REGGIE JONES: I started lifeguarding in 1944, and I loved every minute of it. Fortunately, I was a Depression baby, and I knew what work was, and when I got a job out on the beach sitting on the sand, I said, ”Valhalla, I have arrived!”
There must have been one hundred twenty, one hundred thirty guys trying out for this job lifeguarding. I didn’t know how many jobs they were going to have, but at any rate, I started going through training down there. In those days, they didn’t just give one test. You had to go down and go through three or four weeks training — and you didn’t get paid. After a period of time, about two weeks or so, half of the guys dropped off, but I wanted the job so bad I stuck right with it.
Finally, after another couple of weeks, there were about seventy of us left, and the old captain, Hank Daly, with a big barrel chest, stood upon the bench, and he said, ”We’re going to take ten huskies.” We all looked at each other and nearly died. I says, ”Only ten of us, after all this . . . this labor camp we’ve been in? We’re getting ten?” And he started to read off the names of the guys. I’ll never forget it — Tommy McCormick, Moe Marrage, Billy Davoe — and with each name my heart dropped. I said ”Oh, no, no.” And finally number nine, my old buddy Artie Wink. And I said ”Oh, gee, no.” And finally number ten, ’Reggie Jones.’ I thought I won the Olympics. I said, ”Yes, yes! There is a god!”
Artie Wink was a young fella that I went to high school with. It was my second year on the job. It was World War II and Artie and myself, we knew we would have to go into the service as soon as we turned eighteen. Well, that summer I was sitting on 2-West with Artie — that’s a stand that was two west of the west bathhouse. Artie got off the stand to go back for lunch and I said, ”Artie, will you bring me back a Jones Beach hotdog?” You know, I was getting hungry. And he said ”Okay, Jonesy,” and he went off. Well, somehow he never came back to that particular stand, and in a day or two, into the service he went.
Well, I lost track of Artie, and I often wondered what happened with good old Artie that went into the service. Forty years later, I’m standing on 2-West, the exact same stand that Artie got off of. I look down, and — lo and behold — walking by in front of me was Artie Wink. Now, you understand, this is forty years later, and somehow I recognize him. He had come back to settle his mother’s estate and he was with his twenty-five year old daughter, and he was pointing out to her where he worked as a young man. When I looked down and saw him I said ”Artie, Artie Wink! Where’s my hotdog? I’m sitting up here for forty years, where have you been?” Well, you ever see a guy take a double take? This was a triple take. ”Jonesy!” he said. He literally gasped for air. He said, ”I can’t believe it! You’re still here?” I said, ”Where do you want me to go? I’m getting hungry!”