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Beach Party

No doubt about it: Southern California’s beaches were the place to be on the blistering holiday weekend. As usual at times like that, the beaches upstaged the Dodgers, the Angels, the Raiders, even Disneyland and the movies. The ocean waves cooled Californians by the hundreds of thousands and reasserted themselves as the area’s No. 1 attraction.

To Zuma Beach, to Venice, to Huntington Beach, wherever they found sand went Southern Californians. Families with babies squealing in the cold water. Youngsters building sand castles only to watch them wash away. Picnickers with sand in their sandwiches that wouldn’t wash away. Teenagers with ever-present radios. Body surfers of all ages. Couples walking hand-in-hand. Hearty joggers. Sunburned lawyers masquerading as paddle-tennis players.

Beaches are where Californians mix as nowhere else, and swimsuits are the great leveler. People traffic was as heavy as rush hour along the water’s edge. Who wanted to be on the hot sand when the water was a divine 68 degrees?

Partly because the Southern California climate had avoided extremes in temperature, 1988 had been a relatively uneventful summer at the beach, and so the work of the people who make it uneventful despite severe restraints on budgets for all public services has been too little remarked.

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September is typically a scorcher here, and that presents a first-rate opportunity to remember the lifeguards, the cleanup crews, the police and the vendors who make the beaches such a pleasant place for escape. And again it’s time to say thank-you as well to the visionaries who kept California beaches as beaches, not real-estate developments.


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