information Booklet (for the 2017-2018 season) is being compiled as a digital booklet for the first time and this will be available on our website. This will enable us to keep the information ‘live’, as updates can easily be made as required – for example, updating the Club’s record times when they are broken by our swimmers.
Grants and sponsorship have becoming increasingly important for our Club in recent years, aiming to keep fees for our swimmers as low as possible. We are very grateful for the support provided by a number of local businesses and members, but are also hoping to build upon this for forthcoming seasons.
We look forward to another very successful season in 2017-2018 and welcome new members of all ages.
Pam Strijder – Archivist July 2017