Friday, December 14, 2012

"A ZUMA STORY, 1949", by Cal Porter

Prelude:   It feels like Christmas all right when we can publish a couple of Cal Porter stories for our readership as we have been able to do recently.  This is as good as it gets!  So sit back and relax and enjoy yet another gem from Cal.

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                                        A ZUMA STORY, 1949

This early Zuma Beach photo (below) appeared on Facebook one day not long ago, provided by one Ulf Johnsson, a citizen of Sweden living in Stockholm.  Thinking I was the only possessor of this old photo and knew it was safely tucked away in a dusty album on a shelf in my bedroom closet, I managed to contact Ulf (he speaks English) to solve the mystery of where he got it.  Ulf couldn’t remember how he came across the picture but he likes photos of the beach, surfing, and such, saw it somewhere, and added it to his picture file.  From Zuma Beach to Sweden the mystery remains unsolved.

The Winter Crew, Zuma Beach, 1949
                Cal Porter, Lt. Don St. Hill, Ray Porter, Mel Iseman, George McManus

When this photo was taken Zuma was the only beach in the County Lifeguards’ Northern Division.  There was no Topanga, Las Tunas, Malibu Surfrider, Coral, Westward, or Nicholas Beaches that we have now.  Those beaches were still privately owned, no trespassing.  The nearest beach operated by the county was El Porto at El Segundo, some twenty-five miles to the south.  Duke Fishman was assigned as the first lifeguard at Zuma in October of 1945 after the County of Los Angeles purchased the beach through foreclosure.  He worked alone out of an old duck hunting club that was located near the lagoon close to the present entrance to the beach; it was torn down about fifty-five years ago.  The six private homes located on Zuma Beach were eventually bought up by the county, and before they were later torn down I was lucky enough to rent a nice four bedroom beach house for twenty-five dollars a month.   Future Chief Bob Burnside later lived in the house.  Lieutenants Kirby Temple and Don St.Hill lived in another one down the beach on their tours of duty at Zuma.

Twenty-five dollars per month (about where tower 10 is now).
Today million dollar mansions line the bluffs behind.
The original lifeguard headquarters in the first photo above, where the new one is today, was a private home, and the one next to the station was still being lived in by a famous orchestra leader of the day.  The first small group of summer lifeguards sent to Zuma in 1946 carpooled back and forth from the south bay and laughed that they were being exiled to Siberia.  There was no Malibu Canyon Road or Kanan-Dume Hwy. through the hills in those days bringing hordes of beach goers from the Valleys to the beach, so crowds were sparse until Zuma became known as a popular destination.  There also were no surfers in the hundreds as there are today, since why go to Zuma when you could surf down the road a few miles on the great uncrowded waves at Malibu where there were never more that four or five guys in the water.  That’s the whole winter crew in the photo above, consisting of three guards a day, one to man the old plug-in switchboard and two to watch the beach and go on emergency calls.  And we did have emergency calls in that green International Truck since we were the only rescue, emergency unit available up and down Malibu in those days handling all kinds of calls, beach, highway or inland.  There were no sand vehicles for the beach then either, everything was done on foot. 

Well those were fun days on early Zuma Beach.  And now all the guards in the photo above are gone except one, and he is going on 89.  Mac, on the right, was first to go, having lifeguarded from 1909 until he retired at Zuma in 1951 at the age of sixty-six.



***  "A ZUMA STORY, 1949, by Cal Porter.  Copyright Cal Porter 2012. All Rights Reserved. Photos courtesy of Cal.

Thanks Cal !  10-4


Editor's note:  Arthur Verge travels to Sweden alot with his Swedish wife so maybe there isn't a mystery after all about how Ulf acquired the first photo above, but we are glad it surfaced on the internet because we all got to hear all about it.


Until next time.....

"County Recurrent" News

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1 comment:

William Maguire said...

Just in from Chief Bob Burnside (Ret), with a few remarks directed to Cal Porter (aka, CP) : "Great photo C.P. And the article: super! Congratulations. I vividly remember when you retired and vacated the house... I had been living in the one next to Hqts... and the summer wildness of the recurrent's was at times a little annoying... So when you vacated your place, it was a welcomed move for us. Besides it was really a charming little beach home. Yes, good memories. I loved the special assignments with Don St. Hill taking me on special skiff patrols from Paradise Cover for inspection of the lobster communities... What a time... Don would call my tower... "Bob, come in, we are going hunting!" Soooooo funny to think about all that at this point in our lives. Hope all is well with you my friend... I'm fine and getting ready for ski season here in the mountains of Utah... Merry Xmas Bob