Category Archives: News

Controversy Brews Over Ogunquit Ocean Rescue

Ogunquit Ocean Rescue

Protecting Lives

Often Not Appreciated

By Bobby Franklin 

Ogunquit, Maine is known for, among other things, the great performances staged each year at the Ogunquit Playhouse. Unfortunately, the theatrics in this beautiful seacoast town are not confined to the stage of the Playhouse. The town with a year round population of just over a thousand residents has constant drama in its government. The players seem to be continually at war with one another, and quite often these battles become highly personal. The latest one playing out has to do with the leadership of Ogunquit Ocean Rescue.

At the end of June this year the interim Town Manager Matthew Buttrick decided to replace the Captain of the lifeguards, JP Argenti, with the incoming Fire Chief Russell Osgood. Even though Mr. Osgood has no experience as a lifeguard and is not certified for the position it was felt he could handle the job. This was done without public input, and it is unclear what, if any, input the Select Board had with the decision. The Town manager has said this was done to reduce the amount of department heads responding directly to him. Others have said it was because Mr. Argenti was pushing for pay increases for the lifeguards. The possibility that this was done for personal reasons has also been floated. The Town Select Board has remained silent on the issue other than to approve the appointment of Mr. Osgood as Lifeguard Captain.

Captain Jay Argenti and Guard Jacob Leonard Keeping Watch

The upshot of all of this is that Mr. Argenti, a twenty year veteran of Ogunquit Ocean Rescue and Captain for the past eight years has been dismissed and is no longer a member of Ogunquit Ocean Rescue. An additional fifteen lifeguards have either resigned or have signaled they will not be joining the service when scheduled to do so. Among these are the most experienced members of Ogunquit Ocean Rescue. This has all been happening just as the summer season is kicking into full swing. It is also a year that is seeing a 30 year high in lifeguard shortages across the nation, and an increase in drownings throughout New England. 

Over the past ten years I have spent a lot of time on the beach at Ogunquit. It is listed as the 7th most beautiful beach in the country, and it certainly deserves that designation. It is a breathtaking seashore with magnificent sunrises and sunsets, wonderful clean water, and a river with a strong current that flows into it. It can also be a bit treacherous as the sands are constantly shifting making for unpredictable riptides. On a typical beach day upwards of 20,000 people will pour onto the 1.5 mile long beach. When staffing is at full capacity there will be 17 lifeguards looking out for the public that is visiting. This out of a full compliment of 35. Most years the guards are about equally divided between male and female. 

On a typical beach day upwards of 20,000 people will pour onto the 1.5 mile long beach.

I once remember hearing someone on the beach remark while watching the life guards that “These kids get paid to hang around the beach all day. What a racket”. I get the feeling that sentiment is felt by the leaders of the Town of Ogunquit. I hope I am wrong, as the job of Ocean Rescue is much more complicated than “hanging around the beach all day”.

Then Jet Ski

Lifeguards must be Red Cross certified. At Ogunquit under JP Argenti, they went through extensive training that continued during the season. This training includes ocean rescue techniques, using a board and rescue can, CPR, first aid, AED (defibrillator), radio traffic, numerous workouts involving running, swimming, paddling, medical rescue scenarios, rules and guidelines. 

Guards also have to deal with such things as unruly people, enforcing regulations regarding alcohol and smoking, finding lost children, administrating aid to people suffering from heat related problems and even hypothermia caused by being in the cold water too long. They help disabled people on and off the beach. While doing all of this, team members also have to keep watch for people who may be getting into trouble in the water. Riptides are a major issue that can prevent swimmers from reaching shore. The lifeguards have to keep constant watch for signs that the water may be becoming more dangerous and remain alert for the dangers caused by these changes. 

If all that isn’t enough, the members of Ogunquit Ocean Rescue also assist people out of danger and back to shore  and prevent them from entering dangerous areas. They provide patrons information, perform water testing for Maine Healthy Beaches, monitor the plovers and the dunes, while on slow days (if there can be such a thing) they clean up the beach and do workouts and more training.

When jumping in to save a swimmer in distress the lifeguard puts him/her self in extreme danger. This is where the training and proper use of equipment pays off.

On top of all that, the most dangerous part of the job is springing into action to save swimmers who are in imminent danger of drowning. This is most common near the mouth of the river where the current becomes very strong during the changing tide as the water drops off and becomes colder as it enters the ocean. When jumping in to save a swimmer in distress the lifeguard puts him/her self in extreme danger. This is where the training and proper use of equipment pays off. Knowing how to maneuver the jet ski and board is a difficult skill to acquire but pays off when the time comes. When a life is in danger these “kids” take on a whole different aura of importance. They are highly skilled professionals, well trained, with the courage to risk their lives to save others. 

In the conversations I have had with JP Argenti over the years I have not only been impressed with his professionalism and knowledge of the beach, but also how steeped in the history of Ogunquit Beach he is. His dedication to his job and love for the area runs deep. He and members of the team could often be seen there after hours when he felt their services might still be needed. 

Ogunquit Lifeguards, 1926

Ogunquit Beach has a long and colorful history. There is some evidence the first lifeguards served on the beach in 1909 as tourism began to grow. At the time they were a volunteer group. In 1925 the Village of Ogunquit took control of the beach through eminent domain and it was designated a public park. The following year the Ogunquit Village Improvement Association set up the first publicly funded life guard service. A young Bette Davis was a member of that original group of life savers and wrote about her time with them in her autobiography. 

For many years only five lifeguards patrolled the beach. They would use a lifeboat when attempting to save people, but the techniques were not what they are today. In 1946 a lifeguard drowned and with the boat in disrepair, funding was increased. 

Lifeguard Bette Davis Working At Ogunquit Beach

Another incident in 1981 led to a further increase in funding when a child was pulled out to sea and never recovered. Over the years funding has been increased, but at times it has also been reduced. When JP took over as Captain he fought to increase funding and improve training and equipment. He did this to ensure the public would be safe by having the best lifeguards possible. 

The current starting pay rate for lifeguards posted on the Town of Ogunquit website is $18.00 per hour with a maximum of $21.50. There are no benefits included. I also looked to see if any bonus was given to those who worked last year in the midst of the pandemic while the beach was still crowded and the risk of infection was high. There was none even though parking revenue to the town was at a healthy level. 

What draws a person to seek employment as a member of Ogunquit Ocean Rescue? JP told me it is a combination of working at the beach along with the camaraderie, adventure, risk of the job, an interest in the medical fields as well as the friendships that are built. The biggest satisfaction is found in knowing the role they all play in keeping people safe. 

As with any professional, they expect a good measure of respect, something that is lacking in the town.

Pay is an important factor especially among the older and more experienced lifeguards who may have families to support, but it is not pay alone that draws them. They take extreme pride in their profession. As with any professional, they expect a good measure of respect, something that is lacking in the town.

The veteran guards play a very important role in helping the younger and less experienced members of Ocean Rescue learn the profession.

The veteran guards play a very important role in helping the younger and less experienced members of Ocean Rescue learn the profession. It is vital these veterans are there to pass on their wisdom. This is very serious work and there is no substitute for the skills that have been gained by having been on the job for a period of time. It looks like most of these top lifesavers are now gone.

Well Trained And Ready To Save Lives

The revenue brought in from fees charged for parking in the lots near the beach is a major source of income for the town. The fees have been raised and the hours when they are required have increased. People who pay these charges expect to have a level of protection while on the beach. That safety net is now in question.

Those active in town politics squabble over just about anything. The old saying that it takes a village doesn’t appear to apply in this hamlet of just 4 square miles. Most of the time these arguments and the petty backbiting that goes along with them don’t mean a lot. However, in the case of Ocean Rescue, people’s lives are on the line. It is a time for leadership and full transparency in the Town of Ogunquit. I have to wonder how much time the members of the Select Board have spent on the beach observing Ocean Rescue in action? I can only hope it doesn’t take a tragedy to bring people to their senses.

Ogunquit Ocean Rescue has been an elite force for years now. You would be hard pressed to find another life guard service that comes close to how the team under JP Argenti has performed. The Town of Ogunquit was lucky to have them; it’s too bad they don’t realize this.

Pleasure Island Walking Tour Sunday May 20th

Author Robert McLaughlin Keeps The Memories Alive With His Book And Tours 

By Bobby Franklin

If you drive down Rt. 128 through Wakefield you will still see an exit marked Pleasure Island Road. It is one of the last vestiges of a place that in fondly remembered by many of a certain age. 

Pleasure Island was a family recreation center inspired by Disneyland and Storytown. It was a huge undertaking encompassing a total of 168 acres of dryland and meadowland. The park was conceived by a man named William Hawkes and the story of how it all came to be is the subject of the book Pleasure Island: 1959-1969 (Images of Modern America) by Robert McLaughlin. It is quite the story and Mr. McLaughlin’s passion for preserving the history of the ten years the park survived is evident on every page of his book which is also filed with wonderful archival photographs and excerpts of interviews with Mr. Hawkes as well as many of those who worked at Pleasure Island.

Pleasure Island wasn’t an amusement park with thrill rides. Rather, it was a theme park with many themes including Western City, Pirate Cove, Monkey Island, and Old Smokey Locomotive Ride among many other things. It also had a whale boat ride where visitors would get to see Moby Dick rise from the depths and see water gush from his blow hole. 

In an area of the park was the Show Bowl where many famous entertainers of the day appeared. Among them were Ricky Nelson, Hugh O’Brien, Jimmy Dean, Neil Sedaka, Chuck Connors, The Three Stooges, Fess Parker, and Johnny Crawford. In 1960 the Boston Jazz Festival was held there with appearances by Nina Simone, Dinah Washington, and Duke Ellington. As you can see, there was no lack of first rate talent.

While walking through the park you might confront a pirate who would be quite to draw his sword and pose for a photo, or you might happen upon a shootout between cowboys. 

Mr. McLaughlin’s book brings back memories for those of us who were fortunate enough to have been there and it will be of interest to those who have never experienced such a hands on adventure. The story and interviews are extremely interesting and the photographs are pure gold.

Eventually, Pleasure Island closed, the victim of many forces including unpredictable weather, the struggle to find backers, and the changing times. It is now an office park with only a few traces of that once magical place still to be found. On Sunday, May 20th from 10:00 am to noon, rain or shine, Mr. McLaughlin will conduct a walking tour of the site and will discuss the history of Pleasure Island while pointing out the places where it all happened. Many former employees of Pleasure Island show up for these walks and also share their memories. I took this tour last year and I can tell you it is a terrific experience. 

The location is Audubon Road in Wakefield (Rt.128-Exit42). The tour meets in the first parking lot the left after entering Edgewater Office Park. There is no charge. Mr. McLuaghlin will have copies of his book as wells two others he has written for the Images of Modern America series, Magic Mountain and Freedom Land: 1960-1964.

If you have any photographs or memorabilia from a visit to Pleasure Island be sure to share them with Robert. 

For more information go to friendsofpleasureisland.org  

Stop The Presses! Boxer Wins Fight Using Left Jab!

by Bobby Franklin

Golovkin vs Lemieux
Golovkin vs Lemieux

The other night I witnessed further proof of just how far removed today’s boxing is from having any resemblance to the fine art it once was. It wasn’t so much the fight itself,though that did contribute greatly to my feelings, but more so to the reaction during and after.

The fight was the Gennady Golovkin vs David Lemieux Middleweight Title fight. I had debated whether or not to spend $50.00 (I had sworn never again to buy a pay per view fight) to view the bout as I do feel Golovkin is about the only fighter out there today who is worth watching. While contemplating my decision I watched some footage of Lemieux in action to see if I felt he would be at all competitive. It didn’t take long for me to realize that this was certainly not going to be a match worthy of spending money on. Lemieux is a tough, strong kid with almost no boxing ability. Watching him in action I could immediately see he had learned what he knew from spending hours hitting the punch mitts.

I could immediately see he had learned what he knew from spending hours hitting the punch mitts.

He threw his punches from his waist up and had no sense of footwork what- so-ever. He tossed shots in a very predictable one-two and one-two-three manner while pausing in between to regain his balance. He obviously would have no chance against GGG.

Early the following morning I watched a replay of the fight. It was, as I expected, a very one-sided affair. Golovkin utilized a decent left jab to keep Lemieux at pay and to punish him. David was at a complete loss in being able to cope with the jab. He did not know how to slip it. He did not know how to parry it. It was as if he had never dealt with the jab before. It was like a foreign language to him.
Listening to the commentators, you would have thought Gennady had invented a new punch. They were in awe of his phenomenal jab. They kept rattling off the number he had thrown during each round. They also repeatedly commented on how this amazing punch was keeping Lemieux confused and unable to launch an offense. Yes! Gennady Golovkin was actually throwing left jabs. Just amazing!

The incredulity continued on social media. Fans were stunned by this display of boxing prowess. The dominant left jab was something most of them had never seen before. What was once the most basic and important punch in boxing was now being talked about as if it were a secret weapon delivered to the Earth by aliens from another planet with a vastly superior intelligence to us. Shock waves rippled throughout the Blog-a-sphere. Is Golovkin really one of us or some super being from a galaxy far away?

Back when boxing was actually being taught as the serious art it once was the left jab was the first punch taught to aspiring boxers. Students were shown how it was both an offensive and defensive punch. How it was the key to landing any other punch.

“Hey kid, if you can’t land the jab you, you can’t land any other punch.”

“Hey kid, if you can’t land the jab you, you can’t land any other punch.” was a common line heard in boxing gyms. Great contender Tony Shucco used to tell me, “Hit ‘em with the left, they like it. Then every once in a while toss a right so they don’t get bored.” “Stick and Move.”, “Pepper him with the left.”, “Pop that jab out there.”, were other lines you would hear over and over again back in the day.

On the flip side, young boxers were also taught how to slip and parry the jab. As great a punch as the jab could be for setting up an opponent, it could also be the opening your foe could use to counter you. Timing the jab and then throwing a right cross over it is a very effective maneuver. It takes a lot of practice, and not the type of practice you get hitting the foolish punch pads. Another skill is slipping outside the jab and hooking to the body. This is a move rarely if ever seen today.

Another lost move is feinting the jab and then turning it into a hook. This is the tactic that was employed so effectively by Billy Conn in his first fight with Joe Louis. It almost won him the title.

Jabs also come in many different varieties. There is the tapping jab where a fighter doesn’t hit his opponent terribly hard, but he hits him repeatedly and frustrates him by keeping him off balance with it. Then there is the stiff armed jab that was used so well by Light Heavyweight Champion Bob Foster. Foster would snap his jab up from his waist and punch right through his opponents. It was a brutal punch that busted up many of his challengers.

Wepner vs Liston
Wepner vs Liston

It’s funny, but as I was contemplating this column a friend sent me a clip of the Chuck Wepner vs Sonny Liston fight. We had talked a bit about this whole madness over GGG using the jab, and my friend told me to take a look at Wepner in his losing fight with Liston. Yes, Wepner, the Bayonne Bleeder, the guy considered to have very few boxing skills was actually using a fairly effective left jab in this fight. It just goes to show that it wasn’t all that long ago that even the crudest boxers knew how to throw the jab. It would be interesting to see how Mr. Wepner’s jab would do against today’s unschooled heavyweights.

I am often criticized for pointing out the lack of boxing skills in today’s fighters. I don’t blame the boxers as they train hard, are in good shape, and are just following instructions. The problem lies in the fact that there are no good teachers out there. The techniques employed to develop these skills are not there either. Abel Sanchez, GGG’s trainer, appears to one of the only trainers left who has some sense of what skills a good boxer should have, and that is why Golovkin is such a standout. The fact that his use of the most basic punch in boxing is such big news only reinforces my opinion that boxing is a dying if not dead art.

SpeakEasy Stage Presents Casa Valentina

New England Premiere Runs From October 24 to November 28th

From October 24 to November 28, 2015, SpeakEasy Stage Company will proudly present the New England Premiere of CASA VALENTINA, a hilarious, provocative, and touching new play about gender identity, self-acceptance, and the struggle to find the right pumps.

A 2014 Tony Award nominee for Best Play, CASA VALENTINA is the most recent work by Tony Award-winner Harvey Fierstein

Based on actual events, CASA VALENTINA takes place in 1962 at a Catskills resort where a group of heterosexual men secretly gather to dress and behave like women. Away from their families, in their beehives and brassieres, these men enjoy a carefree camaraderie of cocktails and McGuire Sisters. But when challenged to publicly reveal their female alter-egos in the pursuit of political acceptance, “the sorority” must decide whether freedom is worth the risk of ruin.

 

Casa Valentina
Casa Valentina

A 2014 Tony Award nominee for Best Play, CASA VALENTINA is the most recent work by Tony Award-winner Harvey Fierstein, whose credits include the books for the hit musicals Kinky Boots, Newsies, La Cage aux Folles, and A Catered Affair as well as the play Torch Song Trilogy. As an actor Mr. Fierstein is known worldwide for his performances in films like Mrs. Doubtfire and Independence Day, and his stage work in Hairspray, Fiddler on the Roof, La Cage aux Folles, and Torch Song Trilogy.

Director Scott Edmiston returns to SpeakEasy having previously directed the company’s productions of Far from Heaven; The History BoysThe Light in the PiazzaFive by Tenn; Other Desert CitiesNext FallIn the Next Room (or the vibrator play)RecklessThe WomenThe Last Sunday in June; and The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told. He has directed more than 60 productions across New England and is the recipient of SpeakEasy’s Outstanding Artist Award, three Elliot Norton Awards, two IRNE Awards, the StageSource Theatre Hero Award, and the Norton Prize for Sustained Excellence in Theatre. He is a Professor of the Practice and Chair of the Theatre Department at Northeastern University.

For this New England Premiere production, Edmiston has assembled an impressive cast of veteran Boston actors, including Timothy Crowe, Thomas Derrah, Kerry A. Dowling, Deb Martin, Greg Maraio, Will McGarrahan, Sean McGuirk, Robert Saoud, and Eddie Shields.

       The design team consists of Edmiston’s frequent collaborators: Janie E. Howland (scenic), Gail Astrid Buckley (costumes), Karen Perlow (lighting), and Dewey Dellay (sound).

CASA VALENTINA will run for six weeks, from October 24 to November 28, in the Roberts Studio Theatre in the Stanford Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont Street in Boston’s South End.

Ticket prices start at $25, with discounts for students, seniors, and persons age 25 and under.

For tickets or more information, the public is invited to call the box office at 617.933.8600 or visit www.SpeakEasyStage.com.

James Montgomery To Appear At Jonathan’s

Ogunquit on November 6th

James Montgomery
James Montgomery

When blues legend James Montgomery plays the harmonica, he “brings it on home”. Whether it’s recording with Kid Rock, sitting in with Gregg Allman, or fronting his hot band of thirty years, Montgomery plays with authority. While growing up in Detroit he learned first-hand from the masters – James Cotton, John Lee Hooker, and Jr. Wells – at the legendary “Chessmate.” Over the years, he’s carried on in the tradition and continues to be a vital presence in Blues as one of the most dynamic performers on the scene.

James Montgomery and his band will be playing live at Jonathan’s Ogunquit on Friday, November 6, 2015 at 8:00 p.m.

In 1970, while attending Boston University, Montgomery formed the James Montgomery Band. His inimitable (oh yeah, he majored in English) harmonica playing combined with his incredibly energetic live shows led to the band’s quick ascension on the New England music scene. Within two years, the James Montgomery band was among the hottest acts in Boston along with J. Geils and Aerosmith, and they were quickly signed to a multi-album deal with Capricorn Records.

Montgomery has toured with many major artists, including Aerosmith, Bonnie Raitt, Bruce Springsteen, the Allman Brothers, Steve Miller and others. He has jammed on stage with B.B.King, Buddy Guy, John Lee Hooker, Jr. Wells, James Cotton, Charlie Daniels, Bonnie Raitt, Greg Allman, Laverne Baker, Patti LaBelle, and Peter Wolf among others, including an impromptu session with Mick Jagger at New York’s “Trax”
Over the years Montgomery’s band has been a springboard for many musicians. Members of his band have in

cluded Billy Squire, Wayne Kramer (MC-5), Jeff Golub (Rod Stewart), Jim McCarty (Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels), Nunzio Signore Bo Diddley), Jeff Pevar (Ray Charles Orchestra, Crosby, Stills & Nash), Bobby Chouinard (drummer with Ted Nugent, Squire and Robert Gordon), Jeff Levine (Joe Cocker), Aerosmith’s Tom Gambel, and many others.

Back by popular demand, James Montgomery has become a regular at Jonathan’s Ogunquit. Coming up in the afternoon, grabbing dinner at Jonathan’s, playing some music and staying over in Ogunquit…They love the set up and so do their fans!
The James Montgomery Band will be playing live on Friday, November 6th, 2015 at 8:00 p.m. Tickets are available on line at http://tickets.jonathansrestaurant.com Tickets start at $22.50.

For more information about the concert please visit Jonathan’s Website.

Jonathan’s Restaurant is located at 92 Bourne Lane, Ogunquit, Maine.