Veteran donates time as lifeguard at Lincoln Park Pool

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Brent Johnson
For the Salisbury Post
As the summer temperatures escalate and the afternoon sun sits scalding the lands of Rowan County, children duck for cover, preferably beneath water.
The Lincoln Park pool, located on South Long Street, is a place of retreat and recreation. Swimming in the summer, splashing with neighborhood friends, is a pastime for many. But if you plan on swimming with a big crowd, expect to rotate to the bench beside the pool.
“Its a heartbreaker to see kids get turned away,” says Tyrus (Ty) Raymond Cobb Jr.
Cobb, 68, is a recertified lifeguard and Vietnam veteran who began volunteering his free time at the Lincoln pool after he heard that children were being denied the aqueous gift.
For a lot of these kids, he says, “This is the only place they got.”
American Red Cross guidelines say there needs to be one lifeguard for every 25 people in the pool. For 26 people, there must be two guards. Because of the difficulty finding certified lifeguards in the county, pools like Lincoln are suffering.
When Cobb heard that kids were being told to wait patiently in the heat outside of the pool until a few swimmers decided to dry off, he decided to step in.
There was talk in the city in January of closing the pool because of wear and tear maintenance issues. Cobb responded with a letter to the editor, calling the idea to close “unwise, as it is one of the few recreational facilities available to lower-income families.”
Cobb took the initiative to personally help the pool by offering suggestions, donations and his time. He volunteered full time in June and has continued at the pool, which now has a lifeguard, as needed.
Cobb is the oldest active certified lifeguard in Rowan County and is fully aware of the kind of shape he needs to be in.
He remembers preparing for the recertification pretest, having to swim 500 yards without stopping and carrying a 10-pound brick to the surface of a 25-meter deep pool without using arms for support. He says the brick test was the toughest.
“I knew my nose was only two inches from the surface, but I couldn’t breathe,” Cobb says.
Even after earning his recertification, he works out at least three times a week. His workouts usually consist of a half-mile swim on Mondays, 500 yards on Wednesdays and 600 yards on Fridays.
Although the Red Cross used to push lifeguards to stay in shape by making them swim 500 yards every month, the agency decreased the distance to 300 yards. Bridget Dexter, the aquatics director at the East-Rowan YMCA, asks that her lifeguards swim 500 yards.
“I still require them to swim 500 yards because I think they should be in shape with their swimming,” she says.
In late June, two days before Cobb’s 68th birthday, he made a save. Cobb recalls there were about 15 people in the pool, near closing time. The deepest part of the pool reaches 9 feet.
“I will see you once every 10 seconds,” he says, referring to each individual he scans in the pool.
Johnny Moses and friend jumped into the deep end. Cobb says Moses misstepped and fell into the pool at an awkward angle, landing on his back.
Cobb scanned the pool, looking from one end to the other. Moses sat on the bottom of the deep end. Cobb scanned the pool again, another 10 seconds going by with Moses still at the bottom of the pool. Cobb noticed how little movement Moses made. Cobb scanned one more time, seeing Moses still at the bottom, and blew his whistle three times to get everyone out of the pool.
“My training told me he was in trouble,” Cobb says.
Like the brick test, Cobb brought a frantic and disoriented Moses to the surface.
“Don’t fight me! Relax!” Cobb told Moses, assuring the man of his safety. Moses was uninjured during the accident.
Cobb is hesitant to take credit for saving someone’s life, but says “until a real person is in trouble, you just don’t know how you’re going to react.”
Now he knows.