Improbable you may think – but actually it’s true!
On our recent visit to Switzerland, my wife and I just managed to squeeze in a visit to Leysin.
The Tom-Tom left us in no doubt that we had found the right place, there we were on Avenue Rollier, the site of a sanatorium erected to treat the most severe cases of surgical tuberculosis.
Treatment at the Grand Hotel, (now Leysin American School) rescued patients from almost certain death by exposing adults and children to lifesaving sunlight and a healthy diet.
Doctor Rollier opened his Swiss clinic in 1903 and through measured exposure to the early morning sun he progressively improved the terrible condition of his patients and in many cases affected a complete cure.
The patients he admitted were in a terrible condition, had open sores, were emaciated and lethargic.
The treatment was slow but extremely effective in fact the general health of his patients achieved proved quite remarkable.
Visitors often commented on the lack of coughs and colds among children who were so exposed.
The idea that sunlight could improve a persons health soon spread abroad and children in particular were encouraged to play outside as much as possible.
The picture above from a health center in Finsbury promoted outdoor living for better health, and the British soon came to realise that a good suntan was the hallmark of good health.
The industrial city’s of Briton were sun starved and even the little light that slanted between closely built factors and slums was blotted out by thick smoke and smog.
The early morning swim (pictured above at Victoria Park London) well suited an industrial nation keen to see the unwashed bathing at last whilst ensuring they were not detained from a full day of slave labor working the machine of change.
The deplorable state of the nations health became obvious when fit and healthy men were required for trench warfare during the first world war. So many men were in such poor health that something had to be done!
Major reforms saw public health celebrated in Britain which led to a healthcare system that became the envy of the world.
Lidos were built country wide as opportunity’s firstly to swim but also to develop better health through sunbathing. Physical perfection was promoted and beauty pageants and diving displays made the Lido a social magnet.
The popularity of the lido evolved from a determination to improve the nations health, but the switch to a sunbathing era saw swimmers flushed out of rivers and lakes into these purpose built solarium’s.
When holidays abroad became an option for the working class, lidos were abandoned on all but the hottest of days as people who had experienced the good life abroad would now only bathe back home when it was simply to hot to do anything else.
Now this is a very brief overview of the social changes that have impacted on river and lake swimming in the UK, and their is a great deal more to the story. I have tried to convey the impact of social change on the British swimmer as simply as possible in; Hung Out to Dry Swimming and British Culture.
If you have not seen it already you might be quite surprised to see that the clinic in Leysin did not have the same effect on river and lake swimming in Switzerland as it did here in Britain…