Forty years ago last summer, Jaws terrorized America.
After work, a group of Westport lifeguards went to Post Cinema, to see what all the buzz was about.
The next day, guard chief Will Luedke told his crew to swim to the buoys. “That was the fastest I’ve ever swum in my life,” one recalls.
That story was one of dozens told — and retold — yesterday. Nearly 2 dozen men and women who spent summers in the 1970s at Compo Beach (and, occasionally, Longshore and Burying Hill) gathered for their 2nd annual reunion.
They ate lobster (which they seldom did, back in the day).
They drank beer (which they often did).
But mostly, they told stories. They laughed. And they looked back with awe on the friendships, the camaraderie and the job that was — hands down — one of the best times of all their lives.
The days spent on the guard stands and in the shack were memorable. They did important work — keeping swimmers safe, providing first aid, finding lost kids — but they did it as a tight, fun-loving group.
The nights were even more memorable. They had their own basketball team, in a summer league. When someone’s parents were out of town, they partied. And if there was no party, they headed to one of Westport’s then-many bars.
One day, a call came from the Parks and Recreation Department office. Please stop wearing your red lifeguard jackets when you’re out at night, they were told. Too many people see you at too many different places.
Mike Wolf — who went on to be Connecticut’s head FBI agent — brought a 40-year-old jacket to last night’s reunion, held at the rented beach-area home of self-described “lifeguard groupie” Ann Becker Moore. It was regarded with awe by the men and women who once worse them.
(It was also the object of much speculation. The jackets were supposed to be turned in at the end of the summer, not kept.)
The guards came from all over. Pam Washburn lives in California. Luedke — now an attorney — flew up from Texas. “I would have crawled here if I had to,” he said.
“It’s like we never left,” noted Dave Jones, who drove from Rhode Island.
Mary Treschita — back then, she was Mary Hughes — called those years “the prime of our lives. We still talk about the same things, and laugh the same way we did back then.”
“Sure, it was a job,” Jim Rodenbush added. “But boy, did we have fun.”