It was the summer of 1989 and Milli Vanilli was climbing the pop charts. Batman was the top grossing summer movie and Baywatch premiered on NBC. I was taking my first lifeguard class. I already had experience working at the local swimming pool but was ready to move up from my entry level position. The hierarchy at the pool was simple. There was a desk attendant who was typically a 15-year-old, a few lifeguards (starting at age 16) and a pool manager. The desk attendant managed the patrons entering and exiting the facility while the lifeguards enjoyed endless days in the sun, never glued to a desk inside. You were lucky as a desk attendant to get the lifeguards to talk to you.
When the opportunity arose to take Advanced Lifesaving from the American Red Cross, I jumped at the chance to improve my standing at the pool. Advanced Lifesaving is no longer a course with the Red Cross replaced by the modern version, Lifeguarding. One of the highlights of taking the older course was the hair tow, which as a method for saving a drowning victim is exactly what it sounds like. Advanced Lifesaving certification cards from the 1980's feature a silhouette of a curvy woman being dragged by the hair by her lifeguard rescuer. The business of lifesaving has evolved from when I was first exposed to it. It wasn't until 10 years later that Automated External Defibrillators began to be used in Red Cross training. Techniques have improved and statistics point to an increase in recreational swimming over time while drowning rates steadily decline over the same period. I believe the lifeguard deserves much of the credit for this.
This spring as we prepare to open West End Beach at Donner Lake and eventually the Truckee Community Pool we will be working to train and certify our returning and new lifeguards. We also serve as a resource for seasonal pools in the Truckee area who use us to train their staff. Other local agencies including the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District depend on our CPR and First Aid classes to stay current. It turns out we are not only responsible for our pools and lakefront. We may also have trained the lifeguard at your neighborhood pool or the staff at the school your child attends. While COVID-19 has made our operations more of challenge we have embraced our role as a leader in our community when it comes to safety classes.
The summer hiring process is about to get underway. While the district offers many different positions for summer employment the best in my opinion remains the lifeguard. For young people looking for a summer job where you make a difference, consider taking one of our upcoming classes. Lifeguarding is great introduction for those interested in medical careers and also a fantastic way to get paid to improve your physical fitness. I am constantly impressed by the lifeguards who work for us and move on to become EMT's, ski patrollers and firefighters. There are even some decent careers in parks and recreation.
I'm looking forward to morning swims with the staff at Donner Lake. Taking out the rescue boat. Free ice cream on busy days. Taking a swim or paddle in the middle of the day. Watching a storm build over the summit before it hits the lake. It's a job that comes with responsibility but it also has benefits. Even if you don't transition from lifeguard to open heart surgeon you will learn skills and deal with situations that will inform you for the rest of your life. Come join the team this summer. You don't have to be a lifeguard but you'll want to be.