An ACT OF CONGRESS

By Seamond Ponsart Roberts

 

 
Back in 1939, when the Lighthouse Service was changed over from the Department of Commerce to the Treasury Department and put under the charge of the U.S. Coast Guard, the then civilian employee lighthouse keepers were given an "invite" to become "real" Coast Guardsmen.  My lighthouse keeper father, Octave Ponsart, was very happy with this and could hardly wait to become an enlisted member of the Coast Guard. 
 
At the time, Mom and Dad were stationed at Dumpling Rock Lighthouse, a tiny-islanded lighthouse about a mile from shore in Dartmouth, Massachusetts.  It was a two-man station and so when Dad received orders for his physical examination the Coast Guard required at Brighton Marine Hospital, he left the keeping to his assistant keeper, Henry Fontenot, and rowed ashore in a hurry to get this physical done and to be inducted into the Coast Guard. 
 
Well, back then, when you got a service physical it was done a little differently than now.  He got signed into the right place at Brighton and they told him the physical examination would take about 4-5 days; it would be done a little piece at a time each day.  They assigned him a bed and told him the physical would be in the mornings and after that he was free to do what he wanted, just be back in the morning for the next section of the examination.  This delayed physical idea did not set well with Dad.  He said, "Hey, I've got a lighthouse I need to get back to," and they just nodded and said, "All in due time.  You want to get into the Coast Guard, don't you?"
 
He did.  So, it went like this.  The first day was paperwork and doing vital signs, weighing, and stuff like that.  Then off in the afternoon.  The second day was the top section, say ahh, stick out your tongue, and in the afternoon on your own.  The third day, Dad was told his teeth were too bad for him to get into the Coast Guard.  If he wanted to get in the Coast Guard, they would have to go.  That afternoon instead of "on his own" he was off to the dentist where they hauled out all his teeth.  So, the next day, not being in very good sorts and all, they did the listen to his chest and all.  Dad thought, "Well, I really want to get into the Coast Guard,so I'll endure . . . "
 
He figured it would be all over by Friday, but it wasn't.  So, there he was stuck there on the weekend.  This was getting very old!  Come Monday, he was ready for the grand finale, but the doctor told him he needed to go back to see the people at step #1, the paperwork zone and to get re-weighed.  Off he went, only to find out, guess what?  They re-measured him and he was ONE INCH TOO SHORT to get into the Coast Guard.
 
Well, my normally mild-mannered and even-temperature father was anything but!  After he had recovered from the fact that he missed going into the Coast Guard by one inch, he said, "HEY, WHAT ABOUT MY FALSE TEETH?"
 
They said ..................sorry, you didn't qualify to get into the Coast Guard, so you can't have any.
 
Dad went back to Dumpling Rock MIGHTLY MAD.
 
My mother said, "Octave, we will get you your teeth."  Dad said, "We can't afford them.  Can you believe this?"  Mom said, "Don't worry."
 
Whereupon Mother wrote her friend, Congressman Charles Gifford from Dartmouth.  He was her friend because he would come out to the lighthouse and have lobster dinners Mom would cook.
 
Congressman Gifford said WHOA, this is not right. 
 
Dad got his teeth.
 
When I was a young girl and Dad would take out his teeth, he would giggle and tell me, "Yes, Seamond, you see these choppers?  Well, I got them by an Act of Congress."
 

Seamond  is a frequent contributer sharing many stories with Jack's Joint about her life and times as a Lighthouse Keeper's Daughter.
 
 
 

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