Thursday, January 8, 2009

"A Rogue's Gallery", by Jim Graham

This past October 2008, "County Recurrent" heard from one of Santa Monica City's and LACo's Finest from years gone by...not that many years, but definitely "Back in the Day!" This soldier of good fortune recalls a Virtual Who's Who or rogue's gallery, e.g., "an exclusive circle of people with a common purpose", of his contemporaries who fought the wild Pacific surf in search of swimmers in distress, as well as, of course, waves for surfing, along the beaches both inside and outside Santa Monica Bay.

So without further adieu, I present to you, Jim Graham, in his own words:

"I was 17, and a junior at Santa Monica High School, when I took the Santa Monica exam finishing second behind Larry Schnable. A bunch of really good guys working for Santa Monica then. They included Ricky Grigg, Tom Volk, Chuck McClellen, Gene Poole, Tom Zahn, Bill Bowen, Adrian Eznard, Dick Kaiser, Bill North, Herb Suskin, Tom Johnson, Mike Donavan, Don Greb, Chico Ortiz, Dick Saunders, Gregg Arnett, Art Verge, Mark Gates, Fred Bleeker, Ray Hutchenson and Jerry Pillar. We took second in the Taplin that year behind the L.A. County guys at the Hermosa Beach Pier which was my home town. It was really a thrill to participate in an event that I had been watching for most of my young life.

*** "Santa Monica South" (photos below), circa 1960's

(Photo source:

After three seasons of working "South Beach" in S.M., Mike Doyle (also working at S.M. then and who had taken the test in '59 with me) and I, who were going to El Camino College and swimming for Rudy Kroon (also a S.M. recurrent lifeguard) at the time, took the County test because they were making .45 cents an hour more than we were and we felt that the surf would be better in either the South Bay or at Zuma (including all the Malibu breaks), whichever area we chose to work at. STRICTLY FOR THE MONEY !

I finished 4th in the County exam behind Cappy Sheeley, Tom Viren and Ron Crawford and just in front of Dick Douglas, Larry Loganbill and Doyle. Good crew and most all of us went to work at Zuma and joined up with the likes of Bob Burnside, Howard Lee, Bob Hughes, Tom Landis, Garr Steiner, Kemp Aaberg, Sheridan Byerly, etc. (We won the Taplin that year and few intercrews before I moved down to the South Bay after the '66 season to finish out my 25 year career).

Great times, great friends, great adventures and great memories."

Jim Graham
Oct. 24, 2008

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Editor's note: Many Thanks to Jim for his remarkable recounting of his active duty years on the beach, as well as the names of so many Famed LACo and Santa Monica Ocean Lifeguards from "back in the day". "County Recurrent" promises to stay on the case and hopefully to acquire photographs of some of the above-referenced "rogue's gallery" of ocean warriors during these years.

Until next time...

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JohnRJ08 said...

So you let Larry Schnable beat you, huh. I remember when I took my initial 1000 meter swim test, Schnable was in the lane next to me doing his recheck. I beat him by a body length and he was not a good loser. Wasn't exactly like being touched out at the wall in the Beijing Games. I also swam against his brother, Tom, when he was at Palisades High.

tom schnabel said...

Did I beat you? Tom Schnabel

tom schnabel said...

i'm curious...who are you? did i beat you?

best regards,

Tom Schnabel