Wednesday, March 20, 2013

You Tube Video Showing "How to Draw a Lighthouse"

This You Tube video is fun to watch. The final product looks a lot like North Head Lighthouse at Ilwaco, Washington, marking the approach to the Columbia River entrance. Who says the plain old pencil has lost its power??!!

U.S. Coast Guard Photo of North Head Lighthouse

A Lighthouse Poem

Edgar Guest (1881-1959) was an English-born poet who became an American favorite. Born in Birmingham, England, he came to the United States with his family at the age of ten and lived the reaminder of his life in Detroit, Michigan. He began his career in journalism as a copy boy at the Detroit Free Press, advanced to the job of reporter, and began publishing poetry when still a teenager. His first poem appeared in the newspaper where he worked in December 1898.

Guest's career continued to rise. He became a U.S. citizen in 1902. His poems, mostly sentimental and uplifting with traditional rhyme schmes, became American favorites. He continued to pen his verses--more than 11,000 in all--until his death in 1959. He is often called "The People's Poet." Below is a snapshot of guest working in his office. (Courtesy of East Central University, Oklahoma)

"The Lighthouse Keeper Wonders" is typical of Guest's friendly, heartwarming style. I re-print it here because it continues to have meaning in the modern world--

Few lighthouse keepers remain on duty today anywhere in the world. The United States has no resident lightkeepers; all of our active lighthouses run automatically and are merely checked periodically by Coast Guard maintenance crews. A few lighthouses (including their optics) have been transferred to nonprofit groups and are operated privately. In a sense there are lightkeepers at these sites, but their work in no way compares to that of the nostalgic and traditional lightkeeper of yesterday. Automation has made the work obsolete.

Canada still has lightkeepers, most of them stationed in British Columbia, and the fight is on to keep them employed and serving the needs of mariners. I correspond with several BC lightkeepers and spent a day on Chrome Island Lighthouse in the Georgia Strait (with lightkeepers Roger and Leslie Williamson) in September 2012. They wonder how long they'll be allowed to continue their work. The lights on the island and the fog signal run automatically; the Williamsons are on site primarily to do weather observations and reports for shipping and recreational boaters. Several rounds of job reductions have removed most of the keepers, one-by-one, from Canadian lighthouses. Budgets are strapped, and modern navigational tools seem to suggest lightkeepers aren't needed; yet....

The day I went out to Chrome Island, courtesy of VanIsle Charters in Deep Bay, the sun was shining and the water was pleasant. It was a wonderful day for boating. the island was beautiful--no wind, a clear sky, calm water. Within hours dark clouds moved in, the wind picked up, and the water turned to a nasty chop. I rushed to finish my interview with the keepers and the fabulous meal they had prepared, hugged them good-bye, and took off for the mainland. It was a miserable, bumpy, bouncy ride with waves coming over the front of the boat. I was nearly seasick byu the time we rounded the breakwater at Deep Bay--only about a mile from the lighthouse and an easy ten minute trip earlier in the morning. Yes, I have a weak stomach when it comes to boats, but I got to see how quickly the weather can turn bad in the Georgia Strait and why lightkeepers are still needed.

Enjoy Edgar Guest's poem, and think of all the lightkeepers whose jobs are gone because of automated machinery. All things pass; progress comes. Sometimes it's sad to see it happen. Call me nostalgic, sappy, sentimental perhaps, but I do love the era of manned lighthouses. The word "lighthouse" contains the word "house," which to me suggests someone ought to live there and care for the place. And if there's trouble on the water, then that "someone"--the keeper--is there to help. the story of lighthouses isn't just about stones, bricks, mortar, metal, glass. People built them and lived in them, raised their families at lighthouses....that's the story I love best.

"The Lighthouse Keeper Wonders"
by Edgar Guest
The light I've tended for forty years
is now to be run by a set of gears,
the keeper said, and it isn't nice
to be put ashore by a mere device.
Now, fair or foul the winds that blow
or smooth or rough the sea below,
It is all the same. The ships at night
will run to an automatic light.
The clock and gear which truly turn
Are timed and set so the light shall burn.
But, did ever an automatic thing
set plants about in early spring?
And did ever a bit of wire and gear
A cry for help in the darkness hear?
Or welcome callers, and show them through
The lighthouse rooms, as I used to do?
"Tis not malice these things I say,
All men must bow to the newer way.
But it's strange for a lighthouse man like me
After forty years on shore to be.
And I wonder now--will the grass stay green?
Will the brass stay bright and the windows clean?
And will ever that automatic thing
Plant marigolds in early spring?
Port Burwell Lighthouse with Marigolds, Ontario, Canada
Photo Source-

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Lighthouses as Religious Symbols

Lighthouses have a spiritual quality about them. They seem to stand watch at crossroads, literally between the land and sea, but figuratively at the gateway between reality and imagination. I credit this metaphoric margin with the prevalence of ghost stories at lighthouses—so many that hardly a lighthouse stands without some haunted tale attached to it, sometimes outshining the light itself. But lighthouses also possess strong religious symbolism. Strength, truth, reliability, guidance, safety, warning, salvation—these attributes easily attach to lighthouses. For this reason, they are popular images in advertising, on greeting cards and stamps, on book and magazine covers, and on the many collectibles we love.

As religious symbols, they enjoy iconic status. Type the words  “lighthouse church” into an online search, and you’ll find thousands of images to confirm the fact. Churches, temples, tabernacles, missions, and more find them fitting symbols of faith. Lighthouses appear on religious tracts, hymnals, and other publications. One of my earliest memories of this was my mother’s subscription to “The Upper Room,” a faith-based magazine rife with lighthouse images. Before I was old enough to attend school, Mom  took me along to her weekly prayer meeting on Wednesday mornings. It was a social event I enjoyed, especially the food and a visit to someone’s home. There was always a small giveaway at each weekly meeting, usually something homemade by the host. One souvenir I remember vividly was a Bible bookmark that pictured a lighthouse with crashing waves, representing refuge from life’s storms, and the verse: “You are my lamp, oh Lord…:  2nd Samuel 22:29.

I was nineteen the first time I saw a real, working lighthouse—Seguin Lighthouse off the Kennebec River, Maine—but I knew by that time how symbolic lighthouses are. The image of that white beam flashing through the fog at the river’s mouth etched itself on my brain and eventually launched my writing career. I sold my first lighthouse article to Mobil Compass in 1982; the editor accepted it with a note saying: “People love lighthouses.” He added that they were humanitarian buildings and asked me to send pictures to go with the text.
When my father died in 1992, his funeral service memoriam was printed on a small folded flier with a lighthouse on the front. He had been so very proud of my writing and my first book on lighthouses.

In the 30-plus years I’ve been writing about lighthouses and photographing them, I’ve seen hundreds of emblems of faith and reassurance illustrated with lighthouses, as well as churches and faith-based businesses that use lighthouses as their logos. I think it's this spiritual nature that draws so many people to lighthouses. Below are some examples. Send me some from your hometown and your travels. Email to

Below is a picture of the lighthouse church at Jukesong, South Korea, photographed on Panoramio by jandefeitser.
This one appears on Flicker by Jsome1. Location is not identified, but it's clearly a church.
And finally, here's a shot of a lighthouse and church at Sabine Pass, Texas, taken by the tour guides on the U.S. Lighthouse Society lighthouse tour in texas in 2011.

Monday, March 11, 2013

February 2003 Article from "Lighthouse Digest"

Women of the Light: Elinor DeWire

“There’s a story out there, and I must tell it!”

By Jeremy D'Entremont

From the Lighthouse Digest Archives, an excellent website to read back issues of a fun and informative magazine for lighthouse enthusiasts. Consider subscribing to the magazine!
(New Dungeness Lighthouse, February 2003. Photo by Mel Jetter)

The year 2002 marked 30 years of work in the lighthouse community for author, educator and preservationist Elinor DeWire. Her outlook remains positive. “It’s been a period of enormous change for me and for lighthouses, and all of it good, I think,” she says.

The youngest of nine children, Elinor was born in Frederick, Maryland. Her family lived on a dairy farm, and as a child the closest thing to a lighthouse she saw was the silo next to the barn. But she read voraciously and The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge was one of her favorites. This whet Elinor’s appetite for lighthouses, but it wasn’t until she married Jonathan DeWire in 1972 and moved to Maine, where he was stationed at Brunswick Naval Air Station, that lighthouse fever really took hold.

Elinor was captivated by her first sight of Maine’s Seguin Lighthouse offshore, “a spike of white on a distant island with its light flashing through the fog.” Trips home to Maryland or to Jon’s home in Pennsylvania allowed them to visit more lighthouses along the way, and every Navy transfer led to new beacons to visit.

In 1980 Elinor began writing for a newspaper in Florida. One thing led to another, and soon Elinor sold a story on lighthouses to Mobil’s Compass Magazine. “I quickly discovered lighthouses were my ticket to publication,” she says. Books were the next logical step, and Pineapple Press published Elinor’s first book, Guide to Florida Lighthouses, in 1987.

In the midst of all the traveling brought on by Navy transfers, Elinor managed to earn an M.A. from the University of Connecticut. She worked for a time at the Mystic Seaport Museum, serving simultaneously as Assistant Supervisor of the Planetarium and Supervisor of Curriculum and Instruction for the entire museum. From 1993 to 1999 she taught fifth and third grade in the Groton, CT public schools. The teaching of a lighthouse unit led to the publication of The Lighthouse Activity Book.

Elinor came to feel that no book had paid adequate tribute to America’s lighthouse keepers, so in 1995 she published the book Guardians of the Lights. “That’s about the time the ‘lighthouse mania’ began to really take off,” she recalls. “I was suddenly much in demand for slide talks, signings, interviews, and TV and radio shows. Finally, in 1999, Jon retired after 28 years in the Navy, and I left teaching to write and speak full time.”

She’s mostly associated with lighthouses and has published seven books on the subject (with three more soon to come), but Elinor has written extensively on other topics as well. She’s published four books on astronomy - “My other love!” — and writes a newspaper column on maritime topics called "Shore Almanac." She also has a longtime interest in the U.S. Lifesaving Service and wrote a column about it from 1992 to 1999 for Mariners Weather Log.

Although she no longer teaches, Elinor still visits schools and conducts workshops. “The most important thing I try to give kids,” she explains, “is a sense of my excitement and passion for what I do.” One of the ways she reaches children is with the help of her cat, Lighthouse Kitty, otherwise known as Ida (after Ida Lewis, the famous lifesaving lightkeeper of Newport, Rhode Island). Elinor’s pet is the mascot of “Kids on the Beam,” her regular feature in Lighthouse Digest. “All kids love animals, and the stories of lighthouse animals are warm and reassuring,” says Elinor. “Lighthouse Kitty gets lots of snail mail and email, some of it from adults, and works with a number of schools around the nation. Bill Younger of Harbour Lights has been a tremendous help to Lighthouse Kitty by donating all the prizes she gives to kids through her column and website. We also have other donors who help with Lighthouse Kitty’s work by sending postcards, cancelled stamps, and bookmarks for her to give to kids.”

(With "Lighthouse Kitty," 1998--Photo by Jonathan DeWire)

Elinor’s “Kids on the Beam” feature served as an inspiration for the conference by the same name held in New Bedford, Massachusetts by the American Lighthouse Foundation (ALF) this past September. “I’m grateful to ALF for recognizing the important mission of educating kids and serving as the vanguard organization in this endeavor,” says Elinor. “The lighthouse legacy will be handed over to a new generation soon, and we need to be sure they’re ready to accept and care for it.”
Elinor estimates that she and her husband have visited over 500 lighthouses worldwide. She says, “It seems like only yesterday I stood at the mouth of the Kennebec River looking out at Seguin Lighthouse and thinking, ‘What a different world that must be, an important place connected to, yet detached, from my world here on the sand. There’s a story out there, and I must tell it!’ People’s efforts are the true story. They built lighthouses, tended them, designed and implemented new technologies for them, watched them become obsolete and disappear, and now are saving the history, artifacts, and the structures themselves.” She says that teamwork is the key to successful preservation. “It may sound sappy, but we need to work together. Everyone in the lighthouse community needs to get busy on some part of the task and share the work and the knowledge they gain.”

Elinor and Jon recently moved to the Pacific Northwest. She’s already started work on a book on Washington lighthouses, and hopes to get groups to work together on a Puget Sound Lighthouse Festival. Much of Elinor’s lighthouse traveling now takes place in the comfort of the large office in her home overlooking the Olympic Mountains. Close by are her huge collection of research materials, a closet full of photos and a “near-museum of memorabilia” packed in boxes in the basement. Her two grown children call the home decor “Early Lighthouse Overkill.” “Thank goodness I have a supportive family!” she says - not to mention a loyal following across America....

Reprinted with Permission:
This story appeared in the February 2003 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. All contents copyright © 1995-2013 by Lighthouse Digest®, Inc. No story, photograph, or any other item on this website may be reprinted or reproduced without the express permission of Lighthouse Digest. Visit for more information. The website is a treasure trove of information on ligghthouses!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Book Review of "The Lighthouses of Greece"

1995 Interview at UCONN

An Interview with Elinor DeWire
Keynote Speaker, "Working on the Water Seminar"
University of Connecticut at Avery Point
May 9, 1995
Interview questions from students in “Literature & the Sea”

Note: I did this interview almost twenty years ago at the UCONN campus on Avery Point, Groton, Connecticut. It was a pleasure, as I had taken "Literature and the Sea" when I was a student at UCONN, and the instructor in my class, and in 1995, was my college mentor, Stephen Jones. The students who interviewed me asked where there might be a comfortable spot to sit and talk. I led them outside, across the grassy lawn, and to a bench overlooking the Thames River. It was a sunny day and the river sparkled and moved. Halfway across to New London was the Ledge Lighthouse, a caisson sentinel built in 1910. Beyond it, on the southern shore of New London, stood the grand old New London Harbor Lighthouse, built shortly after 1800. It was the perfect spot to talk about lighthouses!

The students sent me a transcipt of the interview. Here it is--

Q:  Why do you feel it's important to preserve the stories of lighthouse keeping?
A:  The occupation of lighthouse keeper has officially ended in this country.  Except for the figurehead keepers assigned to Boston Light, there are no more lightkeepers in the traditional sense.  There's no need for them.  Lighthouses operate automatically and need only periodic checks by maintenance crews.  No one needs to turn the light or fog signal on and off.  There are all sorts of high-tech gadgets that have replaced the hands of the lightkeeper.  But they haven't replaced his heart.  Lightkeeping before the electronic age required a lot of devotion and fortitude.  The lifestyle was unique, and the people were special in many ways.  I think it's important to preserve the human history of lightkeeping before all the old keepers are gone.  Only a few are left.

Q:  How did you become interested in lighthouses and their keepers?
A:  My interest began in 1972 when I lived in Maine.  My husband and I were newlyweds then, with little money for entertainment.  We beachcombed a lot, and the lighthouses were there, wherever we went.  Maine has more than sixty lighthouses.  I was intrigued and started keeping a scrapbook on those I visited.  I took pictures, scribbled notes, wrote poems and stories, jotted down the names of people I met at lighthouses.  Before I knew it, the scrapbook had become a box, and then a bureau drawer.  Today, it occupies four filing cabinets in my office, and my house is full of trinkets and mementos from my lighthouse travels.  I think everyone ought to have a passion in life — something to care about, to be devoted to.  My passion is lighthouses.

Q:  Why do you think the public is so fascinated with lighthouses?
A:  Lighthouses symbolize things that are important to us, and things that give us comfort — strength, safety, guidance, salvation, a light in the darkness, the welcoming home of a weary traveler.  People have always regarded them as emblems of humanity, and, of course, their keepers have become legendary for their courage and sacrifice.  A lighthouse is a metaphor for human goodness.  It represents the best humanity has to offer, so naturally people are drawn to it.  For this reason, you see lots of images of lighthouses in advertising:  A bank or investment company might use the rock-solid, brightly-lit tower to sell itself, a soup company or clothing manufacturer might choose a lighthouse to represent traditional goodness and reliability, or a church might use the warm, comforting beam to convey divine guidance and deliverance from evil.  You can think of lots of examples — Cape Cod Potato Chips, Snow’s Seafood Soups, Mitchell College, WNLC Radio.  It's a very popular and meaningful symbol.

Q:  Do you have a favorite lighthouse?
A:  I love them all, of course, no matter how beautiful or plain.  But if I had to choose a favorite, it would probably be St. Augustine Lighthouse in Florida.  It’s so well-preserved and interpreted for the public.  It embodies everything I think a lighthouse ought to be — tall, strong, architecturally handsome, a beautiful daymark, a classic look, a friendly place for people to visit.  The iron spiral stairs are wonderful, all 201 steps.  The acoustics and air currents inside the tower are indescribable.  The grounds are beautiful too, with so many old live oaks draped with Spanish moss.  The lighthouse’s history is compelling.  St. Augustine is the oldest city in America, and we know the Spanish had a watch tower on this site in the 1500s.  Perhaps they even put a beacon in it.  No one knows for sure.

Q:  Few traditional lightkeepers are still living, but you were able to interview some of them.  Was there one you found particularly interesting?
A:  Frank Jo Raymond, who served on Latimer Reef Light off Stonington, Connecticut was fascinating to talk with — very candid.  He said some surprising things and dashed a few of my long-cherished images.  He couldn’t understand why people found lighthouse life so attractive.  He said if you lived that life you wouldn’t find it so fascinating.  He kept reminding me that it was “just a job;” yet, at times he waxed sentimental about it.  He talked a lot about nature, especially the weather.  He was very sensitive to wind and the most minute changes in it.  He was on the lighthouse during the 1938 hurricane, which devastated southern New England.  Frank was also an artist and musician, and that was an interesting facet of his life.  He was painting on the day I spoke with him.

Q:  What made the lightkeeping profession unique?
A:  There were aspects of lightkeeping that were found in few other jobs, and sometimes no other jobs.  The main characteristic of the lightkeeper was solicitude.  Early on, before the Lighthouse Service began regulating the job and assigning several personnel or relief keepers to lighthouses, lightkeepers worked 365 days a year, 24 hours a day.  It was truly a full time job, and it could be dangerous and exhausting.  Lightkeepers were expected to accept great personal risk during storms, wars, and other catastrophes; and they were required to rescue, house, and care for survivors of shipwrecks, as well as their neighbors, who also might be refugees from storms that carried away their homes.  Everyday life itself presented its own special problems, especially if the keeper and family were isolated on a remote island or headland.  Things like food and fresh water were often difficult to get and keep.  There was loneliness and anxiety.  It was hard to get mail, fetch a doctor, or send the children to school.  Living next to the sea exacted a price in loss of life and property.  There were good things, of course.  Lightkeepers were witness to incredible sights of nature, they had the sea for a playground and, when the fishing was good, a supermarket.  They were respected government servants, venerated for their virtuous duty.  And they must have experienced enormous job satisfaction knowing they were saving lives and shining a light to guide "those in peril on the sea."  The stories of lightkeeping are striking for their special, sea-spun character.  Think of all the joys and challenges that faced lightkeeping families, because they lived on or by the sea and had to keep a light through every kind of pleasure and tragedy.  No one will ever live that life again, because lightkeeping is obsolete.

Q:  Guardians of the Lights is a collection of stories about lightkeeping that exemplifies the life of the lightkeeper in America.  Is there one particular story that's your favorite?
A:  As an author, I have a special feeling for all the stories I write. I love them all.  When I give my slide talk on lighthouse keepers, there are a few stories that always touch the audience more than others — make them laugh or sigh or gasp in surprise.  The story about the baby found in a box from a shipwreck off Hendricks Head Lighthouse is a touching one; so is the story about the rock garden on Mount Desert Rock Light, planted from soil brought out from the mainland.  I think people like these stories because they show the strength of character lightkeepers had and how they overcame adversity.  The story of the bull at Destruction Island who thought the lighthouse foghorn was a rival bull always brings a hearty laugh.  People are amazed, too, at the bird attacks and the storm stories and their attendant rescues.  I suppose my favorite story is the one I delight so much in telling — I call it "Buried and Married in the Same Day."  It's in the first chapter of Guardians, and it brings both a tear and a chuckle.  It's about a Massachusetts lightkeeper who takes his fragile new bride to live at remote Egg Rock Lighthouse.  She becomes ill and dies the first winter.  The keeper cannot get her ashore for a proper funeral, so he makes a coffin, places her in it, and puts her in the oil house to freeze.  In the spring, he takes her body ashore and has a quick funeral service.  Not wanting to return alone to the dismal isle lighthouse, he finds a willing spinster and gets married that very same afternoon.  His new wife returns with him to the lighthouse before sunset.

Q:  Was isolation, then, the most difficult aspect of lightkeeping?
A:  In most cases it was.  I think it really depended on the assignment.  Some isolated lighthouses were wonderful assignments, like Kilauea in Hawaii and Sanibel in Florida.  But those that were separated from land by difficult stretches of water had their problems.  St. George Reef Light was one; so were the lights at Farallon and Minots Ledge.  If you got sick on these stations, and the sea was too rough, you couldn't get ashore to a hospital, and a doctor couldn't get to you.  Sometimes people died.  Kids couldn't get to school; delivery of supplies was at the whim of the sea.  Loneliness made life on remote lighthouses difficult too.  The Lighthouse Service eventually forbade families to live at isolated stations.

Q:  What do you think the future holds for lighthouses now that the lightkeeping profession has ended and many electronic advances are replacing lighthouses?
A:  It's true we don't need lighthouses anymore — traditional lighthouses, that is.  The modern navigator has much more accurate and dependable systems available, such as GPS.  But any navigator, from the small boater to the skipper of a huge tanker, will tell you there's something very comforting about seeing a lighthouse and using its beacon to determine position or guide a vessel to safe harbor.  No matter how sophisticated the electronics become, we still feel more at ease when there's visual confirmation.  This is sentimentality, of course.  It's not easy to grab hold of new technology without a pang of regret at letting go of the old, especially when the old is as beautiful and nostalgic as a lighthouse.  I think lighthouses will become obsolete someday, maybe soon.  Many of them already are.  The small boater still needs them, but the day will come when even he or she won't.  Then it will be up to the public to see that these old relics are saved.  We'll have to decide which ones are worth saving, because it's going to be difficult, if not impractical, to save them all.  We're experiencing that now.  Many communities are angry with the Coast Guard and their local governments because a beloved lighthouse is deteriorating or being vandalized or slated for demolition.  It's important that we decide what to save and then do a commendable job saving it.  A retired lighthouse deserves respect.  It shouldn't have to masquerade as a gift shop, a hamburger stand, or a decoration on a mini golf course.  There are plenty of willing souls out there who'll scrape and paint and sweep to keep a lighthouse, even after it's been retired.  I call them the "New Keepers."