Friday, October 15, 2010

" TWO DAYS ON THE BEACH", by Cal Porter

"It was 11:45 in the morning on the beach in Malibu, and in the shade my thermometer registered 100 degrees; others claimed it was 103. This was a Monday, September 27, 2010 on the day that the all time record of 113 degrees was set in Los Angeles. I don’t recall ever a hotter day on the beach; there wasn’t a hint of a breeze or air movement of any kind. So I did what I must do, what I had to do; I went surfing. The waves were somewhat on the small size that day, but of pleasing shape and not another surfer within sight. With an ocean temperature in the cool and low 60’s, and the blazing sun’s hot rays dancing off the water’s glassy surface, “I wantoned with thy breakers, they to me were a delight” (Lord Byron, 1812). Paradise Found could be an apt description of that day.

Pt. Dume

With the temperature still hovering around 100 degrees, and trying to keep cool at home later that afternoon, I found myself drifting back in thought to a time long ago and another beach day quite in contrast with this day’s experience. It was a Monday, January 10, 1949, over sixty years ago. And it was early morning when I pulled up and stopped my car at the lifeguard headquarters at Santa Monica Canyon State Beach where I was working that day as I had for several years. The sight that greeted me is one that has never been seen again in the sixty-one years since that day, and going by my research had probably never been seen in the history before that day. What I saw was that the wide, sandy beach before me that I knew so well had disappeared; in its place was a cold blanket of bright white snow running across the volleyball court and covering everything down to the water’s edge. I quickly recorded the sight with a hazy photo from my primitive camera that did little justice to this panorama before me.

State Beach, Santa Monica Canyon

Amazingly, it had, of course, snowed in many other places that night and morning in the Los Angeles area not just here, but the incongruity of seeing snow on the beach was startling.
The air temperature that morning hovered in the low 30’s, and when I took the ocean temperature, as we did each morning, a surprising 47 degrees appeared on the gauge. That is common far north of here but I had never before seen a reading that low in Santa Monica Bay waters. I did recall an unusual 49 some years back. Our senior guard, Mac, had never seen it that low either, and he had been working the beaches since the year 1906 when he started as a lifeguard in the old Venice Salt Water Plunge where I too had worked as a young teenager. Now as lifeguards it so happens that we almost always took a swimming workout soon after we arrived at work. And with snow on the beach and the water at an all time low temperature, for sure we were going to do it, just to be able to brag that we did it, and maybe tell our grandchildren some day. Mac passed on the opportunity, but the three of us headed for the water. Now I won’t say that we covered our usual course of swimming down to the beach club and back, a distance of several hundred yards, but we did thrash around a bit and did some high volume screaming and hollering. And this was years before the invention of wet suits. Afterwards, when good and frozen, we ran back across the snowy beach to the station; and thank heaven for hot showers.

Heading up Topanga from the Beach in Deep Snow

A few of our lifeguard buddies who weren’t on duty that day set off in search of a hillside smooth enough to lend itself to a bit of snow skiing. They found what they were looking for on the slopes of Palos Verdes where, in those days, there were few houses or trees or brush to get in the way. They were rewarded with a day of good skiing and by getting their photos plastered on the front pages of the newspapers the next day. I envied them as the snow melted quickly near the beach, and when my days off arrived a couple of days later my friends and I had to go a bit higher in the local hills to find enough snow left so that I could show off my amazing skill and have my photo taken streaking by with blinding speed.

Just a blurrrrrrr----

Off Highway 5

Still waiting for another day like January 10, 1949.

Cal Porter

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" TWO DAYS ON THE BEACH", by Cal Porter. Copyright Cal Porter 2010. All Rights Reserved. Used here with permission. All photos courtesy of and by Cal Porter. Used here with permission.

*** Many Thanks to Cal for sharing another epic story and photos with us ! ***

Until next time.....

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1 comment:

spyder said...

I was a day away from two, living on the beach front at Playa del Rey at 83rd Street. Somewhere in these old boxes, i have a couple of pics of me playing in the snow in the little yard next to the house.