Sunday, January 20, 2019
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History of the MCBP
A Brief History of the Margate City Beach Patrol
Written by Mike Cincotta
Reprinted here with the permission of the Margate City Historical Society
     In 1908, Margate, then known as the City of South Atlantic City, borrowed a lifeboat from Atlantic City and the Beach Patrol was established. The lifequard that year was Fred Hackney, the first on record. In 1909, the city became incorporated as the City of Margate City, named after a town on the Island of Thanet in Kent, England.
     Margate made an early commitment to solidify the beach patrol of its new town. By the year 1920 there were seven lifeguards protecting the beaches.The force grew to nine in 1923 and was led by Captain Frank Chatterton. A former captain in both Atlantic City and Ventnor, Henry Taviano began his ten year captaincy in 1926. Under his command the first beach doctor employed in 1935, and by 1939, there were 14 lifeguards.
     It was during this era that several patrols, each experiencing growth, began competing in swimming and rowing races. The first South Jersey Lifeguard Championships were held in 1924. By the mid 1930's Margate enhanced its participation in competition, eventually taking part in the National Lifeguard Competition in Atlantic City on August 26, 1936. Frank Bader took the helm as Captain from 1936-1941, helping to guide the Margate City Beach Patrol into a new era.
The 1940's
     The 1940's brought larger, more competitive patrols. Margate's patrol numbered 13 guards in 1941 and promoted Rodney Williams to captain in 1942. During the summer of '42, two lifeguards began gaining recognition as formidable competiors and potential leaders. George "Bud" Graves and Pete Glick earned an early victory in Margate rowing by winning the 1942 One-Mile Life Boat Race of Absecon Island. Graves replaced George Forrest as Captain in 1946.
     With the assistance of his rowing partner, Pete Glick, Graves established the now-prestigious Margate Memorial Surf Boat Races to honor the brave Margate heros who gave their lives in World War II. The first Margate Memorial Race was held on September 6, 1946 on the Granville Avenue beach. Fittingly it was Graves and Glick who rowed in that first-ever Margate Memorial doubles race. The singles rower for Margate that afternoon was Tom Christensen, who in later years, would go on to win both South Jersey and Margate Memorial Titles. Participating in the inaugural race motivated Christensen so much tat the next year he teamed up with Joe Smathers to give Margate its first-ever win in the South Jerseys.
     But Graves left the beach patrol in 1948, naming Pete Glick as the captain. It was a position that Glick would hold for 20 of the next 21 years. Margate won its first Margate Memorial team championships in 1949. Again it was Tom Christensen guiding Margate to a win in the doubles row; this time with his partner Bill Blair.
The 1950's
     The 1950's brought significant change and accomplishment. Don Stilley was named captain in 1951, during a one-year absence of Pete Glick. In addition to Margate's continued success in out-of-city competition, the beach patrol experienced its largest growth ever. By the end of the 50's, the patrol numbered 45 lifeguards; nearly three times as large as ten years earlier. A rower by the name of Jay McConnell won two major titles; the 1957 Margate Memorial's Single Row and in 1959, teamed with Tom Christensen, the South Jersey crown.
The 1960's
     As the 1960's arrived, Captain Pete Glick continued to develop the MCBP into a first-rate beach patrol. Margate won its first-ever South Jersey team title in 1964, as Mike Jacobson and Dave Smith won the doubles row. Three years later, these  two oarsmen, accompanied by a Fred Nahas singles victory, duplicated their feat as Margate won the 1967 Margate Memorials. It was Nahas second consecutive Memorials singles victory, as he helpe Margate to a co-championship in 1966.
     In 1969, Bud Graves Jr., son of former Captain George "Bud" Graves, became a South Jersey doubles champion with partner Frank Previti. Captain Glick retires from the beach patrol in 1969. He will forever be remembered as, perhaps, the greatest captain in South Jersey beach history. Pete Glick and Bud Graves together were the first inductees into the MCBP Alumni Hall of Fame in 1990.
The 1970's
     With Mair Benkoil as the new captain, the MCBP entered the 1970's. Both the Margate Memorials and the South Jerseys added a third event in the early 70's; swimming and singles rowing, respectively. Margate was victorious in both inaugural events, with Ed Brown capturing the first-ever Margate Memorial Swim in 1972 and Toby Buttle winning the South Jersey Singles debut in 1973. Buttone, one of three successful brothers on the patrol, also won the Martate Memorial Singles titles in 1973 and 1975. Toby Buttle's victory in '75 gave Margate the team title. Toby's brothers, Dave and Greg, won the Memorials together in 1972, which provided Margate with a share of the team championship. Bob Atkiinson won the Margate Memorial swin in 1974, giving Margate a swim victory for the second time in three years. In 1976 Jim Gallagher became captain.
The 1980's
     In 1980, Nancy Ridgeway became the first female lifeguard in MCBP history. The following year Herb Pizagno and Jim Swift, both second year guards, claimed the 1981 Margate Memorials doubles race. In 1984, swimmer Eric Nordheim won both the Memorials and the South Jerseys. His 1984 Jersey's swimming title was Margate's first.
     George King and Carl Smallwood took command in 1987. In 1987, a rookie by the name of Tom Swift won his first of 11 straight Margate swim titles. The 1981 Memorial champion, Jim Swift, teamed with brother John Swift, to capture the 1988 Memorials Race.
The 1990's
     The Swift brothers continued to earn victories in the 1990's. The three Swift brothers, along with single rower Bill Martin, claimed a share of the 1990 South Jersey in Avalon. This was the first of six South Jersey swim titles for Tom Swift. Tom lso won his first of six Memorials that year.
     In 1993, however, Margate would go back to Avalon again and become the lone winner. The 1993 team was especially strong, winning the Jerseys, Memorials, aand Dutch Hoffman Races in Wildwood. Margate eventually won three South Jerseys in a row, with John Swift winning the singles race in 1994 and 1995. John added singles victories in the Memorials in 1993 and 1996, the team of John Swift and Tom Swift, along with the doubles crew Carl Smallwood and Greg Smallwood, would remain intact to give Margate three South Jerseys and three Margate Memorial titles.
     On August 10, 1995, the first All-Woman's Cape Atlantic Invitational Race was held in Ventnor. Competitors for Margate wer Jamie Eissler, Debbie Crane, Sarah Blumberg and Kylene Henry.
     Charles Wagner took command in 1997. Today, the Margate City Beach Patrol employs over 50 lifeguards, working at twelve locations. The MCBP continues to combine excellent safety on the beach and a tradition of success.