Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Belshaw's World - Summer days, Blue Hole and the 'Terrible Quads'

Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express on 19 October 2011. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because the Express columns are not on line. You can see all the columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011.

Cousin Jamie has been posting family photos. I, too, have been going back through some of my own collection looking for shots that might be worth putting online, as has brother David.

Between us all, there are hundreds of photos not counting the proliferation that came with the digital camera. Eldest’s face book page actually has more photos than the entire collection!

Family photos can be an issue, for what is interesting to the family can be dead boring to the outsider. Older readers will remember the once popular slide shows – this is us in front of <insert appropriate monument>. Eyes glaze and bums get sore.

Still, when I look at our photos I suspect that some might be interesting if put into a broader context. They do cover more than one hundred years of New England history.

I don’t want to devote entire columns to family snaps. However, I thought that it might be worthwhile from time to time to use some photos as an entry point to discussion of aspects of our shared past.

A week or so back, there was a letter complaining about the condition of the road to the Blue Hole. I had to laugh, for the Blue Hole road has been the subject of complaint for a very long time!

Terrible Quads 1937 Blue Hole The Blue Hole has been a popular picnic spot for many years.. This photo is simply entitled "On a rock - the Blue Hole 1937, The Terrible Quads".

One person in the photo is Aunt Kay, but I have no idea who the other members of “The Terrible Quads” were! I suspect there are people in Armidale who might answer that question.

The thing about the Blue Hole is that it provided a deep swimming spot when they were relatively rare. This made it a popular swimming and picnic spot.

Other places such as the Pine Forest or the Gwydir did have deep pools.

I still remember skinny dipping at the Pine Forest getting a very burned backside as a consequence, but those pools tended to disappear as creeks silted up or changed course. The Blue Hole was different, always deep.

I first went to the Blue Hole as a kid many years after this photo was taken. The road was dreadful, really ruts wending their way across the paddock.

There were two things required to make the visit special.

One was a rope tied to a tree branch from which we could swing out into the water. The second were tire tubes.

In an earlier column I wrote about the experiences of my daughters tubing on the Mekong.

Our tubes were smaller, nor was the locale as exotic. Still, the concept was the same.

You could lie in the tube and look out at the world. More precisely, you could do so until someone tipped you out!

The problem with the smaller tires was the valve. I kept getting skin abrasions from those valves!

One feature of the Blue Hole was just how cold and dark the water became as you dropped below the surface. We used to dive down, but I never went very far because I didn’t like the cold. I still don’t.

This may sound strange coming from someone who grew up in Armidale, and indeed for periods I used to go swimming at the baths when they opened at 6am for training. Today that seems like insanity!

Thinking about the Blue Hole, I wonder if today’s Armidale kids have the same reactions that we did.

I know that when my girls were young we simply didn’t do some of the things that I had done. There were just so many more choices in terms of activities.


bradlee seccomb said...

Fantastic image- have many great memories of Blue Hole as I used to live off Long Swamp road (and also in Hillgrove and Armidale. You know we can fix the damage to those scanned images now to the point where you would be amazed! I absolutely love old photos- keep 'em coming!!!

Jim Belshaw said...

Hi Bradlee and sorry for the slow response. I have to learn how to fix some of those photos! I will try to keep them coming!