Guarding Joyful Memories

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.

Lifeguard reunion host Ann Becker Moore, with former guard Bill Bellock.

Lifeguard reunion host Ann Becker Moore, with former guard Bill Bellock.

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.

Lifeguards - slide show

The reunion featured a slide show. Not much has changed in 40 years.

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.

Mary (Hughes) Treschita has many fond memories of her lifeguarding days.

Mary (Hughes) Treschita has fond memories of her lifeguarding days.

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.”

After a lobster dinner, the former guards wandered over to Compo for a nighttime group shot.

After dinner, the former guards wandered over to Compo for a nighttime group photo.

11 responses to “Guarding Joyful Memories

  1. I was a Compo lifeguard in the summer of ’65, with Bob Yovan as the boss. Great fun — except for the skin cancers I now have to get excised every six months or so!

  2. Bill Bellock

    Bob Yovan! That’s a name I haven’t heard in a while. He was my junior high school basketball and football coach and my Red Cross Lifeguard instructor (in someone’s backyard pool) which ultimately led to my working at Compo Beach. Dan absolutely nailed the vibe of the evening! Thank you Dan!

  3. Bonnie Connolly

    Speaking of Jaws, my brother’s friend Jeff Simon (Staples class of 64) did the still photography for the movie Jaws.

  4. Great story, Dan. Ann has always been a fabulous host!

  5. Pam Washburn

    06880 was somewhat responsible for these reunions.. two years ago you had posted a call for local beach photos from the 70s for a (then) new restaurant – Bartaco. I sent some early-mid 70s Compo lifeguard photos over to the restaurant – 3 were selected and still hanging above the booths. That got a number of us reminiscing and Jim Rodenbush stepped up and took the lead on planning our 40th reunion last year. Thanks, Dan for your hand in reuniting this special group. It was great to see you on Saturday!

  6. Eric William Buchroeder SHS '70

    Lot of fun!!! Just like “Squints” in the movie Sandlot, I used to long for the female lifeguards and vaguely remember when there were floats off Compo Beach. That was until several kids came up underneath the floats and got stuck where the lifeguards couldn’t see them. Next year, invite the people who they pulled out of the water. It would be a George Bailey kind of moment. Another glimpse of old Westport.

  7. Thank you Life Guards ! you came to my rescue, I was maybe 15 years old ( so 1968 ish) and was not feeling well in the sun walked across to the trees and grass where beach school usually was held to rest, I thought I was feeling better, so I headed back to the beach side…but I didn’t make it..I totally passed out somewhere in route and woke up in the Guard Shack being well cared for !! I’m sure the guards had fun as a group, but they also had their share of serious rescues over the years. Good Work !

  8. Everyone was envious of the Life Guards! The perfect job, it seemed. A comradeship, a team. The cool red suits and jackets!
    I believe they even had a free membership at the Nautilus gym, which makes sense.
    While it looked a tad boring (to me), and I wondered how they dealt with the hottest, most humid days, we all were quite impressed by the life guards at Compo and the huge responsibility.

  9. ann Becker moore

    we welcome all lifeguards and those that they saved to attend next year’s 3rd annual event. Please send all email addresses to
    annbmoore@mac.com

  10. Will luedke

    I think that this excellent piece of reporting will earn Danny Woog a Pulitzer Prize.