Gary and the Goon Patrol

Nope it’s not a band. It’s not a new cartoon. It was work that made men out 201406_1320_hbefa_smof us. Even though we were young women in the eighteen to twenty-two range.

With lifeguards everywhere reporting for duty, it got me thinking about that
summer four of us signed up to lifeguard at Springdale Pool.

And what we got was a whole lot more than we bargained for…

There are two kinds of bosses who are especially dangerous:

  1. Bosses who are political animals and are bucking for promotion, and;
  2. Bosses who are going through a toxic divorce

Our boss that summer fell into the second category. Gary was divorcing the woman he referred to as the Brontosaurus. We didn’t know it when we opened the pool Memorial Day weekend, but Gary’s divorce would take its toll on all of us by Labor Day.

This kind, unassuming, elementary school gym teacher ten months a year had morphed into the summertime Pool Manager from Hell.

Lifeguards usually rotate through the various stands every fifteen minutes so they can stay alert and fresh. Then, they take one round at the desk checking people in–and maybe even fit in a bathroom or snack break.

But not that year. Nope. When we weren’t lifeguarding, we had a project to do. Our projects that summer were:

  1. Dig trenches on each side of the long, concrete staircase up the hill from the clubhouse to the actual pool.
  2. Retrieve wheelbarrows full of white decorative rocks from the parking lot down the hill.
  3. Fill the trenches. Doesn’t that look nice?
  4. Following the rainstorm that made all the decorative white rocks slide down the trenches back to the bottom of the hill, we must attempt to salvage and clean the caked-on mud off rocks.
  5. Repeat #2 and #3 until Gary decided this wasn’t going to work.
  6. Remove muddy rocks and throw in Dumpster.
  7. Retrieve wheelbarrows of dirt from the parking lot to repack the trenches.
  8. Pray that it doesn’t rain.
  9. Pick bagworms off the trees.
  10. Chip away at the mortar in the men’s and women’s shower rooms.
  11. Clean and mop the bathrooms.


Because we spent more time doing maintenance than lifeguarding, it seemed, our oldest guard, Judy, a hilarious teacher from Buffalo, New York, got T-shirts made for us that said GOON PATROL.

One of the ways that we blew off steam that summer was to go out Hogging in our Goon Patrol shirts.

Hogging was the female equivelant of the Ugly Necktie Party.

After a full day of guarding and digging and chipping and picking, we went out to bars and tried to get ugly guys to buy us drinks. A system of points was established that ranked attributes.

For example, missing teeth might get 5 points. A beer belly and a huge belt buckle probably 10 points. Feces in the beard–a slam-dunk 50 points.


Of course, we did not give these poor guys our real names. And sometimes it was hard to find ugly guys, so we settled for awkward types.

“My name is MIldred Pischner, but you can call me Mildy… I run the drive-through window at Evans Funeral Parlor.”

“I’m Blanche Grizbowski and I’m the head bagger at Stop, Shop and Steal.”

Our stories became more outrageous as the night (and the drinks) went down. I do recall most of our men knew we were full of shit, but they went along for the hell of it.

Maybe they thought we were funny. Or that they were going to get laid.

We were. They weren’t.

B10895024_ori.jpgut never underestimate the stupidity of people in groups. Ourselves included.

All in all, it was a great summer.

A prototype of sorts for WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER before anyone put it on film–especially when I decided to use a Playgirl centerfold of a naked man to teach the lesson on medical shock during the American Red Cross Lifeguard Training Course.

Mary Jo and I taught the class to teens who wanted to wear the Springdale guard uniform the following summer. After all, we made it seem so glamorous. Digging. Sweating. Schlepping. Sweating. Chipping. Sweating. Picking. Sweating.

Pity the poor bastards. Springdale Pool hadn’t seen the last of its problems with those damn trenches until at least the mid-eighties.

Gary, however, was another matter. Come Labor Day, he rode off into the September sunset with Barry Manilow’s Copacabana blaring from the speakers in his MGB convertable, his blond, permed hair blowing free in the wind.

We never saw him or his little Speedo again.

6 thoughts on “Gary and the Goon Patrol

  1. Really enjoyed your post! So funny now thinking back on it, but I’m sure it was hell working for this guy and doing heavy landscaping work.
    All for minimum wages, I’m sure. Your post is so well written, I could picture it all in my mind, playing out like a campy teenage summer movie!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s