Oakton had two swimming pools, one inside, and one outside so swimming was a year-round affair. By house rules a lifeguard needed to be on duty when the pools were open. The job a life guard was not hard. The work was fairly easy, the scenery was fantastic, and if you worked the outdoor pool by the end of the summer you had a dynamite tan. One perk for the lifeguard was the “Whistle”. Whenever you saw someone breaking the rules, like running, you could blow your whistle, and reprimand the violator regardless of their age. A lot of power for a sixteen year old.
Now to be a Lifeguard there was a certification process you had to go through. I can’t remember what organization did this, but I think it was the Red Cross. An assistant lifeguard need only to have training (if any) from the head lifeguard, and the approval of the management.
Oakton had an indoor pool ever since it was built. In its day it was one of the best pools if not the only pool in the area. It went from three feet at one end to eight at the other with a diving board. One of the challenges for kids, and some adults was to jump on the diving board, and touch the ceiling. If the lifeguard on duty saw this you got a whistle, and a warning not to do it again. The columns that rose to the ceiling were decorated to look like palm trees, and there were chaise lounge chairs on either side. Above there were sunlamps so you could actually get a tan in January, and on the west side of the pool were removable doors that opened into a screened in patio for summer use. On the south side and the east side of the pool was the men’s and women’s changing rooms. Also in these areas was where the masseuse’s had their rooms. Getting a message was a luxury. The men’s masseuse was Floyd J along with his sons, the women’s masseuse was Loraine P. I remember talking to Floyd who was one of the most religious, and nicest person I ever knew. In the early days, Oakton had mud baths, which was a big thing in those days but they were abandoned sometime in the 50’s.
Whenever it was possible Oakton management would allow local groups like the Boy and Girl Scouts to use the pool as long as they provided their own lifeguards. In the later years 65 to 67 a local Scuba Dive shop made an agreement with Oakton to provide lifeguards at all times during the winter, and in return they could use the pool during the evenings for training.
In the early 60’s an outdoor pool was built. At the time it was the largest outdoor pool in the area. The shallow end was 3.5 feet deep, the deep end was 8.5 feet, and it had a 1 meter diving board. The best way I can explain the shape of the pool is it was a rectangle, and at the shallow end for a short distance of about four feet it had a 45 degree turn. There was a rope with floats separating the deep end from the shallow end, and on one side a lifeguard stand which was about eight feet tall. The whole area was fenced in with concrete patios all around, and chaise lounge chairs on both sides. As you walked into the pool area there was a large towel box where you got towels, and dropped them off as you left. On the side of the towel box was a stand for the PA system, and the phone. The guards would put a rubber band around the press to talk on the mic so they could hear the phone when it rang. That led to putting a radio next to the mic, and playing Milwaukee’s top 40 station WOKY. I’m sure the parents didn’t care for the music, but if it kept the kids happy they put up with it. Just before the pool was a 10’ round kiddy pool that was only 2’ deep at the center. As the day wore on the water temperature in the kiddy pool got pretty warm. This plus the fact that there were small children using the pool meant the water was changed every day. I’m sure you know why. Just to the right of the kiddy pool was the pump and filter building with men’s and women’s bath and changing rooms. The lighting in the changing rooms was not real good, and when you came in from the bright sun light it took a little time before your eyes adjusted. This led to some practical jokes by kids that had been in the room for a while.
When it was first opened the bottom was like sand paper, and many of the kids that spent lots of time in the shallow end would get sores on their feet to the point of bleeding. The pool was closed, drained, and the bottom sanded.
There were two head lifeguards that stand out in my memory, and they couldn’t have been more different. Casey who was an older gentleman and Tom Post a college student from Louisville. Casey was from Florida, and for the few years he worked at Oakton he would drive his Cadillac to Wisconsin for the summer. He was only 5’ 6” tall, age was over 55, and had a barrel chest with a tan most women would die for. Despite his age I think Casey could have taken any of the younger lifeguards in an arm wrestling contest. Casey was also an amateur magician. He would do tricks for the guests at poolside, and was pretty good at it. He is why I got interested in sleight of hand, and card tricks. Over the years I got pretty good also. Casey would never tell me how a trick was done, but if I figured it out he would tell me if I was right. I worked for Casey one summer. He was a stern boss, and whatever duties he would assign you he expected them to be done right or you would do them over. One of his pet peeves was cigarette butts on the concrete around the pool. Every morning the first thing to do was wash the butts from around the pool. Sweeping didn’t cut it, only a hose wash was acceptable. It took longer, but look better. Casey had a little bit of a jokester in him. I remember once he told an assistant lifeguard to get a rock that someone had thrown in the pool. Now. There are two things you need to know. One, without goggles when you look underwater everything is blurry. Second, contrary to the movie Caddyshack, poop usually doesn’t float. I think you know what happened.
Tom Post was the next lifeguard I remember. I’m pretty sure he started in 1965, and went to 1967 working only the summers. Tom was from Lexington, and a student at the University of Kentucky. He was a big Kentucky Derby fan, and I remember him telling me how much fun it was to attend. Like Casey, Tom always wanted the pool area to be clean, and looking good which meant making sure the lounge chairs were in line and clean when the pool opened. I wish I had gotten to know Tom better, but from what I can remember he was one of the smartest people I ever knew. Tom drove a Triumph TR3 which only recently I was reminded of. He told me once that when he could afford it he wanted to get an Avanti. I thought the looks of the Avanti were kind of weird, but Tom said engineering wise it was ahead of the times. I recently reconnected with Tom. He did graduate from Kentucky with a mathematics degree. He went on to get a law degree, and later a Masters of law, both from the University of Miami. He set up his law practice in Miami, and is married. He has a daughter who is a doctor, and a son who is a lawyer in Boston.
One of the past times for teenage boys, was to hang out in the deep end of the pool with goggles, and watch the girls and women dive off the diving board, hoping for a swimming suit failure, which happened more often than you would think. I’m just guessing though.
There was a click of kids that hung together on off days, and after work. They would water ski and swim in Pewaukee Lake till the sun went down, and then have some beers. Most of them were too young to buy beer so the older kids would get it. I have to say that most of them really never overindulged because they feared the consequences of parents, and losing their jobs. I’m also pretty sure that the only reason I was included was because my mother was the assistant manager of Oakton, and by including me I would keep my mouth shut. They were right.