Sunday, November 25, 2012


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There were no professional, paid beach lifeguards in all of Santa Monica Bay when I was a small kid, no Los Angeles County, Los Angeles City, or Santa Monica Beach Lifeguards.

There was a scattering of volunteer guards at a few spots during the summer, and there were the private pool lifeguards working the indoor salt water plunges that existed then along the beach from Santa Monica to Redondo, and that was all.  Drownings were not uncommon.

With the beaches becoming more popular all the time, finally in 1926 the first two paid beach lifeguards were hired, George Wolf in Venice, after the town became part of the City of Los Angeles, and Jim Reinhard who went to work for Hermosa Beach.  Two paid beach lifeguards for Los Angeles County’s entire public beach at that time, about thirty miles of coast, San Pedro to the Malibu City line.  Lifeguard Headquarters for George was the Venice Plunge building where the present day skateboard park is, while Jim simply roamed the sands of the South Bay alone, without even a chair or tower to sit in.
Venice Plunge, 1920's

George Wolf, 1926

Hermosa Beach, 1920's
Jim Reinhard, 1926

Jim and George were excellent watermen, I knew them both well.  I watched George still swimming in lifeguard races at the age of almost forty when they were held at the Olympic Swimming Pool in Los Angeles in the early 1940’s.  And Jim lived near me in Malibu; I would bring him to the retired lifeguard reunion we have in Redondo every year.  These two could tell some amazing stories of those early days of lifeguarding.  Jim passed away a few years ago at the age of ninety-five, George many years earlier.  Today, eighty-six years after these two started the whole thing the lifeguard force has grown a little bit.  Jim and George were the first of a team of lifeguards to follow that today comprise the Los Angeles County Lifeguard Service, the largest, best equipped, and best trained lifeguard force in the world, with several hundred seasonal and permanent lifeguards making thousands of rescues, and a dozen Baywatch Rescue Boats protecting some seventy miles of beaches.

L.A. County Fire Dept. Lifeguard insignia


(IN THE BEGINNING, THE TWO LIFEGUARDS, by & Copyright Cal Porter 2012. All Rights Reserved. Used here with permission.  Do not reproduce without permission.   All photos/images courtesy of Cal Porter.


Many Thanks to Cal for another gem of a story about the early days of lifeguarding in our area.



Until  next time.....

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