Friday, September 23, 2011

"The History of the Lifeguards of Santa Monica Bay"

This blog post summarizes some of the highlights from last nite's presentation by Veteran LACo Recurrent Beach Lifeguard and History Professor, Arthur C. Verge, Phd, at the Santa Monica Women's Club.
We would be entirely remiss if we also did not mention that it was Club Member, Laurel Czer (sister of LACo Recurrent, Andrew Czer) who produced this great event. It was a packed house with well over a hundred people in attendance for this approximately one hour presentation of stories and a spectacular slide show. Following this presentation, the Women's Club hosted a reception with some very amazing homemade brownies that even the most disciplined recurrents were found to be scarfing up, including a very physically fit Santa Monica South guard who is a full time college student at UCLA...

In any event, below are some remarks that we made a note of and that we wanted to share with our readership as well as several photos of the lifeguards in attendance for this very fun and interesting event. The guests/lifeguards that attended this event included, but were not limited to: Chief Mike Frazer, Cal Porter, Capt. Nick Steers (Ret.), Arthur Verge, Sr., Phd (Ret.), Bill Kendall (L.A. City, Ret.), Paul Silka, Lacey Beattie, Elizabeth Pennington, Matthew Pennington, Nick Kartychok, Nell Regan, Pat Carey, Kicker Vencil, Will Maguire, John Baltz and others.

Here are the photos we took last nite:

(Above, L2R, standing, Arthur C. Verge, Mike Frazer, Bill Beebe, and Nick Steers.)

(Above, L2R, LACo Recurrent-Paramedics, Pat Cary and Kicker Vencill.)

(Above, L2R: Mike Frazer, Arthur C. Verge, Cal Porter and Will Maguire.)

(Above, seated and not hiding from the camera as are two young ladies, are L2R, LACo Recurrent, Nick Kartychok and OLS Matthew Pennington.)

(Photo above, L2R: Peter Marshall, Pat Carey, Bob Valandra, John Anthony Baltz, Paul Czer.)

Above, L2R: Veteran LACo Recurrent & Professional Lifeguard Foundation (PLF) Co-Founder, Paul Silka, M.D. and LACo Recurrent & PLF Executive Director, Elizabeth Glick Pennington.)


Summary of Remarks by Arthur C. Verge (as transposed in notes taken by "County Recurrent"):

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Arthur C. Verge, Phd: History of Santa Monica Bay Lifeguards

Guests identified by Arthur and introduced to the audience:

Bill Beebe, took the famous photo of JFK, Summer 1962, on the beach at Santa Monica North.

Paul Silka, M.D., LACo Recurrent

Nick Steers, SM and LACo

Cal Porter, L.A. City/LACo
Venice Plunge
writes stories from 1930's, 40's

Chief Michael Frazer
12 - 14 hours/day

Art and Margie Verge


History of the Santa Monica Bay Lifeguards:

George Freeth, 1907, from Hawaii, revolutionized lifesaving skills in Santa Monica Bay; He also brought surfing to So. Calif.

Duke Kahamoku
Tom Blake, SM Guard

Rudy Kroon, SM City/LACo

Pete Peterson, SM City - Won First Surfing Contest

Tom Zahn
Mike Doyle
Ricky Grigg

Freeth, 1907,
first worked at Ocean Park

Lifeguards were the early watermen who worked on movies - Count of Monte Cristo

Freeth worked for Abbot Kinney as a volunteer lifeguard.

12.16.1908 - Freeth rescues at least eleven (11) Japanese fishermen and guides multiple boats into shore during storm.

Freeth was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for this effort.

Within 60 days of working for Abbot Kinney he became Captain.

1918 - Freeth tragically died (35 yrs old) of the influenza epidemic

1926 - George Wolf - first L.A. City lifeguard (first professional lifeguard service)


1920's - alcohol was banned

McNulty - no, not me.

Ed Perry - regarding rumor that Ed helped out with some booz runs to Malibu - "that's all rumors", Ed was said to have told Arthur one time; and then after a couple of drinks, Ed later said, "let me tell you how I did it...."

During the Depression, Ed Perry would recycle and re-rent the umbrellas when patrons would go for a swim.

1932 Olympics - Johnny Weismuller and Buster Crabbe (both were honorary Santa Monica guards).

*** Women patrolled the beaches during WWII b/c so many men were off to war. Some beaches were closed because of sewage.

Tom Zahn
Steve Harbison

Tom Zahn's photo/slides of Santa Monica harbor in 1946 will be shown during slide presentation and were recently shown to Arthur by Steve Harbison.

Beach Lifeguard Parties - Attendees included Gov. Earl Warren - Cap Watkins - Gary Cooper - Tom Zahn - Norm Jean Baker

1960's - Mike Doyle / Ricky Grigg, both Santa Monica Lifeguards became World Surfing Champions.


Surfing Prowess of Santa Monica Lifeguards discussed:

Buzzy Trent, Pete Peterson, Tom Blake - Surfing Hall of Fame
and Duke Kahanamoku who worked as a lifeguard in Santa Monica.


Slide show:

Gold Coast - SM Pier in background - Roosevelt Hwy.

Abbot Kinney - RE Developer - he swam in the ocean everyday - he built Venice of America.

Henry Huntington - bus. rival & partner of Abbot Kinney.

Pacific Electric Railway - Victorian clothes of beach patrons.

George Freeth - with his homemade surfboard - champion diver - but
could not compete in 1912 Olympics because he had been paid as a lifeguard.

Freeth - Swimming Instructor - swimmer's physique - penmanship very good - well educated man

- organized a water polo team at the Venice Plunge.

U.S. Lifesaving Assn. had a boat rescue philosophy - 12 man crew.

Venice tried this as well - Freeth said this was too inefficient - Freeth also used

* Photo of the 1910 U.S. Life Saving Corps of Venice (with Freeth at far left in Captain's hat).

Use of ropes in the ocean so people could hold onto it.

Plunges - Bathhouses - Pools

Venice Plunge - $100K to build

water polo played here with 400 people in audience.

high dive

Photo of cannon to signal a potential drowning.

Dories - good for training but not for rescues.

Reggie Harrison - swam at Stanford -
Reggie took credit for Ed Perry becoming a lifeguard, e.g., according to Reggie, when Ed Perry was a kid he borrowed (without permission) Reggie's car and thereafter Reggie made him take swimming lessons.

Freeth had a motorcycle with a sidecar to ride around Redondo Beach and do patrols and make rescues.

Cap. George Watkins - used a metal rescue can with rope & reel - OP Park.

How Cap. Watkins became a lifeguard: In 1908, he was a bartender on the Ocean Park Pier when one of the very best customers of this bar jumped into the water and Cap's boss said, 'there goes my best customer!!!" Cap then jumped into the ocean and rescued the man. It was after that that Cap Watkins became a lifeguard. Cap would use a horse to patrol the beach.

Photos of Lifeguards with shirts/sweatshirts that were screen printed with:

Venice Plunge Guard
Venice City Guard
L.A. Guard (City)


Prohibition - The Rex - Arthur's grandfather was an attorney.

Sister Aimee McPherson Simple - she faked her drowning off Venice beach - she later reappeared coming out of the desert in Arizona.

At one time, using a plane with a high diver was a method of making rescues but this did not stick.


Lifeguards & Hollywood

Duke - made a major rescue off Huntington Beach - also worked at the Beach Club in Santa Monica between where Towers #2 and #4 are today.

Casa del mar - on Santa Monica South at end of Pico Blvd.

L.A. City Lifeguards - Tom Blake's paddleboard co.

1930-s - surfing photo at Tower #8

L.A. COUNTY GUARD photo featuring guards wearing their uniform shirts.

Another photo shows an
umbrella, at the lifeguard station at Will Rogers #18, that is still there and is now used as a snack bar at beach level, and restrooms at the parking lot level.

LIFE GUARD SERVICE HEADQUARTERS in the 1930's and 40's on the Santa Monica Pier and is now the home of Rusty's Surf Ranch.

Cap Watkins was asked to retire because of his age by the City whereupon he called Gov. Earl Warren and shortly thereafter the City officials heard from the Governor's staff and other City Officials and that retirement demand was rescinded.

1936 photo of lifeguards diving off the boat at the start of a 1,000 tryout swim.

1934 - Fred Bleeker - no shirt -


Tom Zahn's photos - SM LG boat - 1946

Zahn and Peterson at San Onofre - Classic Photo with a woodie sedan with several surfboards on the roof and Zahn and Peterson in Hawaiian shirts and straw hats.

12.12.1947 - Photo of Zahn surfing

1956 Melbourne Aus - Tad Devine

Ricky Grigg went on to earn a Phd.

Pacific Ocean Park

Nate Shargo

Dale Velzy - L.A. County Lifeguard - Surfboard shaper

Greg Noll

SM LG HQ photo, including Art Verge, Sr., Rudy Kroon, and others.



Rescue of horse by Ed Perry with another JG

Thelma Todd story by Cal Porter

1945 - 46 --- enclosed towers first used by L.A. City, per Cal Porter.

1920's - 30's - penalty boxes used by guards to watch the water, per Cal Porter.


Reception with dessert and coffee, etc.


*** *** *** *** ***

We hope our readership gets a sense of the information imparted and the good time had by all at this interesting and fun event.

(All photos courtesy of "County Recurrent" and Will Maguire.)


Until next time.....

"County Recurrent" News

Service • Training • Commitment

*** Keeping the County Recurrent "in the loop"..... whether he/she likes it or NOT ! ***

DISCLAIMER: County Recurrent is not affiliated with nor sponsored by LACOLA or LACoFD.

*** PLEASE forward to other Recurrents, past and present, so that we can add them to our mailing list. ***

*** OPT - OUT *** Just hit reply and type in "Opt Out" in the subject line to be removed from this email list.

*** OPT IN *** Just send us an email and we will add you to the list.

***** ***** ***** ***** *****

No comments: