ASHLAND — It was a little cool for a dip in the pool Saturday night.
But inside the Ashland Elks Lodge, there were plenty of lifeguards and memories as “alumni” from the old Southside City Pool gathered for a reunion.
The crowd wasn’t as big as organizers had hoped but the 150 or so who showed up enjoyed reminiscing with friends about the iconic pool in South Ashland that closed in 1989.
Being a lifeguard at Southside carried a certain status symbol, said Bill Hammond, a pool lifeguard in the mid 1970s.
“It was kind of a big deal to be a lifeguard,” Hammond said. “That’s been a long time ago.”
Most of the lifeguards were athletes, said David Payne, the longtime Southside pool manager. Capt. Harold Rush, who directed the pool for at least two decades, would ask Payne who he wanted to hire after prospects were interviewed at the city building.
“I wanted people kids had respect for,” Payne said. “They’d be more apt to obey them.”
He also said the idea of hiring athletes would draw more girls to the pool which in turn drew more boys. Payne also hired female lifeguards.
“It was kind of a cycle,” he said laughing.
Payne was a fixture at the pool, working there from 1962 to the mid-1980s.
Mike Delaney was another former lifeguard at Southside who came to the reunion with his wife, Jan Lett Delaney. She wasn’t as much a Southside veteran.
“I didn’t move here until 10th grade but when I came up to visit family I always visited Southside,” she said. “I can remember meeting people there for the first time. That’s where I met Mike Gothard.”
Delaney, Gothard, Hammond, Rob Queen and Joe Layne were some of the lifeguards from the mid-1970s at Southside.