SLIP POINT LIGHTHOUSE
CLALLAM BAY, WASHiNGTON
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
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.
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.
|1944 image looking back at the keeper's house. (Coast Guard Museum NW)
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.
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.
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 MIlller
Paul passed away in 1977 after serving in the Coast Guard
for 23 years.
|Slip Point had only a foghorn in 1904 when this photo was taken. (Courtesy of Coast Guard Museum NW)
|By 1916, Slip Point was a complete working light station, with a fog signal and a light tower. (Coast Guard Museum NW)
|By 1952, a landslide behind the lighthouse had so endangered it, the light itself was moved to a small, conical tower nearby. This is the light Joan's husband tended. (Coast Guard Museum NW)