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When Tingley Beach Was Really a Beach (Albuquerque, New Mexico)

Posted by E.G.D. on November 21, 2011

Tingley Beach, as it looks today (© Jody Diehl)

Back in the early days of this website, Jody did a very  nice article on New Mexico’s beaches.  In this article, she said “don’t be fooled!  [Tingley Beach] isn’t a ‘beach’ at all,” but it was a beach until 1951, when it was closed due to “bacteria and the fear of contracting polio.”  On a recent trip to Las Vegas, NV, Jody and I caught up with a very lovely and lively woman who was once Tingley Beach‘s only female lifeguard!  Her name is Janet, and she was one of four lifeguards working at Tingley Beach in its final years as a swimming beach.

Janet DuBois in 1950 at Tingley Beach (photo taken by Janet’s sister)

According to Janet, in her day the water at Tingley Beach was 12+ feet deep, and “it was the ‘in’ place!”  It had two anchored rafts, and “the tower, on the island with the diving board.”  She says the lifeguards “used to flip coins to see who would get the island.  That was where the shade was!”

To become a lifeguard, Janet says she “took a course at the YMCA, from the Red Cross,” and it apparently served her well.  She told us that “one time, this man was pulled in, and I was so proud of myself.  In the water you’re weightless!  A little five-foot person could pull in a 200 lb man.”  Aside from that one incident, though, she says there really was very little “saving” necessary on the part of the lifeguards.

Janet, who knew that we were interested in her times at Tingley Beach from previous visits and conversations, very kindly had a whole folder of old photographs compiled and ready to hand to us when we visited with her earlier this month.  Most of the photographs were from the Albuquerque Museum Archive’s Flickr page, so you can see them, too, if you follow the link!  In the images, the place is a truly lively beach park, and in one photograph, a sign reads “Swimming in Albuquerque’s Bathing Beach… Inspected daily by health dept.  Boats-Canoes-Beach Chairs-Umbrellas.”  Sounds like a fun and safe way to spend a hot summer day in Albuquerque to me!  It’s really too bad that since they re-opened Tingley Beach in the twenty-first century, the water is exclusively for fishing and pedal boating.  In happy news, though, Tingley Beach  is still a lovely place for a beachy picnic, and as of November 1st of this year, there are grills in the picnic area that are open for public grilling.

To close, I would like to share with you a picture of our featured lifeguard, then and now:

Janet in 2011 displaying Janet in 1950 (© Jody Diehl)

Her hair style has barely changed at all, and her smile is just as pretty!  Happy beachgoing and beach-nostalgia memories to all- E.G.D.

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