The North Wildwood Beach Patrol was established by Mayor Harry Hoffman in July of 1914. The first female guards were hired by the NWBP in 1986. Tom Palmer, a retired Captain and 30-year member of the North Wildwood Beach Patrol, was a guard when the first females came on board. He has said that the girls were accepted without any problem. 

1949 NWBP

“The two girls, Joanne and Kim, were excellent swimmers and placed first and third in the tests, so there was no squabble because they had beaten all the guys they were working with, if anything, I’d say they had a slew of ‘older brothers’ to look out for them.” 

North Wildwood has seen a steady increase in the number of women guards over the years. 


Early lifeguards used a buoy that was nothing more then a tin can on a rope. The buoy then changed to a diamond shape object made from cork and canvas. As years passed it was modified to fiberglass and rubber while still remaining diamond shaped. 

Bob Starr, a formal North Wildwood lifeguard from 1946-1947, has said that a lot of guards referred to the buoy as a “triangle can” and that was all an early lifeguard had for their equipment. 

Tom Palmer, a lifeguard from 1965 to 1995, supports Starr’s statement: “We were issued very little equipment the buoy was really it”. 

Around 1985 the buoy gave way to the torpedo, which is made from plastic. Chief Cavalier has said “the buoy weighed about 20 pounds while the torpedo weighs only a few pounds” 

Though the torpedo may weigh less it carries fewer people 


Along with the equipment lifeguard uniforms have undergone drastic changes as well. The first uniforms were one piece tank suits made of wool, when they got wet they stayed wet. Because wool is itchy they caused the guards to break out in rashes. 

As materials changed throughout the years so did the lifeguard uniforms. They became mesh, which was more lightweight and dried more quickly. The uniform also changed from a one piece tank suit in the 40’s to a three-piece outfit in the 60’s.

Tom Palmer said of the newer suits, “It came in three pieces – a tank, a shirt and trunks. They did the job to identify the guards but still were not the nicest.”

Early Days 

Lifeguarding in the early days was very different from guarding today. The pay was less and the problems different.  

The first lifeguards received $50 a month for their services. Back in 1946 the pay was raised to $22.50 a week, or $90 a month. This was considered low pay even for the 40’s.

“We worked seven days from 8:30 or 9 am until 5:30 pm for $22.50 a week, which even then was little money. We were paid poorly,” Starr said. 

Indeed if you look at the 59.5 hours the guards worked, the hourly rate was 38 cents. 


“We worked seven days from 8:30 or 9 am until 5:30 pm for $22.50 a week, which even then was little money. We were paid poorly,” Starr said. 

Indeed if you look at the 59.5 hours the guards worked, the hourly rate was 38 cents. 

In the 60’s the pay increased to $60 a week for a six day week and the hours were reduced to 9:30 am to 5:30 pm, the hourly rate thus became $1.25. 

It wasn’t until the 90’s that the pay rate began to rise. 

“Wildwood wasn’t getting a lot of guards because Ocean City and Atlantic City paid more so they had to raise our salaries to attract more guards,” Palmer said. “I would say that my salary quadrupled between the time I started (1965) and the year I retired (1995).” 

Today guards work a five day week with an option to work a sixth and make anywhere from $7 to $10 and hour. 

Patrols were also smaller in earlier years. In 1946 North Wildwood had 14 guards with one man per stand. Today it has 65 with nearly every stand seating two men. 


North Wildwood began the Beschen-Callahan Memorial Lifeguard Races in 1969 to honor two of its members who died in the Vietnam war. 

North Wildwood also hosts the Around the Island Row. 

Note: While there are hundreds of documents, pictures, and objects on file at local historic museums chronicling the history of the Wildwood Beach Patrol and tens of items on file for the Wildwood Crest Beach Patrol, there is very little information on file for the North Wildwood Beach Patrol. If you have any information, documentation, pictures or memorabilia, and, would like to include those items in an historic record of the North Wildwood Beach Patrol please contact the NWBP WebTeam.

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