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04 October 2018

Old pals pool memories from 1967

When Pewsey girls Sharyn and Ros and Gwyneth and Helen last got together the world was a very different place.

It was May 1967.

Sandi Shaw topped the UK singles chart with Puppet on A String.

Glasgow Celtic FC were crowned Champions of Europe.

And the House of Commons voted to join the Common Market.

But the event which really made a splash in their home town was the opening of the new community swimming pool.

The four 16-year-olds all pupils at Pewsey Vale School were the first people to take the plunge when the pool was filled for the first time fully clothed in school uniform. The moment was frozen in time by press photographers who were covering the big moment.

Fifty-one years on, and the quartet gathered at the same place to re-live that day.

The years fell away for the four women as they stared at the fading press cutting and saw their teenage selves, recalling the morning when they shivered in the rising water.

Health and safety?

In 1967?

Not so much.

"It was our teacher's idea," laughs Sharyn today, at the reunion arranged to the mark the launch of the new pool at the school on the site of its Sixties predecessor.

"The press needed something to photograph so he said, ‘In you jump girls,' and we climbed in.

"It was May. But it was freezing," she winces.

The get-together was the idea of Judy Kunkler another Pewsey old girl, and the sister of Jerry Kunkler, chairman of Wiltshire Council's Pewsey Area Board.

Judy came across a copy of the old photo and decided it would be good fun to recreate the scene.

She pulled off some neat detective work to track down the foursome and get them back together.

In truth, it was tricky for the photographer to recapture precisely the historic pose.

The building work was still a way off completion when they met. The pool was empty and rather than grey school uniform, the ladies were decked out in hard hats, safety gear and high viz vests due respect to safety regs 2018-style.

One other big difference between the eras money.

The original pool was completed at a cost of £8,000 largely raised locally from the proceeds of school fetes, carnival processions and British Legion bingo nights.

Its modern replacement forms part of Wiltshire Council's bold investment in the new Vale Health and Wellbeing Centre, which will cost about a thousand times more than its forerunner.

Money well spent say its supporters who can't wait to welcome the venue, which will include a 25m four-lane pool, fitness suite, café, community space and sports area.

It's designed as the kind of venue that binds a community and even before it opens officially it has re-united these old pals and renewed their decades-old friendship.

"It's been so much fun, and I'm so glad I came," said Gwyneth, the only one of the four who now lives outside the area.

She braved tail-backs on the M4 to reach Pewsey from Pembrokeshire but the afternoon was worth every mile.

"We have taken up again as if we saw each other last week, not half a century ago," said Helen.

Ros said: "We're looking forward to staying in touch. We've got so much to catch up on."

Which was true.

A lot of water has flowed through Pewsey's pool since 1967.

Last updated: 5 October 2018 | Last reviewed: 5 October 2018

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