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Safe at Home
The word ‘home’ often times evokes images of comfort and safety. It’s a haven, a place where you can relax and feel at ease with family and friends. It’s not just four walls, a bunch of nails and sheetrock, but that comfortable place to hang your hat. In Cape May, sometimes it is simply a patch of sand. Whether you are here for a week, or live here year-round, everyone has their home beach. For over 100 years, these homes continue to stay safe thanks to the lifeguards that protect them.
The summer season of 1911 saw the birth of the Cape May Beach Patrol. It was the first time that paid professionals were hired to ensure the safety of bathers. The first Captain was Tom Keenan who would be followed by thirteen subsequent Captains, including Buzz Mogck who serves today. Prior to the formation of the beach patrol, beach rescue operations began in 1845, when rescue ropes were hung on bathing houses. Whaleboats were also used to ensure the safety of those swimming in waters off of Cape May, and by 1865 hotels hired crews to man surfboats during specific hours. Out of this system, rivalries began to form between crews from opposing hotels, and races were held to entertain guests. The traditions surrounding these races continue through annual lifeguard competitions that still take place today.
While hotels no longer hire the lifeguards on the beach, Cape Resorts is lucky to have current and former lifeguards as a part of our own family. James Patton, who is a pool manager at Congress Hall, served as a lifeguard on Cape May Point for four years. James has also worked in the banquets department, the kitchen, and with operations during Winter Wonderland. His work across Cape Resorts was no doubt shaped by his work protecting beachgoers. “To be a lifeguard, you have to be quick to respond and respond correctly, you need to be a leader, you need to be cool under pressure. These are all things that built me into the worker that I am today.” His most memorable moments as a lifeguard were spent training aspiring guards as part of the Junior Lifeguard Program. “It was a lot of fun to teach kids about the ocean and build their confidence to swim in the open water.”
Lou Vito has had the unique perspective of looking from atop his lifeguard chair out at the ocean and back at Congress Hall. Lou has been a part of Cape May Beach Patrol for the past fourteen years, and has spent the last eight years protecting swimmers on Congress Beach. For special events, like Full Moon Parties and the Fourth of July celebrations, he serves as the lifeguard for Congress Hall’s Pool. Lou describes how the rigorous process of becoming a lifeguard translates into all facets of life. Lifeguard training involves a series of physical tests and interviews. In addition, rookies must complete courses in CPR, first responder first aid, AED use and beach patrol policies. “ First aid training is useful at all times, and we are constantly communicating with the public on a one to one basis.”
Every job has its challenges, and those working at Cape Resorts often times express the sense of family, camaraderie, and friendship that develops as they face those challenges every day. When your business is saving lives, those bonds become even stronger. Lou notes that sometimes, these moments of crisis can become some of your fondest memories. “There are times during a rescue where you are out farther than the jetties and can see all the lifeguards moving in unison coming to help. There is no better feeling than knowing back up is on the way.”
Special thanks to James Patton and Lou Vito.