For Joe Lavachia, Rehoboth Beach has been, and always will be home.
A graduate of Rehoboth High School – class of ’63 – Lavachia has seen the city morph from a close-knit little beach town to the nearly yearlong tourist destination it is today.
“I’ve always been here. Watched everything grow,” he says with a laugh.
While his roots have always been in Rehoboth, he spent most of his professional life in Wilmington. He built his home at the Rehoboth Beach Yacht and Country Club in 1996 when he retired from General Motors.
Lavachia said back in the 1950s and 60s, when he was growing up, the population was small, “When I went to school, the community was closer; it was a close community down here. I went to school with a small class. I went to school with kids in the first grade, I still go downtown and have a drink with them.”
One of his friends is his fiancée, Hope, whom he went to school with and then reconnected with 10 years ago.
“Rehoboth High School was very small. At that time, in that era, athletics played a big part down here. Whether you participated or not, the student body was involved with it, as well as the community. When you walked the halls, you knew everyone. I only graduated with, I think, about 35 kids,” he said. “It was different.”
As a youngster, Lavachia worked summer jobs at the old icehouse – now the Rehoboth Beach Museum. He also caddied at the old Rehoboth Country Club, now Country Club Estates.
“I can still remember that whole golf course. I could tell you where every hole was
He also worked at the old Rehoboth dairy on Wilmington Avenue.
“The so-called hangout, and the building still exists, was Snyder’s Candy. Our senior year, we hung out, there used to be a Tastee-Freeze, prior to Mack’s Ice Cream it used to be a Tastee-Freeze,” he said. “Right around the corner of Dolle’s, there was an arcade there. At night that used to be a big hangout.”
Lavachia played football, basketball and baseball at Rehoboth High, which closed when schools were consolidated into the Cape Henlopen High School of today.
Lavachia remembered the football rivalry between Lewes High School and Rehoboth, which ceased after the 1961 game when Lewes High changed conferences.
“That was always a big thing. It was a big-time community affair. We played them in all three sports and it just went on for years,” he said.
After graduating high school, Lavachia went into the Air Force, and then some college before going to work for the old Farmers Bank. Next up was his job with General Motors, where he worked for nearly 30 years.
“I was in a production area, a lot of quality control, inspections,” he said.
After retiring from General Motors, Lavachia made his way back to Rehoboth.
“It’s not like I left. I never left,” he said.
Lavachia’s roots in Rehoboth started with his father, who bought property in the late 1930s and worked as a plumber.
“He did a lot of business in Rehoboth and Dewey Beach also,” Lavachia said.
Lavachia is clearly enjoying retirement, taking the opportunity to do a lot of traveling and boating. He said one of his favorite places is the island of Bonaire, in the Netherlands Antilles, which he plans to visit for the third time in the next couple of weeks. Another favorite trip was a two-week excursion in Alaska.
“What we did was, we flew right into Alaska, to the airport, rented a car, and Hope mapped out everything. She knew the spots we wanted to go to. A lot of people go to Alaska by the cruise ships. I don’t think you really see the true Alaska. We saw the true Alaska and enjoyed it,” Lavachia said.
Still, everything comes back to Rehoboth Beach.
“This was always the place for me. Years ago, I knew I was going to retire, and I knew I was going to come back here. As they say, I guess I have sand in my shoes,” he said.