When Summer Lasts Forever

New Yorkers know that Jones Beach is the place to be when the city begins to simmer, reports CBS News Correspondent Harry Smith. Some come to sunbathe, others come to swim -- even if they don't know how.

"They go out and all of a sudden its over their heads and they can't swim," says Reggie Jones, a lifeguard who has been on duty here since 1944. "I say don't you know this thing goes down as it goes out?"

Some of the older lifeguards work at the east bathhouse. They call it Jurassic Park.

However, Jones is nowhere near extinction. In fact, he does vigorous exercises each day, and leaves the younger lifeguards in awe.

It's easy to see why if you watch Reggie shuttle a guard boat solo into the heavy surf. He guesses he's saved at least a thousand lives over the last 55 years.

He credits his old Irish mother for saving him from the grease pit of his father's filling station. He got the job much to his father's chagrin.

"My dad says to me 'you mean to tell me they re goin to pay you twenty five bucks a week to sit on the stand and watch the girls go by?' I says 'yeah, beats workin' in the grease pits.'"

After all these years he still doesn't mind the scenery. But, Baywatch this ain't, says Reggie.

"I don't care if you're Mark Spitz," he says. "If you up here lookin' at the girls, or lookin' over your shoulder, not payin' attention, what good are ya? Watch the water."

So Reggie watches the water and walks the beach. He never meets a stranger.

Lifeguarding may be the perfect summer job. It sure fit perfectly with Reggie's career as a social studies teacher. However, most guards work a few summers and move on. When they come back though they always say the same thing.

"They very often will tell me 'you know Reggie, the very best four or five years of my life I spent lifeguarding.' They say I won't have given that up for anything."

Most of us have cherished memories of a perfect day at the beach, or a summer at the shore. Reggie Jones is the guy who figured out how to make summer never end.

Reported by Harry Smith
©1998, CBS Worldwide Inc., All Rights Reserved
  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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