At 4:30 Wednesday afternoon, her tight blond braid began to flop back and forth as she paced by the poolside and looked at her watch.
At 4:32, through the buzz of the overhead lights and the echoes of conversation, poolgoers could hear Janel Twehous, the blond-braided woman, chiding the late-arriving lifeguards about the importance of being on time.
Jump on in• Oakland Family Aquatic Center will be open noon to 6 p.m. Saturday, Sunday, Monday and June 2 and 3. It will reopen for the season June 7. Hours: Noon to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday; noon to 6 p.m. Sunday • Lake of the Woods will open June 8. Hours: Noon to 6 p.m. Monday and Wednesday; noon to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday • Douglass Family Aquatic Center will open June 8. Hours: 1 to 7 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday; 3 to 9 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday • Pirates’ Landing will open June 8. • Little Mates Cove Hours: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday; noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. • Lake hours: Noon to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday; noon to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. For more information: Call Parks and Recreation at 874-7460.
The rebuke was soon followed by a note of encouragement to one of the new recruits as the training drills began and the recruit pulled a fellow lifeguard almost twice her size out of the Hickman pool.
“Good job, take it nice and slow, watch your toes,” Twehous said.
Twehous, the city’s aquatic supervisor, presided over one of the final training sessions for the lifeguards who will patrol city pools this summer. The city has about 136 lifeguards lined up, and Twehous said that’s enough to staff all of the city’s swimming holes.
While the concern about a lack of lifeguards is less intense than it has been in past years, Twehous is always looking for more. Ten people signed up for an extra lifeguard certification course that begins June 2. Twehous said the class was added in response to community requests.
“We have been inundated by phone calls,” she said. “If there is a need, then we will step up and provide the service.”
It is a service that has proved itself valuable to veteran lifeguards Aubrey Hanks and Chris Graham.
Hanks, 17, is in her third year of working as a lifeguard and her first year as a pool manager.
“I feel really good when I save someone’s life,” Hanks said.
She blushes when she talks about the seven to eight rescues she’s performed in her three years on the job.
“With so much responsibility, I sometimes think, what if I mess up?” Hanks said. “But you do more good than bad, and it’s better than if no one was there to help at all.”
Graham, 20, is also in his third year as a lifeguard and first year of managing. He cites similar reasons for his interest.
“I figure that if I have the ability, I should help people,” he said.
Twehous said additions and renovations at the Oakland and Douglass family aquatic centers could attract more users and support her long-standing notion that “we could always use more lifeguards.” One new attraction is an 8-by-12 foot fiberglass climbing wall in five feet of water at the Douglass pool. There also is a new family changing room and concession area at the Oakland pool.
Mike Griggs, park services manager, said Douglass will also boast a resurfaced slide, new pool shell and a new mechanical system. Griggs’ hope is that the changes will ignite interest in the Douglass facility, one of the city’s least-attended city pools. A rededication of the Douglass Family Aquatic Center will take place June 16.
“It’s a good way to kick off pool season, showcase the pool and get more attendance,” Griggs said.