Wednesday, April 13, 2016

A Keeper's Daughter Remembers...

I met Ila Albee Lee in 2004 and interviewed her for my archives and for the Keepers of Point Robinson. (The photo I snapped of her above was at a Point Robinson's Christmas open house in 2004.)

Mrs. Lee provided me with some wonderful images of life at lighthouses in the 1930s-1940s. Her father, Wyman Albee, was a lightkeeper at a number of lighthouses, including Cape Arago, Turn Point, Yaquina Head, Umpqua , and Point Robinson. Mrs. Lee, born in 1930, captured her memories of lighthouse life as a child in  Children of the Lighthouse,

Here are some images she shared with me--

Wyman Albee in Seattle in the late 1940s, after he ended his lightkeeping career and went to work for the Coast Guard as a mechanic. Mrs. Lee remembered how handsome her father was!
Mrs. Lee's mother, sister, and baby brother are pictured at Point Robinson Lighthouse. The family dog, Touser, is in the lower left of the image. Mrs. Lee had many pleasant memories of life at this lighthouse. There was a fort up in the woods, near the orchard, and a chicken coop up there as well.  The families dug for geoducks, and Mrs. Pedersen, the assistant keeper's wife, fried the geoduck steaks in butter. Photo circa 1940.
The Principal Keeper, Wyman Albee (far left holding a stovepipe) took a break form his work to pose with his assistant keeper next to him, Jens Pedersen, the wives, and the kids at Turn Point Lighthouse in the mid-1930s. Ila Albee is third from the right. Turn Point had a spacious duplex for the two families and wonderful places for the kids to play. The kids had a pet raccoon too!

The Albees lived at Cape Arago Lighthouse in the early 1930s. (Mrs. Lee spelled it Argo, due to the way it was pronounced by the keepers, who omitted the "a" or "uh" sound in the middle of the name.) Trix was the family dog at the time. Mrs. Lee noted that the family's dining room table was where all four Albee children were delivered by the attending physician. There was a footbridge connecting the lighthouse and island to the mainland. Mrs. Lee recalled that her sister Lavinia, fell from the footbridge, but her mother caught the child by the hem of her dress and was able to pull her back up to the bridge. Otherwise, she would likely have been killed on the rocks below!
The Albees lived here in the late 1930s. The kids enjoyed agate hunting and shooting agates from a slingshot. Mrs. Lee remembered the boys getting into trouble with the adults because they used their slingshots to shoot seagulls. The kids came down with measles at Yaquina Head and were in bed for a couple of weeks. During this time a fierce late autumn storm blew in and churned up the sea. Mrs. Lee recalled looking out the window in her bedroom and seeing huge balls of sea foam floating and flying.

Ila Albee Lee wrote a poem about lighthouse keeping when she was in her later years. I love it, as it captures the feelings of many people who grew up at lighthouses in the bygone days when families were in residence and human hands tended the lights--

Where's the Old Keeper
The bustling breeze has ceased for a rest,
The billowing sea stops the heave of her breast;
White clouds unfurl like sails late at night,
But where's the old keeper who looks after the light?
A gull is at rest on the lighthouse tower,
A ship floats along like a drifting flower.
The fish are swimming around for a bite,
But where's the old keeper who looks after the light?
The sun sinks low, the night draws near,
The voice of the keeper we cannot hear.
A flag is fluttering on the mast half-height,
But where's the old keeper who looks after the light?
The sun has set in the golden West,
The honest keeper has done his best,
Stars are twinkling and shining bright;
But where's the old keeper who looks after the light?

Mrs. Ila Albee Lee was 74 in this photo. I interviewed her at her home on Bainbridge Island, WA. Notice her lighthouse blanket! It was November, and her house was damp. To my knowledge she is still living in the same house today. She would be 86 now.

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