Longtime Guard Settles In as Boss of the Beach

Like a lot of the older Los Angeles County lifeguards, Don Rohrer says he started his job in the 1950s thinking it would be an enjoyable way to work his way through college so he could become a schoolteacher.

But after graduating from Cal State Los Angeles and substituting at high schools in the South Bay and San Fernando Valley, he felt the tug of sand and sea and returned to lifeguarding.

“I missed the ocean,” said Rohrer, who was born in Venice and grew up in Playa del Rey.

And he’s remained at the shore ever since. He was recently appointed chief lifeguard for the Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors.


He got his first job as a beach lifeguard in 1953 while a student at El Segundo High School.

“It was like a dream come true,” said Rohrer, 53.

The college-age lifeguard applicants he meets today are not likely to be as concerned with paying for school because many are already competitive swimmers or water polo players on scholarships, but they share much of the same love for the ocean and swimming as lifeguards of three decades ago, Rohrer said.

The similarities end there, he said with a chuckle, and compared the situation to that of professional sports.

“The kids today are faster and probably smarter too,” said Rohrer, whose oldest son, Jeff, was a linebacker for the Dallas Cowboys. “The competition is unbelievable. Not only are they great swimmers, but they’re also (academically) the finest kids in school.

“I’ll tell you, if you can get the grades and work out in the pool for four or five hours a day, you have to be a pretty special human being,” he said.

Rohrer, who lives in Manhattan Beach, assumed his new post April 1 and said he’s slowly getting used to the added responsibilities, which include supervision of 108 permanent lifeguards, 580 summer lifeguards and more than 32 miles of coastline.

One thing he doesn’t like about the new position is the amount of time he’s forced to spend indoors at his Venice Beach headquarters.

“I get out there (on the beach), but not as much as I’d like to,” he said. “Fortunately, I live four blocks from the beach, and on my days off . . . “

Chester A. Widom was once renowned as a gifted 22-year-old architect. In fact, in 1962 he was the youngest licensed architect in the state.

Next month, the founding partner of Santa Monica-based Widom Wein Cohen will be officially recognized as a gifted 50-year-old architect when he and 61 other architects, including three others from the Los Angeles area, are invested in the American Institute of Architects’ College of Fellows, the group’s highest honor.

Venice High School teachers Laura M. Monroe and Beverly Findlay should have some interesting stories to tell about what they did on their summer vacations.

They are among 105 foreign-language teachers chosen as 1990 Rockefeller Fellows and given $5,000 to spend on intensive study this summer.

Monroe will fly to Mexico City and Guadalajara to study the murals of Clemente Orozco, Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siquerios and how they reflect the social, political and religious life of the Mexican people.

Findlay will spend her summer in Yokohama, Japan, to study with Japanese teachers and produce audiovisual lessons focusing on Japanese teen-age life and the annual summer obon festivals, a celebration honoring ancestral spirits.

Two Culver City bus drivers accomplished the highly improbable by scoring exactly the same number of points, 2,392 out of 2,400, to tie for the top score in the Culver City Municipal Bus Lines 1989 Driver of the Year competition.

Victor Clay, 52, and Earnest James, 60, were named co-winners for scores based on their promptness, safety record and attendance.

“To score 2,392 out of 2,400 is phenomenal,” said Deputy Transportation Director Steve Cunningham, explaining that one verified customer complaint would take 10 points off a score and being late for work one day would cost 15 points. “And to tie is almost unbelievable. I mean, we tried to set it up so it would be very difficult to tie.”

For their performances, the highest point totals in the four years the contest has been held, the Bus Drivers of the Year will receive plaques, a commendation from the City Council and three days off with pay, said Transportation Director David Ashcraft.

Loyola Marymount University sophomore Gary S. Brown will be in Independence, Mo., on June 3 to accept his award as a 1990 Truman Scholar.

Brown, a political science and economics major, is one of 92 college students to receive four-year, $28,000 scholarships from the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation. The awards are based on potential for leadership in government and public service.

The Westchester resident, son of Robert K. and Jennie Brown, said that after graduating from law school he plans work “as a legislative aide in Congress or a politician on the local level.”