Faces from the 1940s: Current lifeguards seek to ID these ‘guardians of our safety’

New Hampshire Union Leader

August 12. 2017 8:24PM

Who are these six Hampton Beach lifeguards from the 1940s? Current members of the Hampton Beach patrol are hoping to find out. (COURTESY)

HAMPTON BEACH — The six lifeguards, side by side in vintage swimwear and sitting under two beach umbrellas, smile and stare back at you from the black-and-white photograph.

Jimmy Donahue believes it was taken in the early 1940s.

The image is now framed and hangs on the wall of the Hampton Beach State Beach Patrol headquarters, along with other “team photos” from past lifeguard seasons.

Donahue, the beach’s chief of lifeguards, is something of a historian of this place. He worked his first year as a lifeguard in 1960. He has patrolled these sands since he was 16. He’s been coming to Hampton Beach all his life.

“It’s become part of me. I can’t imagine not doing it,” he said.

He can name guards from past summers, friends and peers from more than a half-century of seasons.

But who are the men in the picture?

Donahue has mostly complete “team photos” that stretch back to the 1960s, with some gaps.

The picture of the six guards from the 1940s is among framed photographs that were a Father’s Day gift from his wife, Jonie.

Donahue said the six appear to be town guards and are sitting on part of the boardwalk in front of what was then the police station.

It’s become a bit of a mystery at Beach Patrol HQ. Gov. Chris Sununu and members of the Executive Council learned of it during their recent tour of the facility earlier this month.

“It’s a great story,” said Councilor Andru Volinsky, as he inspected the wall of frames.

Leland Brennan, assistant to Chief Donahue, said the Hampton Beach lifeguards have been reaching out to anyone who might help identify the six. A hundred thousand people enjoy the seaside resort town on a nice summer day, but it’s still a small community, with several generations visiting each year.

Somebody has got to…

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