Bowring Park a highlight of childhood visits to city

Joan Butler
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St. John’s residents are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the much loved Bowring Park.  
While it is a popular city treasure, it also evokes many memories for me as one who has enjoyed the park at many times of my life — as a child, teenager and parent.

When I was young we had no real park out here in Kelligrews or the other communities that today make up Conception Bay South. We had some nice local gathering places such as Kelligrews Beach, Topsail Beach, Manuels River and Lawrence Pond, but nothing like Bowring Park.

Like townies enjoying the chance to get a day out here in Conception Bay, getting an afternoon or day at the St. John’s park was quite the experience.

The United Bus travelled to St. John’s and back on a regular basis and used Waterford Bridge Road to get downtown. A few times during the summer when we had the money we’d get the bus to Bowring Park and get off near the Waterford Hospital and walk into the park for an afternoon of swimming.  

The anticipation of heading to Bowring Park the next day was enough to keep me up most of the night.

As a child, the biggest thrill was that swimming pool. We never saw anything like it. Our swimming pool experience was a few visits to the pool at the old recreation centre off Torbay Road where we occasionally went with the Brownies or Girl Guides.

The Bowring Park pool was like something we saw in the movies. There were lockers, dressing rooms, diving boards and crystal clear water.

The best part was that you were out in the sun and heat and could stand up on the bottom of the pool.  

We did not have to worry getting caught in the seaweed or the rocks in the cold ocean water. The bottom of the pool was free of the broken glass and garbage that we often found around our feet in the fresh water pools around Kelligrews.

The best part of all was the water was not cold or murky brown and did not taste that bad if you swallowed it.

Following an afternoon of swimming, we could buy a snack at the canteen or hang out on the playground before heading back to Waterford Bridge Road to get the bus back home. We’d relive our afternoon on the ride home, which could be about an hour or so, depending on how many stops the bus had to make.

The rest of our summer we spent swimming at the beach or the various fresh water holes such as the Kiwanis and a few areas along Kelligrews River. If we were lucky, our parents or older siblings would sometimes take us to places like Lawrence Pond or Topsail Beach.  

As a teenager, I hung out at Bowring Park on some days when we pipped off for the day or afternoon from nearby Beaconsfield High School. I treasure the photos of old school friends taken at the statues in the park.

As a parent, we still lacked a regular park here in C.B.S., and the children did not want to swim in the bay or our other spots, so we made the familiar trek to Bowring Park. At this point, I drove to the park and the kids spent the afternoon swimming while I relaxed on the nearby bank with a good book.  

As with my childhood, part of their day was getting something at the canteen and spending some time in the playground.  

The park may be a St. John’s landmark, but it brings fond memories to many here in C.B.S. and beyond.

 

Joan Butler is a lifelong resident of Kelligrews,

Conception Bay South. She can be reached by email

at joanbutler@ymail.com.

Organizations: Waterford Hospital, Beaconsfield High School

Geographic location: Girl Guides.The Bowring Park, Kelligrews, Topsail Beach Waterford Bridge Road Kelligrews Beach Manuels River Torbay Road Kelligrews River C.B.S.

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