By Andrew DeCredico
Ocean City is home to one of the last remaining Lifesaving Service Stations in the country. The restoration of the Ocean City station is still in progress, but that didn’t stop New Jersey Lighthouse Challenge Committee from adding it to the list of stops for the weekend.
Saturday and Sunday were the days for the New Jersey Lighthouse Challenge, in which participants needed to visit every light house in New Jersey, as well as two Life Saving Stations. All of the lighthouses and Lifesaving Service Stations were open to the public.
The Chairperson of the US Lifesaving Service Station 30 in Ocean City is John Loeper. He and his volunteers opened up the station to all competition participants and other people who wanted to see the start of the beautiful restoration that will be taking place.
The United States Lifesaving Service Station operated until the United States Coast Guard was formed in 1915. As such, genuine artifacts from the original Lifesaving Service Stations are few and far between.
“One thing I have learned is that if you find an artifact,” said Chairperson Loeper, “you snatch it up, because you won’t see it again.”
The Lifesaving Service Station is currently under restoration. When finished, the goal is to make everything period authentic, and accurate. This particular Lifesaving Service Station contains 2 apparatus rooms which, in the station’s prime, each held a 26 foot boat, similarly designed to the surf boats that the lifeguards of today use on a regular basis. Each boat was rowed by 7 men and completely manpowered, just like the aforementioned lifeguards’ boats.
Also held in the apparatus rooms was a “Lifecar.” The life car was used to save people who were wrecked or stranded close to shore. As sailboats would come toward the shore, the wind would keep them from going back off shore because it was blowing onto shore. When this happened, sailboats would run aground and be battered by the ocean. When this happened ships would be torn apart and need rescuing. At the time there was no better way than a Lifecar.
When servicemen were home, entertainment was scarce. The men would get a ‘library box’ filled with different books and reading material. After a time this material would get old and boring, so the men would swap it with another station’s library box.
In 1915, 42 Lifesaving Service Stations were in New Jersey. Today only 5 are left. In The United States only 30 viable Lifesaving Service Stations still exist. If the restoration goes to plan, this Lifesaving Service Station will be the most completely authentic replica in the country.