Tarquin Bateman, Communications and events coordinator – Masters Swimming WA
Sport is a life-long passion for Charles ‘Chaz’ Renner. At 92 years of age, he has a wealth of sporting experience under his belt and many great memories of growing up in Perth. He has competed in many sports including cycling, squash and swimming. He also had a professional career spanning several industries.
Charles has been a Melville Masters swimmer for 11 years, but swimming has been a part of his life since he was very young.
His father was a keen amateur competitor, and Charles remembers going down to the river in Bicton every Sunday morning with his club for a swim. Twice a week, if you were a very serious competitor.
“Being open water at Bicton Baths, swimming was very dependent on the tide and the winds,” said Charles. “If the wind blew the wrong way, there would be a thick blanket of jellyfish covering the bay. The turning boards were fixed to the jetty and if the tides were too low you could swim underneath them!”
There were no heated pools in those days, it was all open water. The first attempt at an indoor heated pool, Charles recalled, was when local coach Kevin Duff constructed a 25m pool in East Fremantle.
“It was very progressive then and allowed us to keep swimming in winter, but inside it was steaming, heavily chlorinated and you could hardly see from one end of the pool to the other,” said Charles.
Charles attends Melville Masters training twice a week all year round, both in the pool and ocean. He enjoys the competition and the companionship. Moreover, swimming helps him stay active and engaged with his community.
Before Charles was born, his father was in a motorcycle accident in North Fremantle in which he was badly injured and nearly lost his leg to gangrene. Following the Depression, his father managed to open a bicycle shop in Bicton. Some of Charles’ earliest memories are centred around the joy and pride he felt at being one of the only kids in the district to own a bicycle. This joy sparked an interest in cycling and fitness that carried through to Charles’ adult life.
He attended Richmond Primary School, and then East Fremantle High School before being encouraged by his father to pursue an apprenticeship in the developing trade of electrical fitting. Charles worked in this trade for 13 years until the 1950s when he got married, built his own home, bought a utility truck and began his 20-year career as a milkman.
Charles has three children, four grandchildren, and five great grandchildren. After leaving the milkman trade he was a driving school instructor for four years, ran a pizza shop for four years and finally returned to his electrical fitting roots as a whitegoods service mechanic until his retirement.
Back in high school, Charles played team sports, but always preferred individual competition. As an adult he continued cycling and playing tennis but found these sports hard to fit in around his seven-day working week.
In 1951 he had the opportunity of a lifetime to participate in the Jubilee Couriers’ Relay Cycle Ride as one of five athletes selected to represent WA. There were two amateur cyclists on the team (including Charles), two professional athletes and a long-distance cycling enthusiast. The event marked a golden milestone in the federation of Australia.
“The five of us carried letters of loyalty and goodwill in relay between Perth and Adelaide, substituting for the Olympic torches,” said Charles.
“The letters were to arrive from all states around the country on the anniversary of federation.
“There was no bitumen road on the Nullarbor Plain in those days, but we had a support crew of about thirty people and eight vehicles. We ran into all sorts of creatures and weather,” he said.
In 1962, squash exploded onto the sport scene in Perth. Charles was encouraged to try his hand at a few rounds and was hooked immediately. He could fit the sport around his career and personal life, and it was not long before he was playing competitively. He made many friends and continued competing until he was the last man standing in his age category, as his fellow competitors had mostly retired from the sport or passed away.
In 2010, Charles was attending a function with a friend when they suggested he join their swimming club. He is still swimming 11 years on and is an active member of the Melville Marlins Club.
Charles is young at heart and is extremely intelligent and witty. We at Masters Swimming WA are very proud to have Charles as a member.
If you would like to join a Masters Swimming club visit www.mswa.asn.au.