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FONTY'S POOL

by Graeme Olsen.


Archimede Fontanini arrived in Australia in 1904 with 12/6d ($1.25) to his name. After he died in 1982 he left behind a famous local landmark of significant historical value.

Archie was born in Italy in 1880 and after working in France for a few years he enlisted in the Italian army to do his mandatory three year service and volunteered to serve in China during the Boxer Rebellion. He was discharged at the ripe old age of 24, and decided to see more of the world, which led him to Fremantle.

After working at the Timber Corporation Sawmill at Greenbushes for three years, Archie decided he'd like to have a go at farming. At that time the Government was encouraging people to develop land in the south west, so Archie went and had a look at some of the places available.

 

After checking out a few, Archie settled on a particular area that had a stream flowing strongly through it, even in summer. He was granted the land in 1907 and he set about clearing and developing it, which was no easy task. At that time Manjimup didn't exist, so purchasing supplies meant a three day horse and cart journey to Bridgetown. In winter the track to Bridgetown was almost impassable.

Archie married his wife Lucy in 1909 and they had 5 children. After several years of developing the land, Archie built a dam across the stream with a log and earth, hoping that the silt in the stream would settle and make the land more fertile when the wall was later removed. He taught his children to swim in the new dam, and they became very popular at school because they had a swimming pool. It soon became a regular event to have many children and even adults visiting to have a swim.

When Archie decided it was time to drain the dam and start growing vegetables again, he was surprised to find resistance from many people in town. A committee was actually formed to convince Archie to not only keep the dam, but to charge an entry fee to maintain it. Such was the demand for a public swimming pool amongst the now expanding population of Manjimup.

Archie agreed to the proposal, cemented his dam and developed the gardens. "Fonty's Pool" was born, and officially opened in 1925. It soon became one of the well known beauty spots of the south west. Archie continued to maintain the pool and gardens well into his old age. But at 93 years of age, when it became too difficult, Fonty's Pool had to close.

In 1979, however, the pool was reopened with a "Back To Fonty's Pool" weekend which combined with the Australia Day Log Chops and Swimming Carnival, and was attended by 12,000 people. Archie was there to see his pool reopened. He died 3 years later.

Thank you to the Fonty's Pool Caravan Park for providing information for this story.

November 2001