OCEAN CITY — Despite some desires within the community to do so, it appears the town of Ocean City is not inclined to name the new Ocean City Beach Patrol headquarters after long-time Captain Robert S. Craig.
When the ribbon was cut for the new state-of-the-art Beach Patrol headquarters on Talbot Street and Baltimore Ave. in July, many on hand apparently expected the facility to be named for Craig, who captained the department for 41 years, or nearly half of its 85-year-existence. The town did pay homage to the long-time captain, who shepherded the Beach Patrol through its nascent days of a handful of members to the 150-member department it has become today, by naming the facility’s top floor, or administrative floor, after Craig.
In addition, the new headquarters’ first floor, which is set up for the Beach Patrol’s day-to-day operations, is dedicated to 40-year OCBP veteran Lieutenant Warren Williams, while the second floor, set up for training, is dedicated to former Captain George Schoepf, who led the Beach Patrol for nearly a decade.
Since 1946, when Craig took the reins of the Beach Patrol, there have been only three captains. Craig ran the organization for 41 years from 1946 until his retirement in 1987, representing four decades of remarkable change in the OCBP. After Schoepf ran the department as captain for about 10 years, current Captain Butch Arbin has been in charge for the 18 years since.
When the new headquarters on Talbot Street was dedicated in July, many, including family members and third-generation Beach Patrol officers, presumed the building would be named in honor of Craig. However, despite the dedication of a specific floor, the long-time captain and Beach Patrol icon’s name is not on the front of the building and it appears it likely won’t be.
Arbin said this week he only learned of the effort to name the new facility after Craig through a letter to the Mayor and Council and that it was his understanding the town was moving away from naming facilities and structures after individuals.
Ocean City Communications Manager Jessica Waters confirmed on Thursday afternoon that town was not inclined to consider naming the facility for Craig, or anyone else.
“At this point, there is no plan to name the building after anyone,” she said. “We have had many amazing figures in Ocean City who have helped make the town what it is today, Captain Craig being one of them. However, historically we haven’t named any of our public safety facilities after any one person.”
While the town does not have a history of naming public safety facilities after individuals, there is certainly a precedent for naming other facilities and structures in Ocean City after prominent citizens. For example, the resort’s convention center is named the Roland E. Powell Convention Center after the popular former mayor and the Inlet parking lot is named the Hugh T. Cropper Inlet Parking Lot after another former mayor, but it now appears Craig’s name will not likely grace the new Beach Patrol headquarters.
While there has been some sentiment in the community to name the facility after Craig, who served as captain for nearly half of the organization’s 85 years, a considerable amount of push for the measure has come from the long-time captain’s family. In a letter to The Dispatch that was widely distributed this week to other outlets as well as city officials and citizens, Craig’s family respectfully urged the town to consider naming the new Beach Patrol headquarters in honor of their patriarch.
“We believe the time is ripe to encourage this step, although you can imagine it is too easy for others to dismiss any such suggestion from us as a case merely of filial pride and family promotion,” the letter from Craig’s son, Robert M. Craig, and grandson, Christopher K. Craig, both former OCBP members, reads. “It is, or course, far more than that. The naming of the building the Robert S. Craig Beach Patrol Headquarters is simply the right and proper thing to do. It is highly appropriate to recognize the role of Robert S. Craig in the town’s history by the naming of the Beach Patrol headquarters.”
It remains to be seen if the concept will gain any traction, but it certainly would appear justified. Craig joined the Beach Patrol in 1935 when it was comprised of just a handful of members patrolling a small section of beach in the south end of the resort frequented by ocean swimmers and bathers. By 1946, when Craig, already a 10-year veteran, became captain, the Beach Patrol’s ranks had grown to a dozen or so members. Through the next four decades, as Ocean City expanded northward and the resort’s popularity as a summer beach resort escalated dramatically, Craig led the Beach Patrol that eventually had a lifeguard on a stand at every street. By the time Craig retired in 1987, the Beach Patrol had swelled to over 150 members and had gained an enviable record of water safety.
Through his tenure, other beach patrols around the region and even as far away as Brazil came to Ocean City to observe first-hand how the OCBP operated. Most of what they observed was designed by Craig, including improved techniques for ocean surveillance, methods of shifting and covering a lifeguard’s beach while he or she was involved in a rescue situation, the use of semaphore flags to communicate with other OCBP officers, even in an era of improved technology, and methods and guidelines for dealing with the public with respect.
Craig is also credited with designing the iconic orange “torpedo” rescue buoys utilized by the Beach Patrol for decades. Craig had the first torpedo buoys fabricated at a local sheet metal yard.