Joey Freeman 1970 - 1979, 1986
Below is a letter written by alumnus, Joey Freeman about his experience on the Wildwood Crest Beach Patrol.
Being a lifeguard on the Wildwood Crest Beach Patrol is considered a seasonal job, usually starting on Memorial Day Weekend and ending, with a few exceptions, on Labor Day Weekend. However, for any of us who had the privilege of being hired for that “job” will tell you that it was never that. It was an opportunity to serve and protect those who came to the Crest for some relaxation in the sun. We were well trained to handle water rescues, land emergencies, lost kids and the like, and we had organized workouts to help us stay in tiptop shape physically. I did that “job” from 1970 to 1979 and then again in 1986. I sat the stand, became a jeep driver, and finished as a lieutenant in the south sector. However, when I think of the WCBP, I think of the word family, not associates or fellow lifeguards. Family. Ask any WCBP alum about their time as a lifeguard and they will speak of lifetime friendships forged over those summer months. They will talk of a sense of belonging, of a brotherhood, of being part of something that lasted a lifetime and not just for a season, of working with guys that you knew had your back and would go that extra mile for you. Yes, we vowed to protect and serve the public that vacationed on our beach, but somehow we learned to do the same for one another and not just during those summers we were together. The Alumni Weekend, held on the 3rd Saturday in August, promoted that camaraderie as we celebrated each others’ families. It allowed us to stay in touch with one another and to keep up with our ever changing lives, be it marriages, births, deaths, graduations, etc. In my opinion, if you ask any of the young men and women currently serving or any of the alum who have served to give you a word that describes the experience of being a WCBP lifeguard, they will say FAMILY.
Speaking of family, mine has served the Wildwood Crest Beach Patrol for many years, beginning in the late 1940’s and ending near the turn of the century. My Uncle Jim Freeman, my father’s older brother, served as a LT in 1948 and 1949 and was acting captain in ‘49 or ’50. My father, Joe Freeman, was captain from 1969 to 1973 before handing it off to Buddy Johnson, who is still serving in that capacity. There are 9 boys in my family and 5 of us served as guards: Tommy, John, Tim, Christopher, and myself. Later on, my brother John’s son, John Jr, served. My mother Mary’s side of the family served as well. Her brother, my Uncle Terry Shea, served from the mid 60’s until 1970. Her brother Tom Shea’s son, John Shea, served in 1969. And her sister Joan Shea Muratore had 3 sons who served as lifeguards: my cousins Fred Muratore, Steve Muratore, and Vinnie Muratore worked on the beach at the same time the Freeman boys did. A total of 13 members of my family served as lifeguards from the late 1940’s until almost 2000 for a total of over 50 years.
Finally, regarding family, I have been on hospice since May 3rd, 2021, and my WCBP family from all over the country has sent us cards, texts, calls, and Facebook messages of love and encouragement, demonstrating that it was never just a summer job. Thank you to my WCBP family. I love you.
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