2004-01-23 / Columnists

Historical Views of the Rockaways

From The Rockaway MuseumDedicated To The Memory Of Leon S. Locke nited States Life Saving Service - 1911
by Emil Lucev, Curator

Historical Views
of the Rockaways
From The Rockaway Museum
Dedicated To The Memory Of Leon S. Locke nited States Life Saving Service - 1911

Today’s Historical View was taken inside the Rockaway Point life saving station, located on the west end of today’s Riis Park, on Beach 169 Street. This boathouse was brand new, and built at this location due to the western elongation of the Rock away peninsula. The previous life saving station was located at Beach 129 Street. This Rockaway Point station was #33, Arverne #32 and Far Rockaway had #31 until it was re-located to Long Beach in the 1890’s. The shoreline at Far Rock away washed away severely, causing the move – just as the westward extension of the Rockaway peninsula caused the Coney Island station to be incorporated with the Rock away Point station.

The U.S. Life Saving Service was organized several years after the Civil War, to aid stricken vessels from the shore and save the lives of sailors on these vessels. These were the days of wooden ships and iron men.

From summer’s end till the following spring, six or seven men were on duty in a station, taking turns as beach walkers looking for vessels in trouble – especially during stormy times. The pay was $65 to $70 per month, with $3/day for non-seasonal work.

Hours between rescues were spent relaxing and reading, cooking meals and checking equipment.

Before the life saving service, local men aided vessels in distress. They kept small boat houses at strategic points along the peninsula.

In 1915, the Life Saving Service was absorbed into the United States Coast Guard, along with the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service.

This photo speaks volumes about solitude, and I think these men would qualify to become astronauts.

But when the time came these men rose to the occasion, and performed their job to the "T" (if you will). They earned the respect of the community around their station, and were visited by locals with offerings of food and sundries.

Think about launching a boat through rough surf in zero-degree weather, and rowing out to a stricken vessel through ice flows85to save lives. Think you could hack that?

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