Southern Brooklyn

Video: The Lady Lifeguards Of Manhattan Beach, Circa 1940


We came across this incredible historic gem of a film this week, featuring the extraordinary training of the first female lifeguards of Manhattan Beach. The film, dug out of the public domain section of the Library of Congress Prelinger Archive (the wing housing the collection of U.S. cultural history), is a wonderful document of life on beautiful Manhattan Beach in 1940. I was impressed by the old-timey swimsuits, ridiculous drill-like training routines (can someone please explain what is going on starting at 3:47?), and the hilarious canned orchestral soundtrack, which has been parodied thousands of times since its heyday.

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  1. I find it interesting how in those supposedly unenlightened times, so many women were training to be lifeguards, and you don’t seem to have that now…

    I think that there’s a myth by the young people that in the “old days”, there was some sort of Donna Reed/Father Knows Best society going on. That might have been what was on television, but that’s certainly not what was going on in everyday life, I assure you young whippersnappers. We predated Rosanne by a number of years!

    Yeah, interesting technique at 3:47, I’m sure some perv passed that off as a life-saving technique, the guy who invented IT ended up life-serving in some prison…

    As far as the music, well, that’s what they did,, canned music over everything. I like the stuff, and based on the article writer’s FB page, I’m sure he does too. We shouldn’t be so smug and condescending at past culture. Do you really think that in 100 years, people are going to watch some commercial with rap music behind it and say “wow, those guys are cool, they had it down perfectly”? I think the laughter and condescension will be the same if not worse in 100 years at our present culture. In fact, many laugh at it right now….

    It’s funny how, for example bell-bottom pants can go from being cool to being ridiculous to being cool to being ridiculous, etc. What I’m trying to say in all of this is deep: BRING BACK THE BROADS FOR LIFEGUARD TRAINING.

  2. Wow… The city we’ve lost. It is tough to imagine what the MB looks like today with those fat ugly creatures on the beach. Looks more like Africa before it got discovered.

  3. It was 1940, and Eleanor Roosevelt was President on Tuesdays and Fridays. Still, the female lifeguards were there more for show than function. Obviously this didn’t sit very well with the women. Eventually the women were totally frozen out.

    The full story has been told, whether it can be verified on line I’ve yet to discover.

  4. I wouldn’t go overboard about finding this worthy historical relic. My brother was a Lifeguard at Bay 9 in Coney Island, for three years during the 1950’s. And though barely out of my infant years, I do not recall any female Lifeguards being actively involved there, in any part of those iconic Beaches, from their start outside of Seagate, all the way east to Brighton 1. There is something to lament though, where once, and certainly into the mid 1970’s, Lifeguards were held in high esteem. always obeyed, as they should be, it is my observation and understanding that today, that is not always the case, and we even have to import lifeguards from landlocked Austria, of all places, to fill those once highly regarded (and for some of us still are!) positions. Where have all the great swimmers, and altruistic folks, from southern Brooklyn gone?!

  5. Hahaha, the “politically incorrect’ comments made by someone 10 minutes ago were already removed, just like I predicted. We certainly don’t want to read any descending opinions.

  6. We have commenting guidelines. Racism isn’t a DISSENTING opinion, it’s racism. If you don’t like our policy, as you’re always publicly bitching and moaning about it, you’re welcome to go elsewhere.

  7. I see, so when someone says that all Russians are scamming criminals as was done several days ago that’s fine, but saying something even vaguely negative about other groups is okay. Way to show your true colors.


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