The Bronze Savage
This is the story of the Bronze Savage. The centerpiece for the Memorial to Lifeguards who have passed on to Neptune's lair.
About 1990, I started attending the Lifeguard Alumni luncheon with Chief Don Rohrer. We were aways from retirement but it was good to mingle with the former watermen and have a chance to talk with them about current events. At the time the annual event was held at the Hermosa Kiwanis lodge. Wally Millican, Dick ”Pappy” Garrett and others did the cooking and many others assisted in both the preparation and clean up afterwards.
Dick Garrett, a Recurrent and later Permanent Lifeguard, was an art professor at Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo. He created a mural on butcher paper that depicted the “red knights” who had gone down to sea for the last time. The names of guards who has passed were added in the order that the information was received. I noticed that all the retirees would stop and look to reflect on their friends and fellow guards who had passed on.
The mural was stored in the phone/photocopy room at the old Hermosa Headquarters between gatherings. One year it went missing.
A few years down the road Bill Poole, the semi retired wood shop teacher at Malibu Park High School began talking with me about a permanent replacement for the mural. I stopped by the school shop several times to talk with Bill who insisted he had saved some good oak and he really wanted to take on the project. A three panel concept was developed, some sketches drawn and the work was begun. My son, Derek was a student of Bill's so he assisted to some measure.
The Memorial was completed, and the result was First Class, I say. We had to figure out how to affix the names and what order they should be in. Gary Crum offered to print the names on parchment, the font could be changed as names were added and they would be alphabetical as we were unsure of the date of passing or the date of service of each lifeguard. Steve Saylors came up with the idea of protecting the parchment under cut glass. I went to Malibu Glass and Mirror, they graciously helped us out.
With the project finished it still looked incomplete with an open space in the center of the three panels. Joe Reinisch was working in the Division Office at the time so I asked him to look for a bronze medallion with a King Neptune figure on it. Joe made trophies on the side and had access to catalogs and other sources for that kind of device. Joe kept coming up empty though.
One night at a fund raiser for Supervisor Don Knabe in Manhattan Beach I found myself talking with Norton Wisdom, the renowned Lifeguard/Artist. He told me he wanted to cast a bronze and had never done one.
Norton was very enthusiastic that evening but as often happens I just went back to work and put the project temporarily aside. It was the next day I think, Norton called me and asked me to stop by his place in Topanga on my way home from work. Norton had produced a mural for the San Clemente Ocean Festival. It was a King Neptune figure holding a trident. Just a few days later Norton had a clay figure completed. We had to tweak it to reflect a mature figure unlike the youth depicted in the mural. We added a child and some sea creatures to reflect King Neptune as the protector of humans and the ocean environment. LACOLA stepped up and payed for the original casting.
|Close up of Norton Wisdom Bronze Casting|
The Memorial is displayed every year at the Alumni Luncheon and housed at the Manhattan Training Facility the rest of the year. At some future date additional panels will have to be created as long as the tradition is maintained. Credit and thanks belong to Dick Garrett who conceived the idea of a Memorial and all those who helped create what we have today.
Today, LACOLA gives a modified casting of the Bronze Savage to retirees usually at their retirement event. A fine tribute for those who have served as Los Angeles County Lifeguards.
|OLS-Paramedic, Joel Gitelson, holding up his (retirement) Bronze Savage, June 28, 2012|
|Joel's "Bronze Savage", close up. Photo by Nick Steers.|
|LACo Veteran Recurrent, Bruce Morgan, at right, with his Bronze Savage|
|Veteran LACo Recurrent, Harold Dunnigan's Bronze Savage|
Chief Lifeguard, Retired
("The Bronze Savage" by & Copyright Randy DeGregori 2012. All Rights Reserved. Used here with permission. All photos by and courtesy of Will Maguire, except where otherwise indicated.)
*** Many Thanks to Randy for sharing the history of the Bronze Savage with all of us. We really appreciate it.
Until next time.....
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