Tuesday, February 15, 2011

"The Race" by Cal Porter

"County Recurrent" is pleased to present another great story from LACo OLS, Ret., Cal Porter, entitled:


Above, L2R: Mac, Sam, Christy, Ted, Cal, Bob, Nate, John
State Beach Lifeguard Crew 1946.

After working many years and many beaches as a Los Angeles City and County Lifeguard, in 1946 I was assigned to State Beach at Santa Monica Canyon.
This is where the road branches off from Pacific Coast Highway and heads up the hill from the beach to the town of Pacific Palisades. I found that the lifeguards at state beach had two swimming workout courses laid out, a short course and a long course. The short course covered the distance from the lifeguard station south to the Santa Monica Swimming Club and back, a distance of perhaps 400 yards.

Above, the Santa Monica Swimming Club and Lifeguard Headquarters, Early 1940’s

The long course started about three quarters of a mile north of the station and consisted of swimming that distance back to the station. I was introduced to the lifeguard who had never been bested on this long course and had worked this area for many years. It was soon proposed that the two of us have a swim-off since I had arrived with something of a very minor reputation. The jeep transported us to the starting point the very next morning. The course started just north of the old Long Wharf that had been built in 1893 and was The Port of Los Angeles until San Pedro was later selected as a better location. The Long Wharf was the longest pier in the world and had tracks for a train to run to its end. It had been torn down many years before our swim and only some submerged pilings remained. On the rocky site where the entrance to this pier once stood there was now a building containing a cafeteria type restaurant and a bath house with rentals and changing rooms. Beyond the bath house along the berm above the sand stood a wooden shed containing rental umbrellas, chairs and towels. This was the starting point for the long course which was commonly referred to as “The Umbrella Box Swim”.

The Lighthouse Where the Will Rogers Beach Lifeguard Headquarters is Today

A lighthouse also remained on the rocky promontory which had been converted to a lifeguard headquarters. This lighthouse was later dismantled in 1972 with the intent of reassembling it on the campus of Pepperdine University in the beach town of Malibu. This plan never came to fruition. All else on the site was torn down many years ago. A modern lifeguard station is on the site today with only the rocky base as a reminder of what once was there. The television show Baywatch was filmed there for many years. The earthen berm that bordered the highway and sloped down to the beach has been replaced by a massive asphalt parking lot.

Our swim commenced at this point unaccompanied by fanfare, paddleboard escorts, or boats, just a friendly workout. With our lieutenant Ted Warren watching from the lighthouse, we hit the water, rounded the rocky promontory, and headed south, three fourths of a mile of swimming ahead of us. We passed over what were at that time great diving reefs (now covered with sand), with crystal clear water beneath us and the surf breaking inshore to our left. We reached our destination in good time with an enthusiastic crowd consisting of at least two or three people there to greet us, one of which was “Guard in Charge”, George McManus, a lifeguard title long ago discarded. Since I reached the finish line some twenty-five yards or so ahead of my friend I was declared the new king of the long course; the media was not alerted. My reign was short-lived anyway when the following year a hot, young college swimmer took me apart.

Today the Santa Monica Swimming Club, where beach volleyball was invented, is gone, torn down years ago. The excellent surfing and lobster diving is no more due to the expansion of the beach which covered the reefs with many feet of sand. The Long Wharf is a memory as is the fishing village that once existed on the beach there. But the lifeguard building at Santa Monica Canyon where I worked all those years long ago is there today, mostly unchanged. And the ocean is still there, and, if you have a mind to, you can still go out and swim The Long Course and have yourself a really fine workout.

Cal Porter

("The Race", by Cal Porter. Copyright Cal Porter 2011. All Rights Reserved. Used here with permission. All photos courtesy of Cal Porter.)


Many Thanks to Cal for sharing another great story with all of us. And to the rest of you recurrents out there, break out the pen and pen and tell us a story. We would love to publish more lifeguard stories. Tell us about a colleague or a rescue.


Until next time.....

"County Recurrent" News


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1 comment:

Bob said...

recall one morning "Chief Bud Stevenson" was aware that "Chief Myron Cox" La City..was to be at he castle..Bud got a helicopter ride and flew up to see him. They circled over the Headquarters...and Myron came out waving at Bud..Who them drop 3 fully loaded balloons of water down on Myron..
Bulls eye" Both were very close friends and often told the story of that morning..with big smiles on their faces, which only those that knew them could appreciate.