Jr. Guards: Origins


Malcom & Duncan Wilson, shown here at 10 were in the first Jr. Guard class (1966) would become legendary watermen, lifeguards and ocean advocates. Most of the text and all of the images are from their archives and research (standard print). Col. Aaron Bank (retired 1958 from the US Army Special Forces) was a citizen mentor for the early lifeguard department. He would write the 1966 newspaper article about the beginnings of the JG Program (italicized print). All text is first person account of the origins of the San Clemente Jr. Lifeguard Program.

Link to Wilson’s Original Script
Link to YouTube Video of Wilson’s JG Origins Story

Program is Born: Article by Col Bank, August 4th, 1966

“Under the direction of Chief Dick Hazard, the San Clemente Life Saving Department is conducting intensive courses on “Ocean Aquatics” for San Clemente’s finest and most famous playground—the beach.  The equipment and instructors are furnished by the Life Guard Department

My brother Malcolm managed to save an article from a local paper called the “Independent” written by Col. Aaron Bank on August 4th 1966.  The article was titled “Boys Between 10-14 Eligible to Train” and described the ‘architects’ and origins of the Junior Guard program in San Clemente.  It’s amazing and satisfying at the same time how much Col. Bank’s description of the Junior Lifeguard program and my own personal experiences and memories match. (Wilson)

Chief Hazard Selects First Instructors

Upper: Randy Beaton, Lou Mathe –
Lower Capt Phil Stubbs, Chief Dick Hazard

Realizing the need for this type of training in a coastal community, Chief Hazard with his selected instructors, Guards Randal Beaton and Louis Mathe who are both extremely capable aquatics instructors and have a decided flair for working with boys, organized the program and established the criteria for selection, objectives and training schedules. under the supervision of Captain Phil Stubbs (Banks).
I would often tell people, that at age ten, my Junior Guard training reminded me of what military training must be like; the marching, inspections, calisthenics, the medical training, ocean rescue techniques, competition, and working as a team.  (Wilson)


Earliest known photo of JGs. 1966.
This is near the current picnic tables north of the pier. The motel is now a park.

To be accepted applicants must pass a qualifying test.  Those accepted are then given an orientation on aims, policy, routine and discipline, and the five week course begins.  For five mornings a week body building, ocean swimming, running and beach games are conducted.(Bank)  
As the title of the newspaper article stated, this program was initially only open to boys.  Girls were finally allowed to participate 3 years later starting in the summer of 1969.  It was almost 10 years later before the first female was hired as a Lifeguard for the City of San Clemente.   (Wilson)


Wilson brothers center.
Lou Mathe & Randy Beaton have back to camera.
Randy Beaton JG instructor.

I remember we were required to wear red bun huggers with our red silk-screened JG shirts tucked in as our official uniform. We were also required to have our Junior Lifeguard patch sewn onto the front of our bun huggers.  It was quite a look.  We were all told to bring a blank white T-shirt in and they silk-screened the red Junior Guard logo on the back of the shirt in the garage at Lifeguard headquarters. (Wilson).

The equipment and instructors are furnished by the Life Guard Department without benefit of any additional funds or personnel. (Bank)


Pier Swim 1967 Competition

In the final week tests are given on all major subjects including a swim to the end of the pier and back.  And to top off the course the group goes to Huntington Beach where they compete with a similar group being developed there.(Bank) 
I was reminded […], that ‘back in the day’, a pier swim was just that.  We started on the South side and finished on the North side of the pier.  You were constantly looking for fisherman’s lines to avoid being hooked.  (Wilson)

Competition at San Clemente: San Clemente Front; Huntington Beach Back (blue trunks)
Competition at Huntington: Lou Mathe, Ed Marsh, Randy Beaton

After a little research it appears Huntington Beach started its program two years earlier in 1964 and I am sure helped influence San Clemente’s program.  It appears from the photos they must have come down to San Clemente to compete and we, intern, traveled to Huntington Beach to compete as well as seen in some of these 35mm slides my parents captured in 1966 and 1967.  It was during our JG trip to Huntington Beach in the summer of 1967 that we got a chance to meet the legendary waterman, Duke Kahanamoku, who travelled to the mainland for the U.S. Open of Surfing.  This is a memory Malcolm and I have never forgotten and I can ‘picture’ it like was yesterday. (Wilson)


Those successfully completing the program are awarded Junior Lifeguard certificates.  So far, 45 boys have been this fortunate, and 25 are presently undergoing the second course. (Bank).
After looking through my scrap book I found my first aid card from the American National Red Cross Junior Course we completed during the program.  I remember first aid being a big part of our instruction.  (Wilson)


Currently the JG program has grown from 65 to more than 900 participants per year. It retains its original roots of “intensive courses on “Ocean Aquatics” for San Clemente’s finest and most famous playground—the beach“.

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