Ocean City Life Saving Station Museum
My Ocean City Memory
by Captain William. E. West USCG (Ret)
2006


William E. West was a member of the Ocean City Beach Patrol in 1940.


More than eighty-five years ago I started life in Accomac, Virginia. My name is Bill West. My memories of Ocean City began in the late 1920s. As a child I visited Ocean City frequently staying at the Mt. Pleasant Hotel or the Oceanic Hotel with my family. My Uncle John Showell and Aunt Betty were always hospitable. I especially enjoyed beaching with cousins John Dale Showell, Harriet Showell, Betty Strohecker and Peggy Strohecker.

The boardwalk was fun and Dolle's taffy tasty. The Trimper's merry go round and dodge-em were a treat. Nothing topped the Showell Saltwater Pool where I improved my swimming ability with lots of help from the local lads. It was during this time I became friends with "Happy" (cannot remember his last name). He was the maintenance man for the Showell bathhouse. He was an important friend through the years. In the very late 20s my father, William E. West, Sr., was given a trailer, in awful condition, he quickly rehabbed it. It had solid rubber tires and a long tongue and we towed it behind our car. It may have been the first trailer that Ocean City had seen. Dad parked it on 7th Street and lots of beaching got underway. So my childhood memories remain vivid and pleasant.

Next phase was my boyhood, ten years plus. I grew with Ocean City. Learned to swim in the ocean. Became a good body surfer (watched Bob Craig). Fished from the pier. Saw movies at cousin Elizabeth Strohecker's Showell's Theater. Ate Joe's hot dogs enjoyed the Alaska Stand's frozen bananas. Dined at the Maryland Inn with my family. Rode my bicycle on the boardwalk anytime. On rainy days played dice baseball with a chum, Kenneth Cathell. Teased my female cousins, especially Betty Robbins Strohecker. Boated in the bay with John Dale. OH! What a boyhood-Thank you Ocean City.

My youth (ten and over) was super at Ocean City. Continuing to mature I became a lifeguard in 1939. Edward Lee Carey hired me and I worked most of the beach. Ed and Bob Craig checked me out-I nearly drown doing the double drowning exercise, but they kept me anyway. My early experiences on the beach started at the Commander Hotel-their beachside lunches were fantastic. The weather was delightful, the beach nearly perfect and the girls pretty-you can hardly beat that. Working together on the OCBP was a fine group-The Savages (Cutie and Huck), Bill Tutton, Milton Conner, Toby Fields, Bob Craig and John D. Showell.

In 1940, I fleeted up to Assistant Captain (Bob Craig went to summer school). My station was at Showell's beach in the old Coast Guard lookout tower. My days were sun filled without sun block and my nights were super-dates, dancing at the Pier, movies-fun, fun, fun. The Pier Ballroom frequently had name bands: Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Les Brown-too expensive for me but I listened across the way. During this summer, Frank Townsend, Jr., a medical student, performed his first operation on an infection in my left forearm. It must have been successful I am still here. Frank and Lil Townsend are wonderful memories. One of my most treasured memories is the many meals I ate at the Delmar Hotel owned and run by Mrs. Savannah Dennis Carey. Every bite gourmet. My lifeguard salary was $14 a week and I boarded at Mrs. Bull's (she ran a small inn located near the Atlantic Hotel) ocean front cottage-3 meals a day @ $3.50 a week! And enjoyed the company of Esther Simpson, Betsy Jane Dennis, Betty Ayres and particularly my cousin Betty Robbins Strohecker-She was a great backstroke swimmer, but I could out last her after a mile or so. Our Ocean City Lifeguard Ball, held annually at the Pier Ballroom was a financial boast for the OCBP and a major social event.

Then came 1941, my final year on the beach patrol, again I was the Assistant Captain to Edward Lee Carey. Outstanding in my mind is the atsiteted rescue at the end of the Pier during a severe northeast storm. The beach was closed to swimming due to the surf conditions. An intoxicated gentleman fell or jumped from the end of the pier. Harry Huxford was lifeguarding at the Atlantic Hotel beach and was the first to respond. I was close behind. Harry was badly cut by the pier piling as we tried to get the victim free from the pier area. Conditions were so adverse we were not having much luck.

Then here came the Coast Guard-Petty Officer Jim Farlow at the steering oar. It was a fantastic feat of seamanship launching the pulling boat through the broiling surf. They picked up the victim; Harry and I swam to shore. Harry headed for Dr. Townsend's office (he was Frank Townsend's father). The victim had died of a heart attack before we reached him. We received "well dones" from Harry Kelly and Barney McCabe, former Captains of the OCBP. My relationship with the Coast Guard personnel-Kelly, Parker, Moore, Phillips, Mitchell plus those I cannot remember was always rewarding. So ended the summer of 1941. It was September and war had begun in Europe. As I drove over the Worcester Street Bridge, I did not know I was saying goodbye to Ocean City and my youth, 7 December 1941 loomed on the calendar!

Thanks for the memories Ocean City.