• April 1, 2020

Average age of lifeguards drops following end of World War II - Ocean City Sentinel: Community

A look back at the Ocean City Beach Patrol Average age of lifeguards drops following end of World War II

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Posted: Wednesday, June 24, 2015 12:54 pm

OCEAN CITY — “Alert Beach Patrol Safety Insurance” was the headline in the 1945 Spring Edition of the Ocean City Sentinel-Ledger. The article began, “Although the average age of Ocean City lifeguards has become considerably younger since the war began, there has been no noticeable difference in the high caliber of protection the top-notch Ocean City Beach Patrol offers to the resort’s thousands of bathers.”

During the 1940s, topless male bathers in Ocean City were called Tarzan, which explains the headline on the front page of the April 6, 1945, Ocean City Sentinel-Ledger: “1944 Lifeguard is Fined $5 as ‘Tarzan’ Bather.” The article reported, “A 1944 member of the Beach Patrol qualified over the Easter weekend as the first bather of 1945 to run afoul of the city’s ordinance against exposed torsos.

“Joseph Regan, 17, of 1115 Dyer St., Philadelphia, was fined $5 by Police Judge Howard Warren on Saturday.”

Regan, who won the Mr. Philadelphia title in 1945, looked like Tarzan.

Sixty young men reported to the 10th Street beach headquarters June 9 to compete in the swimming and rowing qualifying tests conducted by Capt. Thomas A. Williams and Lt. Charles Shock. Bob Harbaugh Jr. won both events and was the first hired. The following were also hired as rookie lifeguards: Bob Andrews, George Butler, Harry Bunting, Howard Eissler, Joe Flanagan, Bill Goulburn, Bill Marks, Steve Martin, George Norton, Bill Potterton, Harry Rolls, Robert Savage, Jack Scarboro, Peter Schwenk, Bob Seybold, Bill Spence, Les Taylor and Frank Trexler.  

An article in the July 25, 1945, Philadelphia Evening Bulletin told bathers how to find an Ocean City lifeguard: “Spotting a lifeguard on the Ocean City beach is a cinch these days. If you are in trouble, just look for a tanned fellow wearing a white Frank Buck-type helmet, which they inherited from the civilian defense organization.”

The happiest moment for the lifeguards came at 7 p.m., Aug. 14, when President Harry Truman announced the Japanese had agreed to Allied terms. The greatest war ever fought was over. Before the lifeguards celebrated, they remembered five of their own who died: Norman Blackman, John M. Mintzer, John O’Brien, Robert G. Powel and James A. Ryan.

The following won trophies competing in the intra-squad races: doubles row — 1. George Weissberg and Joe Regan, 2. Bill Marks and Joe Flannigan, 3. George Beitzel and Les Taylor; swim — 1. Bill D’Arcy, 2. Bill Goulburn, 3. Bob Harbaugh.

“Ocean City Wins S.J. Lifeguard Championship” was the headline on the front page of the Sept. 7, 1945, Ocean City Sentinel-Ledger. The local lifeguards did not win either the doubles rowing race or the swim, but scored more points than Atlantic City and Ventnor by placing second in the doubles rowing race and second, third and sixth in the swim. Weissberg and Regan placed second in the doubles, while D’Arcy, Goulburn and Harbaugh all scored points in the swim.

The social event of the summer was the annual Lifeguard Ball held the evening of Aug. 25 in Convention Hall. A total of 1,014 people danced to the music of Roger Kent and his orchestra. The highlight of the evening was the jitterbug contest.

Williams’ end-of-the-summer report to Mayor Clyde W. Struble showed an increase in rescues, first aid cases and ambulance service by the OCBP during summer 1945. The lifeguards made 210 rescues for an increase of 12 over the previous year. First aid cases at the three beachfront stations (1st, 10th and 14th streets) totaled 1,265, an increase of 22 over 1944. The ambulance service had a record year with 229 runs. The increases were attributed to the increase in summer bathing crowds over 1944.

Ocean City Beach Patrol firsts


1921 — First beach exercise class for the public held on the 10th Street beach by lifeguard W. Ward Beam

1929 — The OCBP purchased an outboard motor for one of their lifeboats

1929 — First time OCBP Captain Jack G. Jernee endorsed a sun protection cream

1930 — T. John Carey, Ocean City High School student and Ocean City lifeguard, won three state track championships: shot put, discus and javelin

1934 — First summer the OCBP used the logo with the crossed oars over a ring buoy

1934 — First time the National Life Guard Tournament was held in Ocean City—OCBP won

1934 — First summer the local lifeguards used a surfboard for ocean rescues

1940 — First OCBP flag ceremony held on the Fourth of July

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