When the pool opened in 1984 (believe it or not 35 years ago) no one could have imagined what a fabulous club we would become, tight knit, wonderful parental support and with our own swimming club grandparents, Norm, Dulcie Cronin and Dot Smart.
By the late 1980’s we would have six top ranked swimmers in country WA with Jon Ward, Casey Molenda and Rachael Bairstow being selected in State country teams, with Casey going onto the Nationals. It seems unbelievable today, that on Saturday mornings in the early 1990’s the numbers of children would peak at 150 with 12 qualified coaches concentrating on stroke technique and skills and drills. It was chaotic and exhilarating, Karen took the enrolments, organised the groupings as well as teaching her own squad.
For most of the life of the swimming club, Karen was the President. Her drive and determination was second to none. If husband Terry wanted a hand on the farm and needed to locate Karen, he only had to phone the pool (no mobile phones in those days) and would promptly be told that he would have to wait until she was finished... Karen was committed to the cause 7 days a week.
Karen was an Austswim teacher, a coach, a stroke judge and a Royal Life Saving Society examiner, plus the best swim meet officer in the zone. She superbly organised house carnivals, interschool carnivals, inter town challenges, zone meets and shell competitions as well as Austswim courses and
Royal Life Saving camps, which were all held at the Dumbleyung pool.
Karen arranged for the swimming club to become affiliated with the WA Swimming Association. This allowed for the Dumbleyung swimmers to attend state swimming events. With the children improving greatly, the parents had to step up. Luckily Ian Murray, the Principal of the Katanning Senior High school at that time was a WASSA official who trained the parents to be starters, place judges, stroke judges and time keepers.
This lead to a culture of success which culminated with winning the E grade country pennants at Collie, the D grade pennant at Geraldton and coming runner up in the C grade pennant in Narrogin. As our numbers were limited in the open age groups, it was all hands on deck. This led to 8 and 9 year old swimmers competing in the open 100m freestyle just to gain a point for Dumbleyung.
Karen has had an interest in swimming from an early age. After learning how to swim in the dams at Badgebup, she found out that she was allergic to the dam water and the remaining lessons were held at the Katanning Pool. What most people don’t realise is that her dad, Mike Kemble, was a very good swimmer also. This led to her being good enough to walk into the MLC swim team. She was also known to pull on the bathers, and without any training, make up the numbers with Chris
Batchelor in the medley and freestyle relays at the carnivals.
In the early 1980’s Karen became a member of the Dumbleyung Kukerin Swimming Pool Committee, which fundraised almost nonstop for a new pool. For those who don’t know or can’t remember, the rate payers of the Shire had to vote on whether or not a pool was to be built. As it turned out, if 11 or more ratepayers had voted ‘no’, there would have been no pool. After the pool was built, the committee provided funds to purchase a solar blanket, chairs and tables, shade shelters, teaching aides and barbeques.
And just before I ask Dulcie Cronin to present the Life Membership, I will leave you with a quote from Karen from the Dumbleyung Short Stories book.
“The skinny kids froze and sank while the fat ones floated. I’m sure they believed me when I told them that the water was a lot warmer today than it was yesterday, snuggled in my warm tracky as they jumped in. They also believed me (as they raced to the toilet) that the water would turn purple if they ‘peed’ in the pool. After a late night out, I cursed as I jumped in, fully clothed, shoes and socks, to rescue a floundering child, only to find out that he could stand if he put his feet down.”
We are proud, at long last, to present Karen with a well-deserved Life Membership of the Dumbleyung Swimming Club!
Article by Drew and Beth Bartram