The Daily Tar Heel

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Friday December 2nd

Office DJ: There goes the last great American lifeguarding dynasty

Maeve Sheehey
Buy Photos Maeve Sheehey

The Kardashians have been known to summer in the Hamptons. The Kennedys have Hyannis Port. And the Sheeheys, no stranger to family traditions, had lifeguarding gigs at Padonia Park Club for over a decade.

Padonia was a pool that was close to our house, making it the perfect summer job. And so my oldest sister, Riley, worked there for seven summers, while my other siblings and I worked there for four each. We taught swim lessons and lifeguarded, and some of us were camp counselors, but a few confused texts in the family group chat would show that nobody can quite remember who did what. 

If you add up all our years at Padonia, you get 19. Yes. If our summers at Padonia were a person, that person could vote in the 2020 election. 

You can call this trend what you want, but I will be referring to it, of course, as the Last Great American Dynasty. And as with any dynasty, I could feel that I was living history at Padonia. I distinctly remember seeing a broken, painted chair in the back of the first-aid shed and asking the head lifeguard, “What’s that?” 

“Well,” he said, “your sister painted it, and your brother broke it.” 


Now, if you asked all my siblings what stood out from their time at Padonia, they would likely have different answers. Riley would probably bring up the time she managed to fall out of the stand and break her arm. Conor would talk about the time the Baltimore Sun published a full front-page spread about him when he was 19. Brogan might mention her status as a companywide dodgeball champion. 

But for me, I think about the music. Because between 2014 and 2017, there were some songs that played a lot. “Cheerleader” seemed to play at least five times an hour. Covers of “Wonderwall” were particularly popular on open mic nights. And anything by The Killers… well, you get the picture. 

I thought a lot about those summers while I holed up in my childhood bedroom during the pandemic this year. If you’d have told me in 2016 that hundreds of kids splashing around in a pool would not be OK in four short years, I would have adjusted my Target wayfarers and stopped spinning my whistle lanyard for a second in confusion. 

But I also might have enjoyed the 858,594,958th time I heard “Closer” that day a little more. 

So now, at 21 years old, I am revisiting the pop hits of my pool days. I hope this playlist of songs I heard over and over during those summers makes you feel like you, too, are part of a small lifeguarding dynasty. 


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