UNLOCKING THE PAST: The accidental beauty queen

SURPRISED: Champion swimmer Janice Fogg (left) 'accidentally' won the Miss Cessnock 1953 pageant at Cessnock Pool.

SURPRISED: Champion swimmer Janice Fogg (left) 'accidentally' won the Miss Cessnock 1953 pageant at Cessnock Pool.

Sometimes two worlds really do collide and it happened in 1953 at Cessnock Pool.

Local swimmer Janice Fogg was a champion in the pool.

She won her first competition at aged 11 and for decades continued to rise through the ranks of competitive amateur swimming.

Many claim she was the best swimmer Cessnock ever produced, winning State, Country and Northern District championships year after year.

In 1956 she even made it to the Olympics, training alongside legends Lorraine Crapp and Dawn Fraser as part of the Australian Olympic Swimming Squad.

The following year she competed in the Country Championships where she blitzed the competition winning the 110 yards and 220 yards freestyle events and the 110 yards backstroke.

Janice retired shortly afterward.

Now known as Jan Williams, she made sure her considerable experience was not lost, becoming a teacher and coach for the Cessnock Amateur Swimming Club and nurturing the next generation of young swimmers.

TEAMMATES: Janice Fogg (right) with legendary Australian swimmer Dawn Fraser. The pair were members of the 1956 Australian Olympic squad.

TEAMMATES: Janice Fogg (right) with legendary Australian swimmer Dawn Fraser. The pair were members of the 1956 Australian Olympic squad.

But despite her extraordinary career, her strangest moment in the pool came in 1953 when she accidentally won the Miss Cessnock Pageant, a bathing beauty competition held at Cessnock Pool.

Her friend Lesley Pettigrew had urged her to enter, but Janice was unconvinced.

She didnt have the glamorous swimming costume, or high heels, necessary for a beauty queen entrant, so Lesley lent her both.

To her astonishment she won, obviously impressing the judges in her borrowed red satin elastic costume and black suede heels. Her prizes were a cup, a sash and a 46-piece dinner set.

Straight after the competition she changed into a practical costume, as it was back to her normal life as a swimming champion.

Janice was booked to do a 100-yard demonstration swim as part of the swimming carnival.

On the second lap of her swim she suffered agonising leg cramps, which she had never experienced and hasnt ever experienced since.

She put it down to her first time in high heels.

The price of beauty indeed!

You can see Janices beauty queen prizes and explore stories, photos and other wonderful historic items from Cessnock, Kurri Kurri and Branxtons swimming pools at Cessnock Librarys summer exhibition Splash! Our Pool Stories.

The free exhibition is on throughout January at Cessnock and Kurri Kurri Libraries.

Kimberly O'Sullivan is the local studies librarian at Cessnock City Library

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