Life’s a Beach

Stanstead Journal - - FRONT PAGE - Vic­to­ria Vanier, North Hat­ley

The North Hat­ley Re­cre­ation So­ci­ety’s (NHRS)beach house was a very busy place last Fri­day. Sev­eral vol­un­teers were set­ting up all the do­nated items for the an­nual garage sale fundraiser that would take place over the week­end while, out­side, some peo­ple were

swim­ming, adults chat­ted on the grass, and a big ta­ble of chil­dren did an arts and crafts project. Smil­ing faces were ev­ery­where, af­ter all, it was ‘Fun Fri­day’ at the beach house and the mood was re­laxed, with struc­tured ac­tiv­i­ties such as swim­ming, sail­ing and tennis lessons sched­uled for the other days of the week.

The beach house, or the “PV” as some have af­fec­tion­ately called it for decades since it was once the boathouse of the long gone Pleas­ant View Ho­tel, isn’t just a won­der­ful place for chil­dren and adults alike to head to on hot sum­mer days; it’s also a great place to work.

Matthew Dudgeon, from North Hat­ley, came back this sum­mer to work at the beach house as a life­guard for the sec­ond year in a row. “When I was a kid I used to come here with friends to play ping pong and go swim­ming,” said the Cham­plain Col­lege stu­dent. “This year the big­gest chal­lenge has been stand­ing in the sun; that can be ex­haust­ing. We’re al­ways scan­ning the wa­ter sys­tem­at­i­cally, keep­ing count of ev­ery­one in the wa­ter.” If this sum­mer’s hot sun made Matthew job’s dif­fi­cult, it’s the kids and the fam­i­lies that visit the beach house reg­u­larly that make him think about work­ing there again next year. “It’s a lot of fun work­ing when there is that much en­ergy all around you!” he com­mented.

Work­ing at a beach house as a life­guard for the first time was Can­dace Bar­ritt, the only one of the life­guards not from North Hat­ley and who was ac­tu­ally from Ber­muda. “I go to Bishop’s Col­lege School and my fam­ily al­ways spent sum­mers at their cottage in Ayer’s Cliff so I got to know the area. I wanted to try some­thing new so I came here to work,” ex­plained Can­dace. Asked if she en­joyed be­ing a life­guard at the beach house, she an­swered: “It’s lived up to all my ex­pec­ta­tions. I’m com­ing back next year!”

For the last six years, Rachel Steven­son and twins Cather­ine and El­iz­a­beth Fon­taine, all long-time friends and at­tend­ing Bishop’s Univer­sity, have spent their sum­mers teach­ing swim­ming lessons and life­guard­ing at the NHRS’s ‘sum­mer head­quar­ters’. “When I was a kid I took all my swim­ming lessons here; I grew up at this beach,” com­mented Rachel. “There are gen­er­a­tions of fam­i­lies that have come here to the “PV”,” she added. As a swim in­struc­tor, Rachel knows how im­por­tant it is for chil­dren to learn how to swim. “If they can learn how to swim in a lake it’s great be­cause they can swim any­where af­ter,” ex­plained Rachel who trained dif­fer- ently than a pool life­guard to be a ‘beach’ life­guard. “Com­ing here is a great way for kids to spend their sum­mer. I did it my­self so I know how fun it was!”

“When I was young I took all my swim­ming lessons here. I think it was the ‘Fun Fri­days’ that re­ally got us hooked. We’re all friends work­ing to­gether here now and even when we’re not work­ing we’re spend­ing time here,” said Cather­ine Fon­taine, a life­guard, swim in­struc­tor and also the man­ager of the beach house. For Cather­ine, the only neg­a­tive as­pect to work­ing at the beach house is when par­ents think that the life­guards are also baby sit­ters. “All chil­dren eight and un­der must be with an adult. Our job is to make sure ev­ery­one is safe and to pre­vent ac­ci­dents.” One way the life­guards pre­vent ac­ci­dents is by en­forc­ing the no run­ning rule. If a child runs on the deck more than once, they must go sit on the ‘smi­ley face’ rock for a minute or two; ram­bunc­tious chil­dren have had their turn sit­ting on that well-worn rock for decades. “I never had to sit on it when I was a kid – I was an an­gel!” joked Cather­ine.

“We had a big de­mand for level one swim­ming lessons this year so we in­cor­po­rated pre-school Red Cross swim­ming lessons into the pro­gram. There’s no say­ing ‘No’ to swim­ming lessons,” com­mented El­iz­a­beth Fon­taine, the head life­guard. Talk­ing about her years at the beach house, it sounds more like a sec­ond home. “We’ve watched lit­tle kids grow up into teenagers. We all get close here. It’s not like a teacher/kid thing but a friend­ship thing.” El­iz­a­beth looked a lit­tle sad when she ad­mit­ted that her sum­mers at the beach house were com­ing to a close: “This is my year to go. An of­fice job will be next.”

Peo­ple liv­ing in any mu­nic­i­pal­ity, of any age, can be­come mem­bers of the North Hat­ley Re­cre­ation So­ci­ety for a very rea­son­able fee. Mem­ber­ship in­cludes swim­ming lessons, kayak lessons, use of the beach, tennis and sail­ing lessons for a small ad­di­tional charge, spe­cial out­ings on Fun Fri­days for ac­tiv­i­ties like bowl­ing or straw­berry pick­ing, and more. Be­cause the NHRS is a community-based club that re­lies on vol­un­teerism, mem­bers can shave a good chunk off their mem­ber­ship fee by do­ing four hours of vol­un­teer work for the or­ga­ni­za­tion. Vis­i­tors who aren’t mem­bers can also just swim at the beach by pay­ing a daily fee.

For more in­for­ma­tion about be­com­ing a mem­ber of the North Hat­ley Re­cre­ation So­ci­ety or about the nu­mer­ous ac­tiv­i­ties they or­ga­nize such as the free mu­si­cal con­certs in North Hat­ley’s Dream­land Park, call 819 842-4491 or visit their web­site at north­hat­leyrec.com.

photo Vic­to­ria Vanier

Photo Vic­to­ria Vanier

The life­guards at the North Hat­ley Re­cre­ation So­ci­ety’s beach house, Rachel Steven­son, Matthew Dudgeon, El­iz­a­beth Fon­taine, Can­dace Bar­ritt and Cather­ine Fon­taine( l. to r. in back), were quick to in­vite their lit­tle charges, who hap­pily com­plied, to have their pic­ture taken with them on the deck of the beach house.

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