Bundaberg's Eric Cullen has been awarded an OAM
ERIC Cullen learnt to swim in Baldwin Swamp even before his parents knew he could.
Born in 1932, Mr Cullen grew up in Telegraph Rd - in a house that still stands - and when he parents went to town in the horse and sulky, his older brothers were given strict instructions not to take Eric swimming.
But no sooner where they out of sight, boys being boys, they headed to Baldwin Swamp and Mr Cullen had no option but to swim or sink.
That was the start of a long association with the water, one that today, at the age of 83, has earnt him an Order of Australia Medal.
Joining the Bundaberg Surf Living Club as a youngster Mr Cullen later transferred to the newly formed Moore Park Surf Life Saving Club where he was treasurer from 1960-1965.
In 1964 Mr Cullen tendered and secured the lease on Anzac Pool and Mr Cullen's wife Enid said Eric still got a thrill when those he taught to swim remembered the role he played.
"While we had the pool Eric taught swimming. At that stage the little country schools didn't come under the government's learn to swim campaign. Kalkie and little schools were close by but weren't big enough to warrant a swim instructor," she said.
"Eric still gets the odd six-foot tall adult who'll come up and say 'Hello Mr Cullen, you don't remember me do you? But you taught me how to swim'."
Mr Cullen said swimming was a life skill everyone needed.
"The importance swimming is for safety of themselves, not to learn to swim to become a champion - that's just the luck of the game. It's there to save yourself and also for health," he said.
Mr Cullen also became heavily involved in the Fairymead Swimming Club and was instrumental in persuading the club to hold the first City of Charm Carnival in 1973.
Mr Cullen's OAM also recognises his service to the community through scouting.
With three sons all interested in scouting, Mr Cullen became involved and his roles included Scout Leader and Assistant District Scout Leader.