Newport Beach Historical Society hosts first lecture series

Newport Beach Historical Society launched their highly anticipated lecture series, which took place on Monday, Feb. 12, at Newport Beach Central Library. This educational initiative aimed to bring together NBHS members and their local community to share stories, memories and reminisce on the rich history of Newport Beach. The first lecture series was hosted by Peyton Reed, one of Newport’s oldest living lifeguards.

In collaboration with esteemed previous lifeguards and local historians, NBHS curated a small historical archive display, while Reed presented photos and stories dating back to the ‘50s and ‘60s of lifeguarding in Newport Beach. Attendees had the opportunity to learn about the evolution of lifeguarding practices and hear first-hand accounts of heroic rescues and pivotal moments in Newport Beach’s lifeguarding history.

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Courtesy of NBHS

Event host Peyton Reed addressing the audience during the lecture series

Reed describes how in the late ‘60s, he developed an Activity Index for the lifeguard department. It was a numbering system from 1-5 to assess how much activity was happening at each lifeguard tower. As lieutenant, he would assign lifeguards according to the tower activity level to give each lifeguard equal training and experience while on duty. Reed also gave tips for aspiring lifeguards: A great lifeguard must have quick decision-making skills, know how to manage the public and keep people comforted in times of distress. It’s a big job and requires constant management of yourself and those around you.

Attendees reminisced as they looked at photos of previous lifeguarding peers and colleagues remembering names and stories of their time as lifeguards themselves. One attendee asked, “what was the wedge like back then?” Peyton responded with “The wedge didn’t have much activity in the ‘60s. Back then, there was no wedge tower. I could see the wedge with my binoculars from L street tower and that was about it.”

“We were thrilled to see such strong community interest in our first lecture series of 2024,” said Bernie Svalstad, president of NBHS. “It was truly inspiring to witness individuals of all ages come together to learn, engage and celebrate Newport Beach’s lifeguard nostalgia.”

The NBHS Lecture Series commenced in February and will continue with subsequent sessions held quarterly throughout the year. Each lecture will be open to the public, free of charge, providing an opportunity for community members to deepen their appreciation for Newport Beach’s rich heritage and historical preservation.

For more information about events hosted by the Newport Beach Historical Society, visit, or contact

The Newport Beach Historical Society is dedicated to preserving and promoting the rich history and heritage of Newport Beach. Through engaging educational programs, exhibits and events, the society seeks to foster an appreciation for Newport Beach’s cultural, maritime and legacy among residents, and visitors alike.

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