Wednesday 2 March 2016

Woolwash Memories

Almost without fail, everyone remembers the Woolwash as being the best, and favourite swimming spot in Campbelltown. Kids would walk, ride their bikes, or be dropped off, to spend a glorious summer day at this lovely spot on the Georges River.

Swimming, however, was not the only entertainment on offer at the Woolwash.  With great ingenuity, kids created their own forms of fun. Homemade canoes were constructed of tin and wood. These were mainly made of a sheet of corrugated iron bent down the middle and nailed to a piece of timber on each end. Apparently these home made canoes spent a fair bit of time on the river bed! Luckily, they could be retrieved by means of a rope tied to one end of the canoe, and the other end attached to a floating four gallon kerosene tin.

A homemade corrugated iron canoe sinking at the Woolwash in 1940 - photo courtesy CAHS and Col Braithwaite

Jimmy and Frank Lappin were brothers who were born and grew up in Campbelltown. Jim had a canoe he had made from flat iron, which he towed to the Woolwash behind his pushbike.  Frank created a home-made diving helmet, enabling him to walk along the river bed! Using a five gallon oil drum, arm holes were cut out of the drum and a glass viewing panel fitted. By attaching his Dad’s garden hose to the top of the drum, and the other end to a motor car tyre pump, he was able to create an air supply. The pump was operated by a person sitting in the canoe.  All this would work fine until the canoe sank!! Then the helmet had to be abandoned and the diver swim to the surface!
On one occasion, Frank complained that the operators of the pump were “a bit bloody scarce with the air”!!!
Luckily, no one was ever injured during these escapades!

Written by Claire Lynch

Grist Mills
Vol. 13, No. 2 “More Reminiscences of Old Campbelltown by Alf Cooper” by Verlie Fowler
Vol 16, No. 1 “Around the Woolwash in the 1930s and 1940s” by Col Braithwaite

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