(Editor’s Note: The following is the latest of an going series on the men and women who have spent their summers protecting all those who came to Ocean City for fun and safe vacation.)
OCEAN CITY – In 1951, a year before the Chesapeake Bay Bridge would open and bring with it a flood of vacationers, Ocean City was a sleepy little resort town. The Ocean City Beach Patrol was already well established by then and despite changes in staff and rescue techniques, there had always been one constant: the try-out test.
Ellsworth Boyd was a Washington College sophomore, working his way through the summer as, according to him, a “soda jerk and short order cook at Lambros Sundries and Fountain on the Boardwalk between 4th and 5th streets.” Boyd said, “It wasn’t a bad job,” but he longed to be outdoors.
The umbrella stand owner didn’t have any openings, but told Boyd that the beach patrol was looking for one more guard.
The guard in front of the Shoreham Hotel helped him train for a week, and when the tryout day came, Boyd found he was up against only one other guy for the single spot.
“A bodybuilder with bleached blonde hair,” he called him, who many of the locals had nicknamed “the Jerk.” They would swim out to “rescue” a victim (a beach patrol officer playing the part) and pull him back in. The winner got the job.
“I got a good start, plowed through some breakers and reached my victim in pretty good time,” Boyd recalled. “He cheered me on as I passed the buoy to him and turned back toward shore. Halfway in, he yelled, ‘You can take your time now. The Jerk just quit!’ His muscles tightened up and he didn’t complete the rescue.”
“You did good,” Lucky Jordan assured Boyd as he finished the try out. Boyd left the water that morning and started on one of the greatest adventures of his life with the OCBP.
Today, Boyd is Professor Emeritus, College of Education, Towson University. A certified scuba diver, he writes a monthly column for adventure author Clive Cussler’s website, numa.net