Life’s a Beach
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.
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.