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written by Lieutenant Skip Lee, OCBP (c) 1998 
It is easy to understand that during the late 1700's, the North American coastline was very different from what it is today. Vast portions of the coast were totally uninhabited. What population was there was generally not interested in the type of open water recreation  that we enjoy today. Instead, the people of the 18th century worked hard and constantly to put food in their mouths and clothing on their backs  -- the basic necessities that most of us take for granted. Yet loss of  life to drowning along the nation's coast was a serious problem, even in the 1700's. The cause of that problem was shipwrecks. 
In today's world, of radar, LORAN, navigational aids and propeller power, news of shipwrecks is considered somewhat of a novelty. But in the early days of the nation, ships were navigated by compass, sextant and educated guesses, and were always at the mercy of nature. The end of many storms brought the evidence of tragedy at sea -- wreckage and lives lost. 
The first records of organized efforts to do something for victims of this type of drowning come from the Massachusetts Humane Society. In 1789, the Society began building refuge houses along the Massachusetts coast for survivors of shipwrecks. In 1807, the Society set up the nation's first lifeboat station on Cape Cod. 

In 1839, a New Jersey physician, Dr. William A. Newell, witnessed a shipwreck tragedy near Long Beach, New York, and watched as 13 people drowned trying to swim 300 yards to safety. 
The doctor remembered this tragedy, and later when he became a Congressman, helped to persuade the U.S. government to get involved in lifesaving. In 1848, Congress appropriated money to build and equip eight small lifeboat stations  along the New Jersey coast. 
But while Congress provided the equipment, it did not provide for  manpower. Keys to lifeboat stations were left with volunteers who,  following a list of printed instructions, were expected to rig and use  the equipment to save people on ships foundering in a storm. This type  of service did have some success, recording some 4,163 saves, but  because the coast was largely uninhabited, many shipwrecks went undetected. Tragedies were still discovered when people came out of heir houses on mornings following storms. Unmanned lifeboat stations were  also vandalized, and soon fell into disrepair. 

Congress realized  these problems, and in 1854 appropriated more money to hire a superintendent, and staff each lifeboat station with one attendant. Lifeboat stations were also brought closer together to provide for uninterrupted coverage of the coastline. Patrols were organized, and the  station attendants were often expected to walk the coastline all night, regardless of the weather, to detect shipwrecks. 
After the civil war, Congress spent more money on the lifeboat  station system, increasing crew at each station and adding to the  station's size and comfort facilities. The professionalism of the system  grew too, as strict regulations were set for competence, performance,  routine, beach patrols, and physical conditioning. More stations were  built, and during the 1870's, the system was 
expanded to cover the coast  from Maine to Florida, as well as areas on the Great Lakes. Later, portions of the gulf and west coast were included. In 1878, the system  became a separate agency of the Treasury Department and was officially called the U.S. Lifesaving Service

The U.S. Lifesaving Service continued to project the nation's coastline until 1915, and between 1871 and 1915 amassed a fine record -- 28,121 vessels aided and 178,841 people saved. In 1915, the service was merged with the U.S. Revenue Cutter service and became what is known today as the United Coast  Guard
During this period in American history, society began to change.  America was growing, and Americans were becoming more prosperous and  less dependent on constant work for survival. The concept of recreation  began to take hold for a growing number of people who had enough money  to afford it and enough time to enjoy it. Americans were beginning to  realize that 
recreational swimming, once widely thought to be a sure  cause of death, was an enjoyable pastime. Beach resorts began to spring  up along the coast and on lakes, and governments began to acquire beach front property or guarantee the right of public access for the specific purpose of recreation. By the 1890's, open water swimming was all the rage. 
Americans quickly found, however, that swimming was not without risk.Newspapers buzzed with reports of drownings in the recreational setting,  particularly where incidents claimed several lives in a storm surf or  rip current. In reaction, beach resorts began to hire especially good  swimmers to "guard" the beach. Local governments, spurred on  by public pressure, also began to hire lifeguards for work along  publicly owned or controlled beaches. These lifeguards were quick to  adapt the equipment and techniques used for years by the U.S. Lifesaving Service to save the lives of swimmers in distress. 

Still, there were drownings. Commodore Wilbert E. Longfellow became very disturbed at news of drownings in the recreational setting where no one was able to assist the victim. In 1914, he formed the Life Saving Service of the American Red Cross, a corps of volunteers recruited and 
trained to provide rescues at beaches not regularly patrolled by lifeguards. Not satisfied that this was the solution to the drowning problem, Commodore  Longfellow recruited the strongest swimmers from the Corps to teach  swimming to beach visitors. He began a program to "Waterproof America" by teaching people to swim, and by training lay people in the skills that 
they could use to rescue a drowning person. His slogan,  "Everyone a swimmer, every swimmer a Lifesaver" became the  motto of early Red Cross programs that taught swimming, water safety and lifesaving to many children and adults. 
Another organization, the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA),  also became concerned with recreational drownings and became active with the concept of lifesaving, or preparing lay people with the skills  necessary to rescue bathers in trouble. The YMCA entered into the lifesaving field between 1885 and 1890, and established the United  Volunteer Lifesaving Corps in 1890 to provide rescue service at beaches and pools not satisfied with lifeguards. In 1911, lifesaving work and  research was established at the YMCA's national college in Springfield, 
Massachusetts. The National YMCA Lifesaving Service was organized in  1912. The first published American book on lifesaving was written as a  thesis at Springfield College by George Goss in 1913, and was eventually published as a lifesaving textbook in 1916. This book was first promoted  as "Water First Aid." 
Meanwhile, professional open water lifeguard services continued to  spring up across the United States. There was, however, little continuity in these services, largely due to a lack of a national organization charged with setting standards for the new profession. This fact is surprising, because 
it appears that the United States was  practically the only country in the developed world that did 
not align  its lifeguard agencies within a national organization. In other  countries, especially those 
of the British Commonwealth, lifesaving "societies" were chartered, and were mandated to set 
standards  for lifeguard operations. In some areas, these societies actually  supervised and ran 
lifeguard operations, regardless of who owned or had  responsibility for the open water recreation 
site. The U.S. government,  however, did not charter or mandate such an organization, and 
lifeguard  professionals did not start one themselves. In fact, the pioneering  organizations in the 
related field of lifesaving declined to get  involved in professional lifeguarding, as those organizations 
contended  that their programs were intended to promote safe swimming and provide  training in 
personal rescue techniques for lay people, not paid  professionals. 
Lifeguard services did improve, however, using techniques that evolved from the U.S. Lifesaving Service body of knowledge being developed through the lifesaving programs of the American Red Cross and  other professional emergency services, including police and fire  departments. By the end of the 1930's, lifeguards had become a common  sight at many beaches across the United States. 

Until about 1930, beach goers were concentrated at Caroline Street in  front of the United States Coast Guard station in Ocean City, Maryland.  This was the block where beach goers could rent suits at the Showell  Bathhouse. It was also where the Coast guardsmen in their boardwalk tower watched over bathers, as well as ships at sea. 
Beach Patrol Captain Bob Craig remembers that about a block away was a big double jetty across the beach. It was constructed of wooden  pilings with crossbars between, and people kept getting caught between  the poles, requiring numerous rescues. 
The surf washed right up to, and often under, the boardwalk at that  time. In 1930, the beach had gotten so narrow that bathers began moving  up the beach beyond North Division Street and out of range of the Coast  Guardsmen in the tower. William W. McCabe was the mayor then, and he and Captain William Purnell of the Coast Guard organized the original Ocean  City Beach Patrol. It 
began with one man, Edward Lee Carey, who was  hired to watch over the beach where the crowd was. He was the son of  Savannah Carey, whose mother owned the Del-Mar Hotel on North Division  Street. The Patrol developed year by year. New men were added and  supplied 
with buoys for rescues, first-aid kits, and umbrellas. 
Captain Craig remembers well the early members of the patrol; John  Laws, whose family had a cottage next to the Del-Mar Hotel; Nick  Lampofrea, an All-American Football Player for the University of Maryland; Ned and Tommy Dukehart (Tommy later became a sportswriter for the Baltimore Sun); hometown boys Milton and George Conner; Gary  Todd of Salisbury; Barney 
McCabe (the mayor's son); Franklin  ("Cutie") and Emory ("Huck") Savage; and Bill Pacy  of Baltimore. 
In 1935, two names of special significance appeared on the roster for  the first time. One was Harry W. Kelley, later to become Ocean City's  most widely publicized mayor. The other was Bob Craig, the genial,  six-foot man who was still on the Patrol 51 years later. From 1946 to  1986, 
he served as captain. 
Bob Craig was born and reared in Wilmington, Delaware. Ocean City has  always been an 
important part of his life. His father was a  schoolteacher, and the family spent the summers in a 
cottage at the  beach. He married a young woman from nearby Berlin, Virginia Lee  Mason. 
After attending the University of Pennsylvania, receiving an  undergraduate degree with a major in 
languages and a master's degree in  education, he still returned every summer to Ocean City to be 
on the  Beach Patrol. 
Craig's teaching career was in St. Louis, where he taught languages  and mathematics to high 
school students and coached football,  basketball, tennis, and golf. He and his wife settled into a 
year-round  home in, of course, Ocean City. He remained Captain of the Beach Patrol,  and once 
described himself as "probably the longest-term employee  the city ever has ever had." 

Since Bob Craig started on the Patrol, it has grown to about 160  members. The guard towers 
continued their advance up the beach as the = resort developed. Today, the Patrol covers over ten 
miles of beach, from the inlet to the Maryland-Delaware line. It is equipped with jeeps, Honda 
quads, walkie-talkies, and the familiar semaphore flags. 
One of the most notable changes in the Beach Patrol has been the presence of female lifeguards on 
the lifeguard stands. The first female lifeguard was hired in 1977. 
Women have come a long way since the 1930's, when the late Betty  Strohecker Gordy, who 
worked out with long distance swims up the beach  and out swam most of the men on the Patrol, 
could not be a member. Ms. Gordy, an Ocean City native and later a locally well-known Realtor, 
was attending Roosevelt High School in Washington, D.C., at the time. Before her life turned in 
other directions, she was the regional backstroke  champion and training for the Olympics. Today, 
there is no discrimination against women, nor do they receive special consideration in tryouts. 
The tryouts and training are grueling. To be under initial consideration, applicants must swim a quarter of a mile in the ocean  from the jetty at the Inlet to the fishing pier, keeping their strokes through waves and currents, and come into shore in ten minutes or less.  As soon as swimmers hit the beach, they must then run in the sand back to the starting point. 
Applicants who survive the initial test (most do not) continue from there with a series of simulated rescues with and without a torpedo buoy, run a 220-yard course in soft sand in 60 seconds and, if still in action, break for lunch. 
Next, in a swimming pool, there is a test in lifesaving techniques,  keeping one's head, and breaking of the most unexpected holds a desperate swimmer may try. Patrol members are taught the semaphore flag  signals and first aid, and receive intensive CPR training from the paramedic unit. 
The lifeguards learn abut treacherous rip currents, the changing ocean bottom, and how far to let the surf mats go out with different  winds and tide conditions. They also have to keep an eye out for  swimmers who get too close to the long wooden and, more recently, stone  jetties that jut out into the surf to help check beach erosion. Captain Craig has estimated that in a typical season, the Patrol goes to the rescue of about 2,500 bather, handles 1,000 lost children, and is called  on for first aid about 500 times. 

Beyond those general qualifications, Patrol members, who are generally between the ages of 20 and 23, must possess the more subtle skills, or instincts, to deal with  a variety of people. They answer questions, serious and silly, and  enforce, as gently as possible, the rules of the beach, prohibiting  alcoholic beverages, glass containers, ball-playing, dogs, and loud  music. 
"A guard needs maturity," Captain Craig has said, "to be able to tell someone as old as his grandfather that he is breaking the law." For their services, guards can expect a range of responses, from intense gratitude to indifference -- or  embarrassment. 
For example, a swimmer washed out in a rip current and nearing  exhaustion is making no headway getting back through the breakers. The lifeguard swims out and helps the swimmer to shore. Without a word of acknowledgment or thanks, the swimmer walks away as nonchalantly as possible, communicating by his or her manner to anyone who may be  watching, that he or she did not really need any help at all. 

This is one of the most familiar of the small dramas seen by the  practiced watcher of a lifeguard on the job. 

  • 1785   Founding of the Massachusetts Humane Society.

  • 1789   Refuge houses built along the Massachusetts coastline for the survivors of shipwrecks.

  • 1807 Establishment of the nation's first lifeboat station on Cape Cod.

  • 1839 Tragic shipwreck witnessed by Dr. William A. Newell,  in which 13 victims attempted unsuccessfully to swim to safety. This event later helped persuade the U.S. government to become involved in lifesaving.

  • 1848   Eight lifeboat stations built and equipped along the New Jersey coast.

  • 1854   Staff hired for each lifeboat station; a superintendent was appointed.

  • 1878   U.S. government bureau of United States Lifesaving Service established.

  • 1890   United Volunteer Lifesaving Corps established, providing rescue services at pools and

  • beaches not staffed with lifeguards. 
  • 1908  George Douglas Freeth established first lifeguard  training at Redondo Beach, California;

  • received the gold medal from U.S. Lifeguard Service for dramatic rescue. 
  • 1910  U.S. Volunteer Lifesaving Corps of New York City hired Commodore Wilbert Longfellow as chief.

  • 1912  National Lifesaving Service organized.

  • 1913 Duke Paoa Kanhanamoku introduced redwood surfboard to Long Beach, California; lifeguards for use as rescue equipment.

  • 1914 Longfellow organized Red Cross Lifesaving Corps.

  • 1915 U.S. Lifesaving Service merged with Revenue Cutter Service, creating the U.S.Coast

  • Guard. 
  • 1930 Ocean City Beach Patrol (OCBP) established.

  • 1935  Captain Robert S. Craig takes command of the season  lifesaving operation

  • 1933  Inlet cut through the beach to the bay.

  • 1946  Beach Patrol expands to 18 personnel -- three times  the size of the original group.

  • 1977  First females hired as lifeguards.

  • 1987  Robert S. Craig retires as captain of the Beach Patrol and is succeeded by George A.

  • Schoepf. Schoepf served as  Assistant Captain under Craig for over thirty  years. 
  • 1997  Captain George A. Schoepf dies while in office.  First Lieutenant Melborne "Butch" Arbin is  appointed Captain.
  • Sources of information for were: 
    USLA Training Manual 
    Interviews with Ret.Captain Robert Craig (OCBP) 
    Captain George A. Schoepf(d 1997) 


    This information was from a brochure provided by the Ocean City Beach Patrol.
    I provided this information as a means to help promote and assist the OCBP with recruiting.
    Not responible for typographical errors. I have made every attempt to make sure that this information is accurate.
    Please inform me of any changes or errors
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    Questions or Comments e-mail the editor  B. Chris Brewster 
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    Copyright ©1998 by  John Strohsacker 
    Last Updated 9/18/98 by OCBP Web Developer  
    URL of this document: http://www.oceancity-beachpatrol.com 
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