Tuesday, April 28, 2009

"Ode To The Conference Grounds Pool"

(March 2009, the beloved Conference Grounds Pool, now filled with dirt and sod thanks to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy. Photo by Will Maguire)

... Did you ever wonder, "Where do the beach lifeguards that save lives around here on the beaches of Santa Monica, Pacific Palisades, etc., come from? Well, wonder, no more. Here is just one of many, many stories of how young boys and girls train for years in pools to become strong enough to become Beach Lifeguards. One of these pools is our beloved, yet now shuttered, Conference Grounds pool in Temescal Canyon. So sit back and enjoy. We think you will appreciate this story. If so, please leave us a "Comment".

From "back in the day", circa 1960's, from City of Santa Monica Beach Lifeguard, Michael "Mickey" Moriarty, recently shared a remarkable double rescue with us.

(Photo shows Santa Monica City Beach Lifeguard Crew, Summer 1966; Photo courtesy of Nick Steers; Mickey Moriarty is all the way at left with beach blond hair, kneeling in front row; Names of Lifeguards below, Courtesy of Nick Steers:

Top row L to R: Jim Hoch, Al Mayo, Steve Harbison, Larry Taylor, Tom Johnson, ? , Warren Rigby, Wes Herman, Nick Steers, Jim Richards.

Bottom row L to R: Mickey Moriarty, Larry Raffaelli, ? , Wes Wegner, Randy Ziglar and David Wells).

(Mick as the Blonde Adonis, circa 1972; Photo courtesy of Mick).

"There was the time I got a plate of great Mexican food served by the owner of one of the houses between Roadside and Sorrento, because I had just rescued “...the best cook we ever had” and my lunch was his cooking.

Weird... Two weeks in a row on a Tuesday at exactly 11 am I had almost identical rescues, one with one victim and one with two...I forget which one was the cook... Surf Conditions: Really Big, medium low tide 6’ Bruisers... and, the part I don’t need to tell, is that a new to the gig lifeguard (who shall remain nameless), who just moved over from Harbor Dept., forgot his field glasses, thought that my arm in the air meant I was OK...when in reality I had just brought up one guy (the cook) barfing and gagging, from the bottom, strapped him in the (Peterson) tube and had the other guy hanging on...both had lovely, 'ahem' wet suits on...three quarter cut off jeans and a nice thick tee shirt and sweatshirt....the rescue boat with Tom Zahn (at the helm) and Doug Posely was speeding to help and two or three guards were on their way but because of the strong swells and 10+ wave sets, were having a tough time getting out to me...meanwhile, here comes a clean up set, so I headed out to sea as best I could, pulling two very heavy guys, hoping the boat would get to me before the waves... when Posely jumped in and helped me pull the guys over the wave...and we made it barely, just as a huge wave broke just past us... followed by the boat's arrival just in time to help me pull those guys over the huge wave, which almost got us." Thinking back on that episode, the surf was hairy top to bottom almost low tide crunchers...it would have been hard to keep the victims in tow had we gotten hit or gone over the falls, which almost happened on the last wave where Doug saved us... As it was, we were suffering through 10 waves in a set... with some 8 footers possibly...and one huge maybe 20 wave set (that last one).

(Photo shows Mickey Moriarty, off duty, circa 1972, workin' out his legs on his skates; Photo courtesy of Mick).

editor's note: Mickey started with the City of Santa Monica as a beach lifeguard in 1964 and worked thru the summer season of 1972. He remembers fondly those teenage years before he became a lifeguard of training at the famed Palisades Conference Grounds outdoor pool, which recently was shuttered by its new landlord, the Santa Monica Mtns. Conservancy (SMCC), which is, of course, another story. Nevertheless, upon hearing of this pool's demise, Mickey shared the following colorful remarks:

"I swam and competed in that pool as a member of Uni’s swim team from 1961-1963. We came in 3rd in City in ‘61 and would have dethroned Birmingham’s long time champs in 1962 and 1963, BUT, they built Pali High and our swim team got split down the middle...we beat Pali in ‘62, they beat us in ‘63... we each got a second and third in City but Bham still continued to win... We came from Uni everyday to work out, stopped at the drug store (Bay Pharmacy) next to the Bay Theatre to get an ice cream cone...I always rode with John Reitman, then (National?) record holder for 100 Fly (52.8)... then Pali was built and we shared the pool...they swam after us...and most were on our team at Uni in 1961. Of course I went through a lot of pain up there too, cramps, sick w/ fatigue...but sure felt good when ya stopped....and I was a better guard and surfer because of it... Anyways, point is, I KNOW that that pool was responsible for me getting good enough to make lifeguards... that pool and my ocean smarts from surfing got me a great gig as a recurrent guard...didn't know how good it was really...". And ...guess who else was on that same Uni swim team...’61-’63? Terry Smerling.... Judge Terry Smerling, formerly first chair at ACLU. He worked Snoop Dogg and many high profile cases... Always was the nicest guy too, helped me out with some advice many years ago, but haven’t seen him in years.

(Mick showin' us how its done at the 'bu, circa 2000, illustrating that lifeguards don't retire, "They Go Surfin'!" And for all of you surfboard linguists, here is what Mick had to say about this board he's using in the photo above, "it’s a 9’6” Robbie Dick custom tri-fin, with Jimmy Ganzer’s (Jimmy Z) new (at that time: 1997) logo on it (Beatnik Brands)...so I got a great (free) deal because I was surfing pretty well at that time and I covered the older demographic I guess...still have the board,...a very good performing board but not a great noserider...for that I have a 1967 Hansen “Masters”...also 9’6” but the best noserider I’ve ever had... however, it’s very heavy and thin and you have to put all your weight into every turn.")

Thanks for sharing your memories, Mick ! Especially the role our beloved community pool played in your development as a swimmer and beach lifeguard.

Until next time...

Will Maguire,

*** Bringing you news of and from the Palisades. ***

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