Then 'Lady Life Guards' of 1940s Brooklyn

The New York Times' City Room blog explores “Lady Life Guards,” an "oddly racy newsreel" made around 1940 about female lifeguards on a beach in Brooklyn. The video made the rounds on blogs this week after being featured on blog Sheepshead Bites. The Times' Andy Newman describes it as "a gently leering 10-minute tour de force of visual double-entendre and soul-stirring call-of-duty gee-whiz."

The film was uploaded to YouTube last week by a user who found it in the Library of Congress’s Prelinger Archive at

(thanks, Michael Roston!)


  1. War-Era Baywatch.
    In fact, while watching I imagined some Baywatch footage converted to BW, digitally aged, and cut to this VO!

    1. From what I remember when I was a kid, the only real dangers the guards at the public pool faced were sunburn and laryngeal polyps from all the yelling. And for some reason, they all called the little boys “Butch.” It has to be tougher working at the sea or the beach of a lake.

      1.  Butch? I’ve never heard anyone use this term before. What time period was it in and where in the country?

  2. I have to say, I took my lifeguard training about 6 years ago, and this video appears to be significantly more thorough and challenging then what I underwent. Now that I employ lifeguards, I’m often careful about who I pick. There were a lot of people who got certified alongside me who I wouldn’t trust to save a life.

    I wouldn’t hesitate to hire any of the women… Except that they’re all really really old now.

  3. I guess that 50 years before this, the great innovation was the advent of Irish lifeguards, who previously in the United States were not considered fully human either.

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