Wednesday, March 2, 2011

"New Facts Unearthed on the First Lifeguard Swift Water Rescue", Cal Porter

(A Flooding San Gabriel River, above. Photo courtesy of Cal Porter.)

Just in from Cal Porter:

"New Facts Unearthed on the First Lifeguard Swift Water Rescue"

"Due to the diligent research by B. Chris Brewster, President of the U.S. Lifesaving Assn., new facts have been unearthed regarding this first known swift water rescue by beach lifeguards in Los Angeles County. Chris dug up an article in the old Los Angeles Herald newspaper of January 9, 1910 describing the rescue on the San Gabriel River which took place on Sunday, January 2, 1910. Lifeguards George “Mac” McManus and Adolph Toenjes were rushed to the scene by sheriff’s car and effected the rescue by boat of a family of four stranded in their home in the middle of the flood. In discussing this event with Mac back in the 1940’s, when we lifeguarded together at Santa Monica Canyon, he remembered the date as 1911 (actually the year of a bigger flood) and not 1910, but he only missed it by a year. At that time he didn’t remember the name of his fellow lifeguard on the rescue (Adolph), and he recounted that they saved a family of three not four, but many years had passed since that day long ago. Adolph was seriously injured resulting in blood poisoning when he became entangled in barb wire while making the rescue. In writing the story of this rescue I researched the newspaper archives of 1911 and found no reporting of the event. So thanks to Chris for researching further, back to 1910, and getting the full newspaper account of this first swift water rescue by beach lifeguards."

(Above, an additional photo of a Flooding San Gabriel River. Photo courtesy of Cal Porter.)

Cal Porter


Editor's notes:

1. To see the original story by Cal, check out the following link:

Friday, February 18, 2011

"1911: The Very First Lifeguard Swift Water Rescue", by Cal Porter

2. Here is the link and the text from the Jan. 9, 1910 front page article from the L.A. Herald:

L.A. Herald, January 9, 1910

Adolph Toenjes, Hero of San Gabriel Flood, Is Laid Up as Result of Daring Rescue Work
VENICE, Jan. S.— Tardy, but nevertheless hearty, appreciation by the public of their heroic services has resulted in greatly brightening the spirits of members of the Venice volunteer life saving corps. The agitation being made to procure the necessary funds to furnish tho corps with modern life-saving apparatus of the most improved type is watched by the boys with deep interest. Hope is expressed on all hands that the agitation may result in benefit to the crew in a very substantial nature. The recent exploit of the Venice life savers in rescuing four persons from their dangerous predicament in their little home surrounded by the flood waters of San Gabriel river In Los Nietos valley has attracted more attention than ever before to the self-sacrificing work of tho young men composing the Venice volunteer corps. This most recent performance of the boys was the climax to a series of activities in life saving extending over three years that probably equals the record of any similar organization in the United States. It is gratifying, indeed, declare members of the corps, to see that the great mass of people directly and indirectly affected by their work on the beach, have come to realize the importance of the life savers to this community. At a meeting a few weeks ago the members of the life saving corps reorganized, shedding the name of "United States Volunteer" and adopting the name "Venice Volunteer" corps. The boys had been induced to associate themselves with the government volunteer service with the promise of financial support, but the support never materialized. Funds for the maintenance of the life saving work are provided by citizens of the beaches - particularly the various civic organizations and women's clubs. Frequently entertainments are held by the latter, at which small sums are realized for the corps. None of the members receives a cent for his work, but engages in it purely from a heroic spirit and a desire to aid humanity in distress. Each member of the crew, is employed in or around Venice, and whenever the life saving alarm is given, drops his work and hastens quickly to the station at the end of the Venice pier. One case is recorded where a member lost his position for not responding to an alarm, but fortunately such instances are rare. By a recent arrangement with the Los Angeles Pacific railway, brought about through the agency of President Fred K. McCarver of the Venice Chamber of Commerce, the railway company agrees to haul the life boat and paraphernalia of the corps to any point on its lines In case of an emergency, free of cost and furnish a special car for the purpose. By this means, the field of the lifesavers is expanded to take in the beach northward to the long wharf and southward to Redondo Beach.

Tom Wilae Is captain of the corps, with his brother, George Wilde, second lieutenant, and Adolph Toenjea second lieutenant. John Molitor Is quarter master. The following are members of the corps, being ranked as surfmen, shoremen and boatmen: George McManus, Alex Gray, Dan I£nl , Stanley Tawasend, David Moreno, Albert Romero, Marcus Lee, Henry Toenjes, Harry Kouck, John Makin, R. Yarnell and Clifford Bowes, mascot. An executive committee, which directs the actions of the life savers in time of need is composed of Capt. P. Grant, Capt. W. King, G. L. Anderson and George Hubbard.

The equipment of the life saving corps is very inadequate, in the opinion of those familiar with the operation of life saving stations on the Atlantic coast and Great Lakes. An eighteen foot, four-oared life boat is the only craft available when the boys are compelled to make a trip beyond the surf. A small number of corl; jackets and life buoys, with line, make up the balance of the paraphernalia. A motor life boat, = unsinkable and capable of great speed, such a type as that in use at government life saving stations, is greatly desired by the Venice corps to place it in position to lend quicker aid to drowning persons. In addition to this a long list of life saving accessories would have to be provided for the corps before It could be considered firmly established. Adolph Toenjes. who "with George McManus, braved the torrential writers of San Gabriel last Sunday, was injured in the right log by becoming entangled in a barbed-wire fence. Little attention was paid to the injury at first, but it has since developed a possibility of blood poisoning, according to the attending physician. Toenjes is now practically laid up as a result of his volunteer life saving work.

3. Some additional remarks from Cal regarding the status of the Venice plunge and beach lifeguards in 1910:

"...the paid Venice Plunge Guards, starting in the early 1900’s, in addition to guarding the pool also guarded the beach and surf in front of the plunge, as is evidenced in the 1922 photo below. There was a tower there and equipment labeled Venice Bath House. Mac, at the bottom of the photo, told of the frequent ocean rescues due to the mostly non-swimmers in those days. Of course when I worked the plunge in the 30’s the L.A. City Lifeguards were out front taking care of the water. However, we could see out the large glass windows what was happening out there and we did run out to help once in a while if needed because many of the victims were people out of the plunge. When I was old enough I left the plunge and became an L.A. City Beach Guard myself, with a raise from 35 cents an hour to 75 cents an hour."

(Photo above, from 1922, on the beach in front of the Venice plunge, courtesy of Cal Porter.)

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Many Thanks to Cal Porter and Chris Brewster for their continuing efforts to bring stories of interest to our readership.


Until next time.....

"County Recurrent" News

("Seven Towers". Photo above by & Copyright Will Maguire 2011. All Rights Reserved.)

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1 comment:

Diana Landis said...

I just found your article and it mentions my Uncle Tom Wilde and his brother, George WIlde. My Mom, Lucile WIlde Billings, was a LA County pool guard during the war. I am always trying to find information about him as he was killed during flight practice as a pilot during the war years. My brother is also a Tom and served as a Newport Beach Lifeguard in the 70's. We are both ocean swimmers. Would love any information you might have. THank you so much. Diana Billings Landis