1931 First Lifeguard Service

Thursday, July 16th, 1931 City Council Meeting

In 1931 San Clemente is a just over 2 years old and its first mayor, Thomas F. Murphine would call the 7/16/1931 City Council meeting to order at 8pm in one of the City’s original buildings, “Bartlett Building” shown above. Note the empty lot across El Camino Real. We will visit there soon.

Following are excerpts from that council meeting. Click on the following link for a full copy of the original minutes. CityCouncil071631


Beach is Busy.


According to Mrs. Sands, a Santa Fe Railway agent, there are “many thousands of campers” in need of “Comfort Stations”.  In 1931 our beach if a very busy place and addressing the needs of beach goers is a priority for the City Council.

Pier Is Busy


During Oral Communications Mr. George Scherck, the Secretary of the San Clemente Chamber of Commerce, describes problems with “sharp pieces of wood” on the south ramp the the pier. Splinters from our pier decking would be a constant source of lifeguard first aids for decades to come.

A Request For a “Beach Life Guard”


“Mr. Scherck also asked that a Life Guard, with police authority, be stationed on the San Clemente Beach near the pier, until after Labor Day and who could assist in cleaning up the beach and make the people who use the beach take care of the rubbish and so forth….”

In 1931 San Clemente is a beach resort community whose residents want a clean safe beach. The recommendation is for a lifeguard with police authority near the pier.

Council Approves Lifeguard


New Business: “Moved by Trustee Holloway, seconded by Trustee Von Bonhorst, that Supervisor of Public Works place a man on the the beach, who must be a life guard, with police authority, at a salary of $100.00 per month until after Labor Day…”

The motion is passed unanimously for a beach lifeguard and on Thursday July 16th, 1931 the City Council creates the first San Clemente Lifeguard service consisting of “a man on the beach… for $100.00 per month”. Note that beach lifeguarding is a function of Public Works.

Meeting Adjourned.


San Clemente’s first mayor approves the above minutes on August 5th, 1931 making this document an official record of the City of San Clemente. CityCouncil071631

August 5th Meeting, 1931; More Beach Business


At the next (8/5/31) City Council meeting  CityCouncil080531  there is more business to do with our beach. It’s interesting to note that Hamilton H. Cotton replaces Ole Hanson on the City Council. Ole Hanson was the “founder” (developer) of San Clemente and Cotton provided the funding for initial development. Cotton’s vacation home “La Casa Pacifica” at the southern end of San Clemente would become Nixon’s “Western White House” and the source of the local landmark called “Cotton’s Pont”.

Railroad ‘At Grade’ Crossing


In 1931, as today, the railroad tracks separate the City from the entire beach so getting a public crossing “at grade” was critical to get vehicles and equipment onto the beach. It’s unclear where this crossing is located. Based upon later photos it appears its on the south side of the pier bowl pedestrian underpass but it could have been at North Beach .

San Clemente State Beach


Under Written Communications is this item “of the State acquiring a strip of beach in San Clemente for the addition to the Park System”.  This would be the first step in the creation of “San Clemente State Park and Beach”. The State created the State Park in 1933 and was home to a three hundred man CCC camp during the depression years. The State Lifeguards would become a integral part of lifeguarding in San Clemente with many guards working for both City and State systems.

Pier is a Hazard to Bathers.


The ocean current running north can sweep swimmers into the pilings so it’s not surprising that a young City is trying to deal with this serious safety issue. Shown above is Mr. D. G. Kinney requesting “a rope or cable being fastened to the piles on the land end of the pier…”.  Through the decades pier rescues would be common for summer lifeguards sometimes totalling more than 30+ a day for the Tower 1 guard. As for the rope on the pilings… most experienced pier guards would view it as extremely dangerous.

August 4th 1933 Minutes



Fast forward 2 years and the new Easley Building (later called History City Hall) would host the Friday, August 4th, 1933  City Council Meeting chaired by the same Mayor Murphine. San Clemente is growing and the minutes have grown with it. CityCouncil080433

Russell E. Schneeberger Lifeguard Activities Report


“Report of the Activities of the Life Guard for month of July, submitted by Russell E. Schneeberger, Life Guard…. three rescues from drowning”.

In the summer of 1933 the beach lifeguard service is providing City Council with activity reports and the City Council is acknowledging that lives are being saved. Beach lifeguarding has clearly arrived in San Clemente.

From here we go to the “In the Beginning Storyboard”










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