When John Loeper talks about the latest exhibit acquired for U.S. Life Saving Station No. 30, the tone some men reserve for a touchdown pass at Carson Wentz, or a particularly delicious slice of Boardwalk pizza Use the.
Roper recounts his trip to rural northwestern New Jersey to receive his prize, a meticulously maintained example of a small surf boat used for sea rescue since the 1850s. rice field.
“Often when you see this old boat, you see an ossuary or fireplace ready,” says Loeper. “I certainly didn’t expect something so pristine.”
Loeper’s primitive object of affection is a 65-year-old Seabright skiff, commonly known as a surfboard. A smaller 17-foot variety, but with the same design dating back to the 1850s.
Located at 801 East Fourth Street (corner of Fourth and Atlantic Avenues), the Life Saving Station is Ocean City’s newest public museum.
It commemorates a time when ship traffic through Ocean City was constant and shipwrecks were a regular occurrence.
However, that door has been closed to the public since the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown began in March.
What are the bright spots for a temporary shutdown?
“We’ve used this time to research a few things and make the museum even better,” said Looper, an Ocean City historian and station guru expert.
One such moment occurred when the deceased man’s family was looking for a place to display their historical artifacts. I was connected to Loeper who was there.
Loeper and colleague Jack Brooks, a retired lifeguard and Ocean City resident, made the two-hour drive without much expectation.
“It’s almost perfect,” Loeper said of the technology. “It’s beautifully landscaped and I’m not going to do much[additional work]. We’re almost ready to build a display around it for visitors to see and enjoy.”
Unlike traditional museums, lifesaving station No. 30 has few formal exhibits.
Instead, the building has features and furnishings likely seen in its late 19th- and early 20th-century heyday.
The US Life Saving Service was the ancestor of today’s Coast Guard.
Hundreds of lifesaving station buildings lined the east coast at the turn of the 19th century, but today only a few remain.
Volunteers were initially staffed, and eventually “Surfmen” were paid. The station was home to sea rescue at a time when transatlantic freight traffic was the primary method of importing and moving goods around the country.
“The sea was then a highway for moving freight,” says Loeper. “Shipwrecks are common and Surfmen have saved many lives.”
In many cases, their rescue vehicles were larger surf boats than the Loeper and Brooks, which were added earlier this week.
But it’s the same basic design that survives to this day on lifeguard boats around South Jersey and elsewhere.
“Small boats like this could be used for fishing and certain rescues.”
In the pre-telephone era, people rescued from shipwrecks would stay at the station until their relatives were tracked down.
“Everybody had to eat, the surfmen and shipwreck victims they saved,” explained Loeper. “Such a boat would be used for fishing, crabbing, clam digging and many other purposes.”
Fred Miller, a retired lifeguard and fellow historian, says that small boats like the one the museum acquired were “used in the 1920s when the Ocean City Beach Patrol won the National Lifeguard Contest.” .
Loeper said the only change expected to be made to the hull is a coat of gray paint on the bottom of the boat’s interior, which is more historically accurate than its current orange coloration.
In addition to the boat exhibits, Lifesaving Station Museum staff will occasionally bring boats out into the water.
“It’s in great shape and a relic,” Loeper said. “Having this boat is like driving a Model T car.”
“This ship is a great treasure,” he added. “It would be a great addition to the station.”
For more information and updates on US Life Saving Station No. 30 in Ocean City, please visit www.uslife Savingstation30.org.