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From Horse-Drawn Buggies to Hybrids: 100 Years of Lifeguards

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Believe it or not, the beaches of Southern California weren't always a big draw. In the early 20th century, not many people knew how to swim and the heavy wool bathing suits didn't make swimming any easier. Drownings were pretty common. But like everything else in Southern California, real estate developers changed everything.

Developers created a big push to draw tourists to the coast, and promote new coastal developments in Venice, Redondo Beach and Long Beach. They began hiring "lifesavers" to reassure tourists and lure residents from inland who would take the Red Line out to the beach (Subway to the Sea, indeed).

Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky's website has a post about how the lifesavers' vehicles evolved over the last century. It started with George Freeth's motorcycle that had a buoy attached to it that would allow one lifesaver to reel in another. In later years, lifeguards had full cars that allowed them to ride on the boardwalk to a rescue, but eventually the cars were equipped with 4-wheel drive that would allow them to actually drive on the sand. 100 years after Freeth's motorcycle lifeguards have hybrid vehicles.

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