As summer sadly slips away, I can’t help but remember the Augusts of my youth, when I tried valiantly to get in as much swim time as possible before Riverside Pool closed for the season, boarding up with its concession stand and basket room, my hopes and dreams of becoming the next Rowdy Gaines or Steve Lundquist. Of course, my friend Dayna Williams-Capone, sister of guest blogger Joel Williams, was one of the lucky ones, she actually worked at the pool. A few weeks ago, I asked her if she had an interest in writing about those days, and she graciously agreed. So, please enjoy this account, you can almost smell the chlorine, watermelon Now & Laters and iodine laced baby oil with every sentence.
First Job at Riverside Pool
Ever since Ray and I started talking online in early June about our hometown I have been thinking about my first job and how I view that experience today in comparison to my image of myself and feelings about that job when I was 15. It was fun getting in touch with a couple of people I worked with back then and by doing so I realized how differently each one of us remembers (or forgets) a past shared experience. Thanks Ray for giving me a chance to share this.
Riverside Pool in Independence, Kansas is a place I remember with a sense of excitement and contentment. Opening day at the pool was what I daydreamed about during those final May days of school. It was the place to meet friends and be a bit more independent. Starting in about 5th grade, my mother would often drop me off at the pool on her way back to work from lunch and pick me up at the end of her work day.
The summer I was 15 I got a job at the pool working in the concession stand along with a good guy friend of mine. It was a perfect first job as I would spend my mornings and late evenings playing tennis at the courts next to the pool and then head over for work. It was a not so perfect job as I spent my time waiting on bratty children trying to decide if they wanted a Chick-O-Stick or Tangy Taffy while the lifeguards flirted and paraded around in their latest swimsuits.
I had an in for the job as my dad and the pool manager were friends who both taught at the local community college. Having my friend to keep me company and knowing the manager were a big plus because I found the older and cooler lifeguards and the jock who ran the basket room (where you checked in your towel or extra clothes) to be intimidating. Those 2 – 3 summers at the pool taught me a lot about people and self-confidence and what it meant to be or not to be one of the cool kids.
The lifeguards were at the top of the social ladder at the pool followed by the jock in the basket room and bringing up the rear were us kids in the concession stand. Our job was to look the other way when the lifeguards came in to pilfer Zero or Snicker bars out of the refrigerator or to be their audience as they discussed last night’s party, a new boyfriend or how sunburned they were getting. The biggest compliment to receive from the lifeguards was to be dragged out of the concession stand and thrown in the pool. It didn’t happen often, but it meant they really liked you. Those summers I was the sounding board and observer to unrequited love, hangovers, an unplanned pregnancy, engagements and leaving home for college.
The most exciting event during my summers at the pool was the year I was invited to the end of summer party at one of the lifeguard’s rental house. I couldn’t believe my good fortune to be a part of the cool kids club and how was I ever going to have this experience without letting my parents in on all of the somewhat questionable things that might happen there. There was going to be beer and purple cold duck in those little glass bottles. People would be smoking who knows what and they had driver’s licenses and cool sports cars.
I went, I saw, I drank enough beer to have no effect. Afterwards I spent the night with my close friend and I’m certain we dissected all my adult experiences. My friend who had a menthol smoking older sister with a wild side understood my need to experience this party, but also the uncomfortable feelings of not quite knowing how I fit in.
Looking back on that party it was more of an opportunity for everyone to prove to everyone else how worthy they were. Each person was there to show off his/her gifts. It could have been the gift of making great ice cream, telling the best jokes, drinking the most beer, being the most daring by having the illegal contraband, being the best dressed or having the cutest date. Because of our youth it all became a competition, we weren’t ready to appreciate each other’s gifts, to overlook faults, to build each other up.
At 15, fitting in was important and it was very difficult to be the person I was growing into. Sometimes in our adult lives our 15 year old selves emerge and bump into each other. Experience and wisdom sometimes help mitigate our feelings of inadequacy and competitiveness. Other times it’s easy to fall back into old habits. I’m much happier now than at 15, but still enjoy remembering all of the interesting and difficult things I experienced in that small town in Kansas.