6 April 2023

Riverina Rewind: Council calls for a whipping with nude bathers busted on Wagga Beach

| Chris Roe
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Nude swimming

In 1935 rumours of nude bathing sparked a council and police investigation. Photo: Chris Roe.

Late-night skinny-dipping in the river is a tradition as old as humankind but it appears to be something that prudish authorities in Wagga were keen to crack down on back in the day.

In February 1935 newspapers across the nation were filled with breathless reports on the rumours of nude, moonlight bathing parties on Wagga Beach.

It was apparently the talk of the town, providing “the main topic of conversation in Wagga” and sparking a police operation and discussions at the Wagga Municipal Council.

Alderman Doyle was determined to get to the bottom of the rumours of the alleged revelries on the beaches in the early hours of the morning and declared, “If the stories are true, it is time the cat-o-nine-tails was brought into use again.”

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Deputy mayor Stevenson said that the council would be kept abreast of the situation while police inspector McIntosh said that he would “investigate the matter thoroughly”.

A week later, inspector Mcintosh reported that “some persons had been indiscreet but there was no foundation for the rumours which had given rise to a debate in the Wagga Municipal Council.”

While he dismissed the rumours as “grossly exaggerated”, police apparently took them seriously enough to “keep a watch on the beach”.

A constable was assigned to make “frequent surprise visits”, presumably popping out from the trees with a lantern to scan the unlit stretch of sand in the hope of catching a flash of the daring exhibitionists.

And sure enough, after a local dance one Saturday night, it was reported that a constable “was attracted by shrieks of mirth from the direction of the beach”.

Rushing boldly to the scene, it was alleged that he encountered “about six youths and six girls in separate groups, about 50 yards apart, in various stages of undress”.

Police described the situation as delicate as “several members of the two parties are said to belong to well-known families in the district” and concluded that “there was not sufficient evidence on which to take action.”

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The incident that initially excited the town and council, was found to have occurred the previous weekend.

Police had paid a surprise visit to the beach and found a number of naked youngsters splashing about and rounded them up.

One lad managed to get away by staging a bare-bummed dash along the beach in his shirt with his trousers under his arm.

Names were taken, and “it is alleged that some members of the party wrongly gave the names of well-known and highly respected residents.”

It leads one to wonder whose nan and pop may have taken a sneaky late-night dip in the Murrumbidgee in their youth!

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