Ocean City Life Saving Station Museum
Coast Guard Memories
by Sharon Mick
May 2015


My favorite photo--My father, John Swanson on the right and his brother, Glenn Swanson, also in the Coast Guard
An Eastern Shore Connection

My Dad, John S. Swanson from Newberry in the upper peninsula of Michigan, was in the Coast Guard from December of 1940 when he enlisted until 1945. He served 4 years of sea duty in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters. He never really talked in much detail about the sea duty other than to mention the heat and noise of the engine room and the fear that everyone had to face during the battles. That part of his Coast Guard career stayed with me as a list of foreign, exotic countries like Sicily, North Africa, Guadalcanal and the Philippines to name a few.

The part of his career that connected with my move to the Eastern Shore was his assignment to North Beach Station on Assateague Island. It's just a guess that it was soon after he enlisted. When we were coming to Ocean City for our summer vacations, he would tell us about patrolling the beach on Assateague. They would walk a certain distance on the beach and have to turn a key in a pole on the beach and then return to the station. More than once he told how he and the ponies would startle each other when he came out onto the station porch to start his duty patrol.

When it was time for the men from the North Beach Station to go on R&R, they would be driven to the north end of the island and then row across the inlet to West Ocean City. On occasion Dad would go down to the Villa Nova on Old Bridge Road and leave his foot prints on the dance floor. How incredible that his grandson, more than a few decades later, would also tread the same floor boards. Dad would also stay at the Coast Guard Station on Caroline Street which has since been moved to the end of the boardwalk and has been transformed into the wonderful Ocean City Life-Saving Station Museum. When I found out that the aquarium room had been the station kitchen, I always liked to linger in that room to gather the vibes left there.

Another favorite story was a boat righting exercise that Captain William Larson had the men do. They had to capsize the boat by all pulling on lines on one side of the boat which meant that all hands went into the water. That is, all but Captain Larson. He had a line in hand and was able to "walk the hull" around as the boat was being righted. It evidently didn't go well if he got wet at all. According to Dad, the men made sure that Captain Larson's order was obeyed, every time.

On yet another Ocean City vacation, Dad wanted us to see the station house on Assateague. On a sunny, hot July day, we took the small car ferry from South Point and soon found the station. Unfortunately we only got a distant view because the horse flies found us. But now, when we walk the Life of the Dune trail on Assateague Island National Seashore, I love to stop at the pond left by the 1962 storm and look at the picture of what it looked like before and can still see the North Beach Station in the distance.