Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Kids Love Lighthouses Too!

Go here for instructions on making a paper cup lighthouse.

At the U.S. Lighthouse Society webpage there are LOTS of materials for kids. Click on the "Education" tab and find what you want.

My Pinterest pages also have materials for kids.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Memories of Slip Point Lighthouse

Some years back, a group of us in the Washington lighthouse community organized a lighthouse keepers' reunion. It was held in Silverdale at a hotel and was well-attended. I put together a booklet of keepers' memories and had it printed and bound. At the reunion dinner, I met Joan Miller whose husband had served at the Slip Point Lighthouse at Clallam Bay in the early 1960s. By that time, the old wooden lighthouse was gone--taken by a landslide in the wet winter of 1940. 

When Slip Point Lighthouse was first built, it was only a fog signal with a lens lantern propped on a shelf (seen on the right side of the building with a ladder accessing it). Photo from 1904 in the collection of the Coast Guard Historian.
As shipping lanes became busy in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, a wooden light tower was added to the west side of the fog signal building and a fourth order lens replaced the lens-lantern.

In its place was a pole beacon, which later gave way to a skeleton beacon with a dayboard on it. 

The lighthouse still appears in this image, but it had been deactivated due to the threat of erosion. The bridge walkway can be seen behind the box structure holding the beacon. Photo taken by the Coast Guard in 1951.

Here is Joan's account of life at Slip Point--



            On December 31, 1961, my husband and I along with our two young sons, moved into the Slip Point Light Station at Clallam Bay, Washington.  We had just come from a very active search and rescue Coast Guard station at Hammond, Oregon and my husband was anxious to have a less dangerous responsibility and activity level for awhile.  I was expecting our third child in late February. 

Snow at Slip Point on Feb.29, 1963. Photo courtesy of Joan Miller.

            We had other friends that were at light stations and had heard that life at a light station could be serene and pleasant, but that there were certain demands that were required of both the Coast Guard personnel and their wives.  I was told that the house was to be ready for inspection at all times which was supposedly even more important since my husband was the officer-in-charge.

            Slip Point did not have the traditional light house sitting on a hill or bluff as the first one had fallen into the sea many years before our duty began.  Instead, we had a walkway out onto the reef with a light on the end that also included a fog signal.  However, our house, a large duplex was in the typical lighthouse style.  Three stories, many windows, and beautiful cherry wood furniture supposedly made years before in the prison system.

            On a clear and beautiful Monday afternoon on January 29, 1962, my husband was asleep upstairs after serving on the night watch and our two boys were outside playing.  The station's Seaman knocked at the door all excited and said we were being invaded.  He had heard shells going overhead and was able to convince me that we were in fact being shelled. I got the boys in the house right away.  The next task was to rouse my husband and tell him. 

            The news was hard to believe and he was hard to persuade, but he agreed to get up and see what was going on.  As it turned out, yes we were being shelled, by accident of course, but by the Canadian Navy who had sent a drone plane out over the Straits so that their ships could practice firing two or three pound "dud" shells at the plane.  Unfortunately, the plane went over our reef and the shells followed.  One hit the Clallam Bay school yard five minutes before school was let out.  A brass detonator landed a few feet from a fellow in town who was digging in his garden.  A shell did hit one house and knocked off a few shingles.  Another landed embedded in a log that someone was able to locate.  All of these items were gathered up and ended up on my kitchen counter while we waited for our US Naval munitions to arrive and check everything out. 

            Lots of excitement and an international event was prevented, but none of us quite got over the close call of nearly being hit with one of those practice bombs.        
Our length of service lasted only 18 months as my husband found that he really missed search and rescue.  Due to a number of incidents, I also agreed that this was not the quiet life we had envisioned and I was glad to move on.  So, in June of 1963, we moved to Cape Disappointment station in Ilwaco, Washington and one of the busiest search and rescue stations in the US.

Joan E. Miller
wife of CWO-4 Willis Paul Miller

Paul passed away in 1977 after serving in the Coast Guard for 23 years.

I flew over Slip Point about ten years ago and took some photos. All that remains are the concrete walkway supports. You can see them in the images below. They trail off to the east and into the water. That's because the sites of the wooden lighthouse and the pole beacons that followed are now underwater. The Coast Guard gave up on a light for the point years ago and settled on an offshore buoy.

The quarters, which were at the time of the photo occupied by the local sheriff.

Remains of the concrete foundation of the raided walkway.

The concrete walkway remnants trail into the water now. The site of the original lighthouse is far out in the strait. Bruce Robie photo.
In recent years, the town of Clallam has expressed interest in rebuilding the old wooden lighthouse. Its return, along with refurbishment of the quarters to their 1930s glory, it would bring many visitors to the area and bolster its economy. The shore here is beyond description, with rock formations and scenic views. Drive another hour or two west and you can see the Cape Flattery Lighthouse via a boardwalk trail and visit the Makah Cultural Museum. The fishing is good on this coast, and there's camping at several parks. The 6-mile round-trip hike to Cape Alava will take you to the westernmost point on the Lower Forty-Eight West Coast. I highly recommend it.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Farewell Jens Pedersen

Photo by Elinor DeWire

For at least fifteen years, Jens Pedersen, who grew up at lighthouses in Washington, was my friend. He passed away about a week ago. My heart aches for his loss--no more pleasant conversations with him, laughs, hugs, and enjoying his smile. He was indeed a wonderful man with lucid memories of a life on the lighthouses.

Jens Pederen, fourth from right, spent a few years of his youth at Turn Point Lighthouse on Stuart Island in the San Juan Islands of Washington. His father, Jens Sr. is second from left. Jens' older sisters are in the lineup, along with the children of Edward Albee. Photo courtesy of Ila Albee Lee (third from right).

His father, Jens O. Pedersen, was a lightkeeper at several Washington lighthouses. most notably Point Robinson Lighthouse on Vashon Island. The elder Pedersen retired from there in the 1950s as one the last keepers from the U.S. Lighthouse Establishment era. Now, his only son is gone. Several other Pedersen children also have passed. Those us of in the lighthouse community mourn these losses--sure indicators that the chapter of human lighthouse keeping is fast coming to a close.

Jens Pedersen, Sr. on the lantern of Point Robinson Lighthouse, about 1950.

Jens, Sr.'s retirement in the mid-1950s. Beside him, his faithful wife Elsie looks on with pride. Jens Sr. died in 1958, a short time after his retirement. He was 64.

Here, I'm sharing a few images of Jens Pedersen, Jr., plus a tender and much-deserved tribute to him from the President of the Keepers of Point Robinson, Capt. Joe Wubbold.

My Dear Members of the Point Robinson Family,

For the second time in a month, it is my sad duty as your Captain to tell you of the death of one of our own.  Our friend, colleague, faithful attendee at all of our events and gatherings and former resident of Quarters A,  Jens, died last week.  I had a call from his nephew Tom, who wanted to know how to make a donation to the lighthouse.  I must have been particularly dense and obtuse, because it took a minute for me to realize that this was a memorial to Jens.  I had then to back down and ask, right between the running lights, if he was telling me that Jens was dead.

Snow was rare at Point Robinson. A youthful Jens, Jr.. combined snow shoveling with fun (note the face peeking out of the snow on the left side of the walk). In the background is one of the station's tanks and the family car.

The story becomes a little complex at this point, and I am awaiting further word from his family.  Jens did not want any ceremony, nor any memorial, just a party.  So if the family is willing, we will all help in that final wish.  What form that will take, when it will be, and other details must await the fullness of time.  It seems to me that the most appropriate place, and in fact, the only place, to have this would be in Quarters A, in which he lived when his father was stationed at Point Robinson.  
It was never in our thinking that our houses would be the site for the departure ceremonies for our friends.  When we had good memories of Ka, just a few weeks ago, Carol wanted it to be in the house in which he had put so much of himself.  So also is it with Jens.  We had his 90th birthday party there, and we have had our Open Houses there on the first Sunday of December.  When Jens did not come to the top of the lighthouse this last year, a tradition we had observed for years, I was concerned, and hoped it was only a minor ailment.  It turns out, now, that it was much more serious.

As we hope for all of us, when the final call is sounded, he did not die alone.  And we will honor his wish for no sadness, or actually a lot, but also for that party.  I will put out more information as I get it,  I have included former Board members, people who knew Jens but are no longer directly connected with the Keepers of Point Robinson, and some people who I just want to know.

Jens and his two sisters reunited about 2009 on Vashon Island. Jens humorously labeled this photo "A thorn between two roses."

Jens and I had a special relationship.  Look at the Vashon Then and Now on Point Robinson, and you will see a charming part about Jens and our resident "daughter of the light", Mirabelle.  Jens and I had a tradition of his coming up to the top of the tower to "make his number with Captain Joe", whenever I was there, and he came to the Station.  Whenever he would do that, I would introduce him to the people taking the tour, and he would tell stories of what it was like to live as a child on a light station.  Jens, you were such a gracious man, generous of spirit.  We will have that party, and you will be there.

I am, as always when I have to do this, reaching out to each of you, and asking that we remember a lovely man.  That he was over 90 does not make me any less sad today, just thankful that he had admitted me to his friendship.  This is the same affection that I feel for each of you.

From the top of the lighthouse, Quick Flash 2, every 12 seconds, for that is the characteristic of Point Robinson Light,

Your Captain Joe

Jens and me on opening night of the Centennial Exhibit for Point Robinson's 100th birthday in October 2014. An entire exhibit panel was devoted to the Pedersen family and their time at the lighthouse in the 1930s through the middle 1950s. (Photo by Jonathan DeWire)

Below, the handsome fifth order lens at Point Robinson shines for all the keepers and their family members. Dear Jens, rest peacefully in lighthouse heaven!
(Photo by Bruce Robie)

All images courtesy of Jens Pedersen, Jr., except those otherwise labeled.