THE Sydney suburb of Sans Souci, on the south-western side of Botany Bay, boasts yacht clubs, sailing clubs, beautiful beaches and swimming pools bathed in a rich history.
With the commotion of the city behind you & the calm waters of Botany Bay at your feet, you can see how this relatively small area got its name. Sans Souci is French for “without a care.” Technically, it got its name from the summer palace of Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, which is fine, but not quite sure his royalness would quite have appreciated the baths and fishing in the 1850s. By 1890, a steam tram was built between Kogarah and Sans Souci enabling more people to enjoy the area. Baths were opened in 1897 (and remained so until the mid 1960s); sailing became more popular, followed by virtually any water activity imaginable. As the town has evolved into a welcoming outdoor destination, it seems the more casual translation of Sans Souci is a bit more appropriate: “No worries.”
Baths — Sans Souci at Harris Street
Squint and you can almost see the modest bathers of the early 1900s with their swim caps and pantaloons, towels spread out on the sands in front of sky blue bathing pavilion. What is now a borderline ramshackle place, situated between an Olympic pool and water police was once packed with recreational and competitive swimmers, or others just looking for a reprieve from the summer heat. “At the height of its use, it wasn’t uncommon to have 500-600 people in the water,” explains Garry Darby, author of Baths and Boatsheds: the waterfront community at Sans Souci 1895 — 1965. “Back then, swimming was a really big community activity. The swimming leagues were family organisations.”
In addition to its social scene, the pavilion speaks to the era. Built in 1933 by Depression affected “relief workers”, the structure was a prime example of Art Moderne, an International style that focused on functionality, featured horizontal lines — and most of all, it was relatively cheap and easy to build. But take a peak inside the now abandoned building you’ll see even more amazing artefacts from a bygone time — a tube of Milo, a rusted Kelvinator and a rotary phone. Ancient!
Painted Heart — look down to find the hidden message
Urban legend or just random, it seems there are plenty of theories about the origins of the faded red-painted heart along the footpath outside Georges River 16ft Sailing Club. Some say it’s a tidal marker, others call it innocent graffiti and then there are the more detailed stories like how these hearts are distance markers for a seniors strolling path, or the sad tale of a fundraising 5km run for a disadvantaged young boy. Each kilometre was marked by a red heart, represented each of his five years of age. Truth is, explains club chairman James Newell-Courtney, it was to commemorate the World Cherub Championships — sort of like high-end dinghies with flash sails — held there in 1998. Appropriately enough, their class symbol is a big red heart, maybe because chubby little angels with wings were a bit hard to paint.