Monday, February 17, 2014

Presidents' Day Shout Out! Freedom of Speech and "The Letter"...

Monday, February 17th:  Presidents' Day 2014 is here. It's a federal holiday so, of course,  banks and post offices, etc. are closed.

A great way to celebrate this official U.S. holiday is to go to the beach.

Our lifeguards will be on duty as assigned by our permanent staff.  Don't forget your sunscreen and UV protective clothing and hats, etc.

We also take a moment to remember our First President, George Washington, who said:

“If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.” 

Freedom of speech is just one of the many freedoms we enjoy as Americans.  We have our own lifeguards, past and present, to thank for sharing and expressing this freedom in terms of the working conditions, respect and benefits we have come to enjoy.  President Washington expressed what our forefathers demanded and let us not forget their sacrifices, as well as those lifeguards who came before us and who fought for our jobs and careers.

Personally and professionally, I am reminded of that fateful day in early July of 1974 when our rookie class of lifeguards with the City of Santa Monica were suddenly advised that the County of Los Angeles tried to pull a fast one and say that when they meant the "entire list" of lifeguards from Santa Monica City would be included in the merger (between the LACo Lifeguards and the City of Santa Monica Lifeguards) that what they really meant is all of your lifeguards except the rookies.  We were told by our (new) Captain to go home and wait by the phone as efforts were made to get the County to reconsider.  I could not wait to get out of there because I was not going to go home and wait by the phone and hope that we would get our jobs back.

After we were dismissed, I walked out and told Lt. Tom Johnson (TJ), who was visibly upset at this sneaky b.s. decision by a few misguided county lifeguards, that I was going to go to my dad's law office in Beverly Hills and raise some "heck".  So I immediately left SMHQ and headed over to the pay phones (that used to be) next to "Hot Dog On A Stick".

I called my dad and told him what had happened and he said for me to drive straight over to his office and we would talk about it. I drove over to his office (after purchasing a lemonade and a corn dog, of course, with the standard City of Santa Monica beach lifeguard discount) and we talked for 15 minutes or so and he took notes. Then he dictated a letter to his secretary. She typed it up, a messenger was called and the letter was hand delivered to the office of L.A. County Counsel.  As it had been directed,  "the letter" was read by a law school classmate of my dad's from UCLA.  It should also be noted that at no time was the LACo Counsel's office contacted or advised in advance of this 11th hour decision to get rid of the Santa Monica City rookies.  I then headed back to SMHQ and showed TJ a photocopy of "the letter" my dad had written and with his cigarette waving in his hand he expressed how thrilled he was with "the letter".  That brought a smile and laughter.  Meanwhile, Santa Monica City officials, other rookie lifeguard parents' and lifeguards were raising Cain, as it were, with phone calls and other efforts.  At the County Counsel's office they held some meetings, made some phone calls and within 2 - 3 hours us rookies were called back into the Captain's office at SMHQ and told we had our jobs back... and we were told that if any of our parent's had made phone calls or written letters to please let them know that everything was taken care of and we had our jobs back.  The only compromise was that the County made our rookie class go down to Hermosa and swim around the buoy south of the pier and they timed it.  Lt. Ned McIlroy was assigned to time us and I recall that he indicated that we were pretty fast as Dennis Wells, Arthur Verge, myself and the rest of our class handled the swim without any problem.

In retrospect, I could have called Coach Johnny Joseph, our swim team coach at Santa Monica College and a long-time resident of Redondo Beach and he would have made one phone call and we would have had our jobs back.  I think he would have loved to do that, quite frankly.

In any event, us rookies of 1974 got our jobs back because we refused to stay "dumb and silent."

Personally, I also think my dad deserves recognition for his efforts on behalf of our rookie class.  I've told him that this was the best letter he ever wrote.  I'm also thinking a "Bronze Savage Advocate" painting or statue is in order with a lifeguard (with a rescue can in one hand) high fiving a lawyer in a suit holding a briefcase or "the letter" in the other hand.  Maybe Norton can work that up in a performance painting sometime...

Yes, and I still have a copy of "the letter"! 

Watch The Water •  Stay In Shape • Keep Your Focus


(All photos by & Copyright Will Maguire 2013-14).

Until next time.....

"County Recurrent" News

Service • Training • Commitment

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