Lighthouse Letters

 

(And Other Excerpts From The Maine Coast Fisherman)

 

Compiled By Seamond Ponsart Roberts

 

PROLOG: These are my transcriptions of some poor photocopies that a nice librarian at Bangor took the time to hunt up for me off microfilm of the now defunct Maine Coast Fisherman newspaper, which contained a section called “Lighthouse Letters,” For many years people at the lighthouses wrote in newsy, little chatty items. My mother, Emma Ponsart, did this for, I would guess, two years; and she made friends with other lighthouse keepers in Maine that way. Two of these friends, Mrs. Morong and Mrs. Baaken, were wives of lighthouse keepers¾they exchanged post cards and letters for many years The librarian said that these microfilms are available for the public to read. So, if you are up that way and would like to read some old news from the lighthouses from the people who lived it, check in with them and go through some of these old editions they have on file. I hope that you enjoy them.]

 

 

West Chop Light, Tisbury, Mass.

August 1954

 

CAUGHT 50 FISH

 

“I was out fishing with rod and reel,” writes Emma Ponsart. “Caught over 50 fish. Mr. Fuller also caught a lot of big fish right off West Chop Dock.

“We were out to Katama Beach, near Great Pond, and a big whale came ashore there. The women and children were picking up pails of the substance that came from the whale, but found out it wasn’t ambergris. What a smell it made! My dog, Do-Do, got in the mess and I was up all night washing the dog, my shoes and my dress.

“I am sending some pictures of the ship model my husband is making. He is now making a ship weather vane. He makes birdhouses also. He made one school house type. The people are starting to come on the island now. Every day, the ferry boat is all filled up.

“We were out quahog digging yesterday and got quite a lot. We also fished off the McBride’s Breakwater. I got all wet from the sea running high as we had quite a wind blowing.

“We expect inspection soon. My husband is waiting for a real calm day to whitewash the tower. It is a two-day job.

“Sending my best wishes to all the Maine Coast Folks.”

 

[In this article was a picture of my father’s ship model, a picture I had not seen for years.]

 

 

West Chop Light, Tisbury Mass.

September 1954

 

CAUGHT 36 FLOUNDERS

 

“We have had a lot of fog and rain this month,” says Emma Ponsart. “My husband has finished whitewashing the tower and it looks really nice and so snowy white. Now, he has the outside painting to do on the houses.

“My girl, Seamond, flew home Sunday. She came in on the American Airlines plane to New York and then took a plane to the Island. She had a wonderful trip on the airlines. She likes California so much she wants to live there. She made the trip alone.

“The whale on the south side of the island has been towed out to sea on account of the smell. I was out fishing with rod and reel to Menemsha Creek and we caught 36 flounders. It was fun pulling them in. At the Creek, there are a lot of yachts and fishing boats. The beaches are lined with people out sunning. At West Chop, every other day there are small sailing boats racing. A pretty sight to see. The islands are just full of summer people. Joe and Mrs. Hindley on Gay Head Lighthouse called to visit us. Always glad to see them.

“Mrs. Mary Baaken who used to be on Cape Elizabeth Lighthouse sent me a nice post card of Owl’s Head Light, and Mrs. Cliff Morong sent me some lovely views of more Maine lighthouses. I like these lighthouse cards very much.

“My best to all the Maine Coast folks.”

 


West Chop Light, Tisbury, Mass.

October 1954

 

FLOUNDERING

 

“It’s getting fall and windy like winter,” says Emma Ponsart. “Looks like fall is on the way early to us this year.

“We were out to Menemsha Creek and caught a full basket of flounders. The breakwater was just filled with people fishing, hardly a place to cast your line. We gave most of the fish away.

“The island is just filled with summer people and hardly a place to park your car in town. We were blueberrying in the forest and picked a lot of them earlier in June.

“My husband is painting outside of the house. The summer sure is slipping away. It doesn’t hardly seem like we’ve had any summer at all.”

 

West Chop Light, Tisbury, Mass.

November 1954

 

LOTS OF TAUTOG

 

“Hurricane Carol took all the docks down at West Chop,” says Emma Ponsart. “I was out to look at the surf during it and it came way up over our bank. We had no electricity for three days. Many yachts were driven on the land. Then, Hurricane Edna came along. What a mess I had to clean up around the place! It took our skiff into two yards down from us¾into the neighbor’s yards. Up to Menemsha Creek, it was a sight to see the fishing boats, yachts and fish buildings all wrecked. By now, the lighter has come and hoisted the smaller boats out. My husband went to East Chop Light to put on the kerosene lamp during the two storms and to Edgartown too. It was too fierce to take the little ferry across to Chappaquiddick and so he could not get to Cape Pogue. Luckily, the batteries out there held out and the light stayed on. Our friends, the Nortons in Edgartown, phoned us to say they could see Cape Pogue Light still burning, which was a great relief to my husband as he worried it would be out and no way to relight it during the hurricanes. Here at the lighthouses, we were lucky that most of the heavy damage was at the other end of the island.

“We have five fluffy puppies in the cellar. We are going to give them away as we have two grown dogs now. Seamond has five guinea hens. They are very noisy and wake us up in the morning.

“I have caught a lot of tautog off West Chop with rod and reel. It’s fun pulling them in. The Bass Derby is on now. A lot of bass fishermen are out at Katama Beach trying to win.

“My garden was ripped to pieces in the storm. It broke our birdhouses too. I have been raking leaves and tree limbs ever since the two storms. I don’t feel so good. I got a cold since there was no heat in the place during the storms. Our government house is a good one though to have stood all it took. [Missing]

 

 

West Chop Light – Tisbury, Mass.

December 1954

 

HAPPY THANKSGIVING

 

“It’s getting frosty and cold,” writes Emma Ponsart. “No more fishing for me for this season, but I’ll miss that.”

“I was going to Cuttyhunk Island today, but it was too rough to go across the sound. We had an electrician from Woods Hole Base putting in new lights upstairs. They give such a good light compared to the old lights we had.

“We were out to Menemsha Creek. All the hurricane damage is about cleaned up now and it looks so nice out there to see it as it was before the storms.

“I was up to the Baptist Church to a rummage sale and bought some curtain rods and poem books. It’s lots of fun to look over the different things.

“Soon it will be Christmastime and the Island will be getting their lights up. They make the Island look so pretty and cheerful. I suppose the Flying Santa will be coming. My daughter, Seamond, looks forward to seeing him and all the children enjoy his visits so much. He has been so good to the lighthouse children on the Island. He gave every one a gift and made them happy.

“Happy Thanksgiving to all the Maine Coast Folks!”

 

 


West Chop Light, Tisbury, Mass.

February 1955

 

BITES THE HAND THAT FEEDS

 

“It has been cold this winter so far,” reports Emma Ponsart. “We have had a lot of snow. Seamond went sliding on her old-fashioned sled.

“I have seen a lot of seals out on the rocks and the seagulls have been coming up in the yard to eat stale bread we put out for them. One of our bantam hens hatched out three chicks under the chicken coop so we put them in the cellar during the really cold spell.

“The Island towns were all lighted up for Christmas and that looked so cheerful. The Flying Santa didn’t get this far on account of the bad snow storm we had so he sent the package by mail to Seamond, to the Joe Hindley family up at Gay Head Lighthouse, the Coast Guard Station at Menemsha Creek and to Mr. and Mrs. Fuller who live next door.

“We had a little mouse by our grain bag in the hall. Our dog, Do-Do Bug [Yes, that was really the little white spitz dog’s name¾we didn’t name her that; she came complete from the SPCA with the name. ¾SPR] chased it right into Mr. Kirkland’s pocket. He went home to Oak Bluffs and there was the mouse still in his pocket. The mouse then bit his hand. Guess the mouse didn’t like living in Vineyard Haven and wanted to move in Oak Bluffs.

“We went to the Christmas school singing by the children of Tisbury School. It was really wonderful for the children singing those Christmas songs and Mr. Edgar White, local teacher, has trained the children to sing the best I have ever heard.

“The Coast Guard Station in Menemsha Creek has a new officer-in-charge. Joe and Mrs. Hindley of Gay Head Lighthouse called by to see us. It’s so far out to Gay Head, we don’t get out there often. We like to beach comb on the South Shore. The breakers rolling in are a pretty sight to see.

“Happy New Year to all the Maine Coast folks.”

 

 

West Chop Light, Tisbury, Mass.

April 1955

 

QUAIL AND CROWS

 

“We have had a real cold winter so far,” reports Emma Ponsart. “We went up-island skating on the ponds and there were lots of people on the pond that had not skated there for years.

“My husband was feeding the seagulls stale bread and our parakeet flew right out the door. We haven’t seen him since. I have walked miles through the woods to find him. The worst part of it is he will freeze if he doesn’t go inside a house someplace.

“Seamond has three hamsters. These hamsters are great pets. She is out of school this week with a cold and has a lot of fun playing with the hamsters.

“My husband is making birdhouses for the spring. He is making bird toys for the new pet shop we have here on the island. We have had more outdoor birds this year. My hen pen is filled with small sparrows and a flock of quail and black crows.

“Our ferry boat is back in service today. It seems nice to see it back again. We want to go to California this summer if we can make it. I’d like to go out there fishing, so I’ll carry along my fishing poles.

“Looks like snow again for tomorrow. I hope we don’t get it. Seems good to see the sunshine. We were out to Katama Beach. I saw two small otters. The otters look like a seal. A lot of Katama Beach washed away in the storms.

“I had company this week, Dickie Cornell and Caroline Cornell came from Cuttyhunk. It was so nice to see them and also Norman Deacon of the Coast Guard Station at Cuttyhunk who came along with them.

“Well, I must sign off. My best to all the Maine Coast folks.”

 

 

West Chop Light, Tisbury, Mass.

May 1955

 

SPRING FISHING

 

“We have been busy raking up the old grass and trash around the station,” reports Emma Ponsart. “It is the first time we have had any sunshine and it seems so nice to see a sunny day after the long, cold winter we have had.

“The Coast Guard chief was down today with a lot of supplies for our station.

“We have baby starlings in our birdhouses now. One got in the attic and we had to saw off the boards of the attic to get it out. It made a noise like a rat.

“We expect Commander Joseph tomorrow. It is so nice to see him as he is always so well liked by all the service people.

“Haven’t been out perch fishing this year, but we plan to go out to Gay Head Pond just as soon as we get a good day. We have got to go digging in our garden plot for bait to fish with. I really don’t like to handle worms so my husband puts them on the hook for me when we fish with worms. Other bait, I don’t mind putting on a hook.

“My husband made a lot of birdhouses and ship hulls and rigging for the ship modes. He has a lot to do on his ship models.

“Don’t know if I’ll plant the garden this year or not. The hurricane whipped it all down last year. It’s so flat here, the wind whips down a garden.

“My best wishes to all the lighthouses and the Maine Coast folks.”

 

 

West Chop Light, Tisbury, Mass.

June 1955

 

FIRST SUMMER VISITORS

 

“I was over in Fall River shopping one day last week,” reports Emma Ponsart. “We flew back to the island by a plane. It was so nice to get off the island for a change.

“We went out to Great Pond perch fishing and caught a few. They were small as they are salt-water perch. Caught a small flatfish for my cat, Snow Drop. We haven’t had any spring yet. It’s so cold on the island that everyone still has on their winter coats.

“My husband is making birdhouses and feeding stations. He likes to make different things in his spare time. Our outdoor birdhouses are filled with many different kinds of birds.

“Seamond is out of school this week. It is Easter vacation. She has been listening to TV and playing out in the chicken coop with the hens.

“Edgartown is getting a lot of summer visitors already. It looks really like summer because there are so many people there on the street. It’s a great yachting harbor and in summer is filled with yachts. I haven’t started to plant my flowers yet, it’s been so cold. I like a lot of sunflowers, but last year, the crows picked all the seeds as soon as I had planted them.

“The Coast Guard Station at Menemsha Creek looks so nice all painted up, like new. It has a new location on the bluff overlooking the water. The fishermen up there are getting ready for their spring fishing season.

“Oak Bluffs is getting their harbor all fixed up with new wharves and will be able to accommodate more voyagers in the harbor. Our post office is being modernized in Vineyard Haven and also our hotel, the Mansion House, is being modernized.

“Best wishes to all the Maine Coast folks.”

 

 

West Chop Light, Tisbury, Mass.

July 1955

 

ONE FLOUNDER AND ONE TAUTOG

 

“We are getting real nice weather now,” reports Emma Ponsart.

“My husband has painted the engine room and is now on the garage. Due to so much rain in April and May, he’s behind on the outdoor painting. Next, he has to whitewash the tower and that is a big job to do.

“The inspectors were out to Gay Head Light Station yesterday and the Coast Guard Station, but didn’t come out to our light this time.

“We have planted our tomato plants and all kinds of flower seeds. We have many different kinds of birds in our birdhouses. We put stale bread out every day to feed them and the sea gulls.

 “We have two baby hamsters. One hamster is light brown and the other one is dark brown. The mother hamster spins on a wheel.

“The new First National Store opened in Vineyard Haven. I went down there the first day and they gave each customer a juice dish and mixing bowls and gave out chances on a TV set. The new store is a super Super Market.

“I have caught one flounder and one tautog so far this week. I expect to go fishing every evening on our beach and see if we can do better than that.

“The summer people have started to come big time on the isle and up to Menemsha Creek there are a lot of fishermen tied up to the wharf. We expect the government carpenters here to shingle the roof and put in all new windows due to the hurricanes.

“We have two tame wild rabbits in our yard and a flock of quail. The wild rabbits are thick up-island and quite a few deer too. My dog, Rexy, likes to chase the rabbits and Rexy goes and digs moles out of the banks by the shore.

“Sending my best of wishes to all the Maine Coast folks.”

 

 

West Chop Light, Tisbury, Mass.

August 1956

 

FISHING FOR TAUTOG

 

“Well, school finished for the summer vacation,” writes Emma Ponsart. “Seamond spends her time reading and listening to the radio and swimming.

“It’s been real cool weather and not many summer resort people on the isle.

“I was on the West Chop dock and caught quite a few tautog fish. It is hard to get crabs to fish with as they are kind of scarce this year. I have lost two good fish that got hooked into some junk.

“The Hyannis boat will dock in Vineyard Haven this year instead of Oak Bluffs.

“Our Personnel Officer Shea was here to visit us this week. Next week, we expect the Eastern Board Inspection.

“Our tomato plants look good for such cool weather. I got quite a few kinds of different flowers coming up in the garden also.

“The sea gulls swipe the stale bread from the other birds. Have so many sea gulls in our year.

“There are quite a few fishing boats up to Menemsha Creed dock and a few yachts.

“Out at Katama Beach, quite a few people are on the beach surfcasting. We send our best to all the Maine Coast Folks.”

 

 

West Chop Light, Tisbury, Mass.

September 1956

 

BLUEBERRIES IN COVE

 

“We were out to Katama Beach and picked up a lot of wreck wood,” writes Emma Ponsart. “Out in Los Angeles, they make pretty things out of wreck wood.

“I have caught a lot of tautog fish including one 12-pound tautog. Now, the dogfish sharks are in the bend so I don’t catch many more fish. Caught one 35-pound dogfish on a rod and reel and that was really a pull. I nearly broke my bamboo pole and the gear. What a pull!

“We have missed seeing Commander Joseph. We hope he has a happy retirement.

“We were out to Lambert’s Cove and picked a lot of blueberries. They are very thick out there in the forest.

“Our light station has been filled up with summer tourists and the regular artist colony. The island is packed with summer people and not even a space can be found to park in town.

“In Edgartown, the harbor is filled with yachts and quite a few people are fishing off the breakwater. Here on the light, we have a pet seagull that comes on the piazza to eat. Seamond has 13 guinea pigs and they eat out of her hand and are great pets.

“Mr. and Mrs. Pope from Boston called on me. They were sailing their yacht along the coast and came to see the birds. We haven’t had many except for the sparrows, blackbirds and¾oh yes¾the seagulls.

“I was glad to hear that the fishing captain got his dog back after it had fallen off his boat in No Man’s Land waters. It was just a miracle as it’s so rough off there that it was saved. Our dogs go swimming every day. It helps to keep them clean.

“We send our best to all the Maine Coast folks.”

 

 


West Chop Light, Tisbury, Mass.

November 1956

 

NO HURRICANE – SO FAR

 

“We were lucky to escape the hurricanes this year, writes Mrs. Emma Ponsart, “but I hear that one is headed towards the Florida coast. I have caught quite a few tautog, but the last couple of days, the wind was west, so I didn’t catch anything.

“We were going to Cuttyhunk Island, but Mr. Paul Bangs instead went to Block Island bluefishing, so we expect to go on his yacht, the parakeet, in two Sundays. It will be a nice trip down along the Elizabeth Islands.

“The Bass Derby fishermen are catching a lot of bluefish and striped bass. The shores are just so crowded with all the fishermen.

“We expect our inspection about the 3rd of October. We miss Commander Joseph as he was always so cheerful.

“This year, the tower will be sandblasted. It will show up more out to sea.

“Seamond has five baby guinea pigs. She has 13 in all. We have a hutch for them under the pine trees. She won second prize in the fair for Peter, the big brown and white guinea pig.

“We are out every day to try to get crabs in our pots for fish bait. We don’t get many as we think someone is pulling the pots. We send our best to the Main Coast folks.”

 

 

West Chop Light, Tisbury, Mass.

December 1956

 

MOST EXCITING DAY

 

“We made the trip to Cuttyhunk Island to vote,” writes Emma Ponsart. “We went by the way of Menemsha Creek. Dave Jenkins came to get us in his small bass boat, the Bette Jane. It was a day like summer, so calm, and we went over there at some speed¾did it in a half-hour trip.

“We went to Capt Loveridges’ home and had quahog chowder and then to the Allen House on the island and had sandwiches, coffee and cake. Then it was to the Town Hall. We met Mr. Wood there, who owns the mansion on the island and also Mr. Forbes who owns the three Elizabeth Islands. We met many people, some we hadn’t seen in 10 years, and I think it was the most exciting day we had had in 12 years. We were talking to every one all at once.

“Our friends, Paul and William MacArthur, are down from the Pocono Mountains. We went to visit them on our way back from California. They own the prettiest mountain trail in Pennsylvania and land that overlooks the Delaware Water Gap.

“Kate Loveridge of Cuttyhunk caught a 16-pound codfish. I have given up tautog fishing by rod and reel as they are now offshore. I sure miss fishing for them.

“While on Cuttyhunk Island, we noticed an interesting plaque on a rock near Fisherman’s Wharf, a tribute to Bob Tilton, ‘The Island’s Best Conservationist, naturalist, speaker, fisherman, fish-story teller and all around “Good Joe.”’ We send our best to all the Maine folks.”

 

 

West Chop Light, Tisbury, Mass.

January 1957

 

RAISING GUINEA PIGS

 

“We are having real summer weather for the month of November,” writes Emma Ponsart. “Do hope it lasts as it will make our winter months go by faster.

“Our light tower looks so nice, a new sandblasted concrete job done and whitewashed brilliant white that should last for another five years.

“My husband is making lightship mats of every color on a frame that he used to make these mats out on the Hedge Fence Shoal Lightship.

“We have quite a few birds in our back yard. We throw out stale bread to feed them so they hang around. Our guinea pig, the gray one, is expecting baby pigs. Seamond has 10 guinea pigs in all.

“We were out to Sakgonekit Beach and picked the prettiest red swamp berries. I made nice bouquets of them for each room in the house. The beach is lined with wreck wood. The breakers roll in on it mountain high and I love to hear the echo of the sea.

“We went to look for frostfish, but couldn’t find any. Think the tide rip keeps them offshore. Hope all the Maine Coast folks have a Merry Christmas.”

 

 

West Chop Light, Tisbury, Mass.

February 1957

 

CHRISTMAS AT WEST CHOP

 

“So far, we haven’t had any snow, but tonight, the weather has dropped below zero¾our first really cold spell,” writes Emma Ponsart.

“Edward Rowe Snow, The Flying Santa Claus, came to the airport in his shining red airplane and brought Seamond a package, also one to us, and one to Mr. and Mrs. Fuller, the assistant keepers. Books were given out to the keepers who were not present. The Coast Guard received two packages from Santa also. There was quite a blow on and so it was necessary for him to leave almost immediately for the next stop, Block Island. Joseph Chase Allen, noted author and correspondent to The Vineyard Gazette, was on hand to greet Santa and discuss with him, his new book, The Vengeful Sea, printed by Dodd, Meade and Company, which came out just this fall. This book is filled to the covers with salty tales of how the sea claims its victims. Indeed, it is worth your time, for it is a chronicle of the ocean itself and concerns directly all of the folks living by the sea.

“You should see the island now. The Christmas lights add a festive sparkle to all the towns that sort of makes you want to sing when you walk down the streets. The stores are decorated to the hilt and one local enterprise exudates Christmas carols over a loudspeaker system each night and it really makes for a happy season. Worthy of mention here is the home of Mr. F. E. Leslie on Main Street in Vineyard Haven, which has reindeer and Santa riding the lawn as they would the sky on a snowy Christmas eve¾a salute to Mr. Leslie.

“My husband is making sailor mats. These are made of multi-colored string and yard. The process involved is long and tedious and somewhat like a loose weave. He became famous for this art while serving on “Old Number Nine” Lightship in 1929, as I have heard him relate, I think, a thousand times now. Well, I think they make nice Christmas presents anyway, in spite of the fact that my house is in a state of chaos from all the yarn and string.

“I hate to say it, but again the island is being invaded with seagulls on the beach that have been plastered with crude oil from the passing ships. This¾although we do have an abundance of seagulls here¾is an awful shame.

“The hunting season¾at last!¾is over on the island. Now we have time for a breather between whirring bullets and we can safely walk in the woods again with the danger of being shot at¾which was so even if you wore bright orange, a fuchsia coat or bright green earmuffs¾all at one time. The deer crop this year was less than last year, but perhaps that was because the deer were smarter than the humans. Speaking of hunting, we had four fat pheasants on our front lawn today and they didn’t even run when A.C. (sort of alley-kat) and my Tommy Tut ran toward them.

“We have a new addition: Blanche has arrived. Blanche is a pure albino week-old guinea pig. She is just the cutest thing in the world. Our alley-kat, Tommy Tut thinks so too! He eyes her as she prances around and is probably thinking what guinea-pig steaks would taste like. He had better change his mind before it’s too late though, or old Tommy Tut will get the “deep six.”

“Well, tomorrow we’ll begin to deck the halls and the tree too. I wanted to deck the tower with a big star, but my husband said that we are just supposed to guide the ships, not wreck them! However, I managed to get him to put lights in the living room and even that was a struggle because all he wants to do now is make sailor mats. Once a sailor, always a sailor. Anybody that served on the lightship from the years 1919-1929, drop my husband a line because he’d like to hear from some old shipmates: Write Octave J. Ponsart, Vineyard Haven, Mass.

“Well, this is all for now. Happy New Year to all the folks along the Coast.”

 

 

West Chop Light, Tisbury, Mass.

March 1957

 

LIKES MCF PICTURES

 

“Tonight, the fog signal is on,” writes Emma Ponsart. “It looks like more snow ahead of us. We have had one of the coldest winters in years.

“Seamond has been out ice skating a lot on the pond and has enjoyed skating this year more than any other winter.

“We were out to Katama Beach to pick up sea shells. But, we can’t seem to find any moiré shells of any kind. We have been painting on an old collection of shells which we have stored in the cellar.

“Our baby guinea pig, Blanche, is about grown up now. Only I have a job to keep dry bedding as the hay outside gets wet.

“We have three nice parakeet birds. My husband made a nice big cage for them. We have a talking peacock on the Victrola to see if they will learn to talk.

“I have many different birds outside and I throw out stale bread to feed them. We like to see them. We like to see them around. The sea gulls come up to eat and are very hungry and quite a few pheasants eat along with them and the other birds at the same time.

“I enjoy the Sunbeam letters in the MCF and I think it does wonderful work. I enjoyed looking at all the lovely pictures in the paper.

“We send our best to all the Maine coast.”

 

 

West Chop Light, Tisbury, Mass.

April 1957

 

SEA FOWL AND SEALS AT WEST CHOP LIGHT

 

“We were out to Katama Beach today and picked up seashells,” writes Emma Ponsart. “We have been painting sea shells with different scenes all winter.

“Seamond is going to Boston tomorrow with the school class just for the day. It will be a change for her as she has never been to Boston before. They will take the 6 o’clock ferry across. Frank Viera, the government carpenter, is here putting new doors on the Engine House.

“We had company over the weekend, Gene Beauregard, my husband’s chum was down to visit us. He came down on the Northeast Airlines plane from Fall River.

“Out by our beach are lots of sea fowl. Birds of every color and quite a few seals out on the rocks at low tide.

“We have a new parakeet bird. It’s all white in color. We put the new bird in a cage all by itself, afraid that the other two would pick at it.

“It’s getting colder tonight. Looks like snow. I hope we get an early spring. It’s been such a cold winter and I’m just waiting for spring to come so we can go up to Gay Head Pond to perch fish. It’s lots of fun to catch them.

“Sending our best to all the Maine Coast folks.”

 

 

West Chop Light, Tisbury, Mass.

May 1957

 

SPIC, SPAN AND BABO

 

“With the spring weather have come numerous species of our fine feathered friends that enjoy feeding at the rustic pine feeding station that we have in our yard,” writes Mrs. Emma Ponsart.

“Well, a famous author once wrote a story, ‘Pigs is Pigs,’ concerning the prolificness of guinea pigs¾and MY, don’t we know it! We have three new g.p.’s that are named by my detergent loving daughter, Spic, Span and Babo. They are so cute! Spic and Span are pure white albinos and Babo is half and half¾this ‘original’ name, i.e. black and white here and there.

“My husband looked out the window the other day to see our friend, Gulliver-the-Gull (a great black back) perch on one of our bird houses. The gull didn’t seem the least bit concerned that the house fell under his weight and suddenly he was left without anything more material than air on which to stand. He just flew away and tried to land there where the house had been. Some queer birds we have around here.

“We were driving around the island yesterday and decided to see what was going on at Katama Beach. Well, we were quite surprised to find that the beach is so rapidly regaining its former grandeur by rebuilding its contours from the last storms. Quite remarkable when one remembers what happened to the beach during Hurricane Carol.

“There is talk of stationing a Coast Guard Patrol boat¾an 83-footer in Oak Bluffs’ Harbor. Also, there will be the new ferry for Nantucket almost any day. The ferry is still in Maryland undergoing preliminary trial runs and tests of all sorts. We Vineyarders are a little jealous of this new wonder boat, but hope that the Nantucketers have just as good a ferry as ours is.

“Well, will sign off here, sending all our best wishes to the folks along the Maine Coast.”

 

 


West Chop Light, Tisbury, Mass.

June 1957

 

REGRETS LOSS OF SEAMAN’S BETHEL

 

“My husband went to Brighton Marine Hospital three weeks ago,” writes Mrs. Emma Ponsart. “He went off on a helicopter out of Woods Hole, the Air Force Base. I was up (Seamond and I) and spent Easter Sunday with him. The lighthouse is surely lonely without him. Commander Hauser of Woods Hole Coast Guard has been wonderful to us, as have Sullivan and the staff at the base. We can never forget their kindness to us. We have a Coast Guard boy here to take his place and he is a very nice boy. We all like him very much.

“The little Seaman’s Bethel of Vineyard Haven has been sold. It doesn’t seem possible that such a sad thing could happen. Mr. Tower, its chaplain, has been a wonderful man to the fishermen that come in, entertaining them, and we remember all the winter nights we spent there reading and passing an evening playing games and all the good things he did for the Coast Guard, the fishermen, and us sea and lighthouse people as well. I don’t know of anything that did as much good as Mr. Tower did in the Seaman’s Bethel and I can’t see why it was ever sold.

“I have planted a few flower seeds, but it is still cold nights.

“I understand there is a whale ashore on the south side of the island, but I haven’t seen it yet.

“We have many song birds in our bird houses. I was out to the beach yesterday looking for sea shells to pain. I saw some nice driftwood. I just get a book from Los Angeles, to learn how to decorate it.

“Sending my best wishes to all the Maine Coast folks.”

 

 

West Chop Light, Tisbury, Mass.

July 1957

 

GOOD BLUEBERRY CROP AHEAD AT TISBURY

 

“We are getting our spring weather now,” writes Mrs. Emma Ponsart. “But spring came late this year.

“We have many different birds of every color in our bird houses. We put our parakeets’ cages near the window so our birds can see the outdoor birds.

“The ferryboat going by looks so pretty all lit up at night.

“We haven’t been out fishing this year on account of my husband being ill. He’s still on sick leave. I guess it will take a long time before he is better.

“We haven’t many summer people on the island yet, but soon they will be coming along.

“My brother is out of Staten Island New York Hospital resting at home in New Bedford. Will be a long time before he can go back to his ship in New York.

“The wood ticks are thick out here at the light. We have to pick them off our three dogs every night. The dogs go into the water and that gets some of them off also.

“Looks like a good blueberry year. All the blueberry trees have lots of good-looking blooms.

“Seamond is learning to drive the car. So far, she has done well at it. She took driver’s training in school.

“We send our best wishes to all the Maine Coast folks.”

 

 

OTHER PEOPLE’S EXCERPTS: Hard to tell who wrote some of these and hard to read, too, but perhaps worth the recording as parts and pieces of lighthouse history.}

 

Cape Elizabeth Light Station

February 1954

 

SICK CALLS CHRISTMAS NIGHT

 

“In a few days we will be getting all mixed up on the dates again. I’ll be writing 1954 when it should be 1955,” writes Mrs. Clifton Morong. “This year has flown by so fast that I can’t figure out where it has done. The fleetness of the time is all right when you are young, but not so good as you grow older.

“We had a nice Christmas. On December 16th, Edward Rowe Snow, the Flying Santa Claus, flew over and dropped a package which landed down in the village. Some of the Coast Guard boys picked it up. Pictures were taken for television and that evening on the news over Channels 6 and 13 it showed Mrs. Snow being greeted at the airport with Mr. Stimpson and also his plane flying over this light and members of the crew at the lifeboat station running out and picking up the packages. It is very thoughtful of the Flying Santa Claus to remember us each year and we really appreciate it. On Christmas day we ate dinner at the lifeboat station and enjoyed -----------(article cut off here).

 

 

Halfway Rock Light Station, South Portland, Me.

 

FINE BUNCH AT DAMARISCOVE

 

“Well, Owen, I guess it is about time that we dropped a few lines to MCF and let your friends know that we exist,” says Carl “Sully” Salonick.

“There have been a few changes aboard the station since I was last assigned here. Forrest S. Cheney, BML1 has been transferred to the Portland Lightship and James R. Wilson, EN1 is the new Officer-in Charge. Assistant to Wilson is myself, Carl Salonick, EN2, and then we have two seamen who are James F. Gormley and Edward DeRush.”

 

 

Brant Point Lifeboat Station, Nantucket, Mass.

September 1954

 

NANTUCKET IN SUMMER

 

“It has been quite sometime since you last heard from me and many changes have taken place since then,” reports John Kittila. “We have had quite a turnover in our crew, mostly due to the expiration of the man’s enlistment and his being discharged to join the civilian ranks.”

 

COAST GUARD PAINTING MANUAL

 

“It is my privilege to announce that the Cape Elizabeth Light Station is now under new management, writes the new Officer-in-Charge, [looks like] W. J. Luttginham. All fellow light keepers are cordially invited to visit with us and enjoy our Southern hospitality. The present staff is composed of the [missing] states of Louisiana, Texas and Colorado. We have received, despite restrictions, limitations, budgets, and etc., to endeavor all possible [missing] within our scope to insure each and every light keeper visitor the most enjoyable stay ever, which under the present circumstances is only the most and the least we can offer.

“We have had a slightly eventful month consisting of an honored and unexpected visit by Captain Ned Sparrow, Chief, Aids to Navigation, USCG. Also, we had a thorough inspection by acting Group Commander, D.E. Farnsworth, which we are proud to say proved very satisfactory, considering the situation. Our fog signal house is now our prize feature as we have just completed redecorating the interior in accordance with the new progressive Coast Guard Painting Manual.”

 

 

Great Buck Island Light Station

October 1954

 

HORN NUTTY

 

Southwest Harbor, ME. “We’ve gotten settled so thought we would write you a few lines,” says Horace Smith. “We like it here very much. It seems so good to have electricity again, if only DC. The converter for the television arrived about two weeks ago and it’s working fairly good. We’re sorry to hear Jay Cope and his family are leaving for Baker Island. They’ve really been good neighbors. The weather has been nice most of the time since we got here. There was one bad fog spell that lasted about a week. The foghorn almost drove everyone crazy. Will close for now.”

 

 

Saddleback Ledge Light, Vinalhaven Me.

November 1954

 

SADDLEBACK TO BE UNTENDED

 

“Hello to all you wickies along the coast from Al Sampson. At present, Tom Maddocks is in Cincinnati, Ohio enjoying 30 days leave and a well-needed rest after the hurricanes. I was not here during the storms, but I can give you all the necessary data on the same. We lost the boat slip, the boom, and the house took quite a beating. Other than that, everything is ship shape. As you have probably heard or read, this light will soon be untended.

“Gene Lazaro will be leaving the Coast Guard in a month to be a civilian. Well, I’m not much for writing, so I’ll close for now. Tom will write you a longer and better letter when he returns. I would like to say hello to my friend and ex-shipmate Luther Witt aboard the Portland Lightship.”

 

 

Bass Harbor Head Light Station, McKinley, Me.

November 1954

 

$230 FOR CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH

 

“Many thanks for putting in the paper the part I wrote about the rug exhibit in Southwest in August. As a result, we had several rug hookers to the exhibit. It was a very good exhibit and well attended. Over 300 came during that afternoon and evening. We are able to give to the Congregational Church as a result of our rug making over $230. Thanks very much, from Eugene Coleman.”

 

 

December 1954

 

BELL TOWER MOVES

 

Cutler, Maine. “Here is a picture for the lighthouse news,” writes Mrs. Glenn Farris of Cutler. “It was Hurricane Edna that did the damage on the lighthouses along the coast. The two pictures show what the wind and sea can do when they are angry. The bell tower was moved 8 feet from where it stood so many years.

“The other picture shows where the bell tower tore up the walk and steps. I just stood in astonishment at the destruction. Large rocks and debris were halfway up to the dwelling. Also, many trees were blown down all over the island.

“Little River Light was my home for 19 years. Willie Corbett was the keeper from 1924 {might be wrong, hard to read this date} until his retirement in 1942. I am his daughter. He had a family of four boys and four girls. His wife died in 1946. He married again to Selia Dennison McNeil of this town five years ago. They live in his old homestead which is a quiet beautiful spot a half-mile from the village. Of course, his interests would be with the lighthouse keeper during bad storms. When I was a child, I used to love a storm but it makes a difference when you get older, that is, if you marry a fisherman as I did. Storms can destroy many traps. My father’s first station when he entered the service was Saddleback. From there, he went to Monhegan, Tenants Harbor and then to Little River.

“As I look back on my childhood days, they were happy ones. We children had to attend the schools in the village meaning we had to cross the water every day and take the dinners. Of course, that was fun for us, but I think of my mother, how hard she had to work for us, cooking [missing], washing, and getting our lunches ready. My father always kept a cow, hens and a pig. Some of our trips across the water were not too pleasant, but it didn’t seem to bother us much for we trusted in our father that we would reach land safely.

“I always enjoy reading the lighthouse news and the months seem long waiting for the paper to come.”

 

FROSTY MORNING WITH ICE

 

“Guess it’s time I wrote,” says Betty Holmes. “I seem to be neglecting things lately.

“Today is a fine day after all the hurricanes. Hurricane Hazel passed us, but Edna sure tore things up here at the light station. It washed our banking away quite a bit. A few more storms like that and we’ll be sitting right out in the water.

“There’s not much doing in Beaver this time, only that they’re coming along good with the breakwater. We saw Hurricane Hazel in Toronto on television. Guess it was pretty bad, especially the floods. I sure hope we don’t have any more. The weather has been pretty cool this morning being frosty and a little ice. I guess summer is over for another year. It just gets here then leaves. Will close for now until next month.”

 

 


August 1956

?? Brews Head Light – Beaver Harbour, N.B.

 

 

A PIECE OF A THANK YOU NOTE

 

Winthrop, Mass. “Mr. Don MacKay, Mr. Art Carthy and myself left Westport, N.S. bound for Winthrop, Mass. in a 38-foot sport fisherman built at Cape St. Mary’s N.S. Everything was fine until we were about two miles SE of Machias Seal Island Light when engine trouble developed. After seven hours and some worry due to the terrific tide and a small anchor and short line, we were sighted by Mr. Howard Ingalls the lightkeeper.

“The way he and his assistant, Wilfred Fleet, ran their dory down over the rocks and bucking a terrific tide bringing us an extra anchor and line then rowing back to radio the U.S. Coast Guard then rowing back to help us with the engine was something we shall never forget.

“The Canadian Lighthouse Service should be proud to have such fine and kind men in their service. They stayed with us until the arrival of a Coast Guard boat in charge of Wimpy Greelaw, who towed us until he was relieved of by BM1 Earl Purrington and Juan Cajandig BM3 of the Moosepeak Station at West Jonesport. We were towed to their station where we were fed and given a place to sleep and we sure needed it as we had not slept for two days. These boys were the finest and kindest guys we ever met. The boat is still at Jonesport being repaired.

“If you will report this in your paper, we will appreciate it. I feel that such great seamanship and kindness should not go unnoticed. Thanking you kindly, I remain,”

 

Richard H. Gardner

14 Atkinson Street

Lynn, Mass.

 

 

Fort Point Light, Stockton Springs, Me.

September 1956

 

CODY AND THE BELL

 

“Hello fellow lightkeepers along the coast,” writes Ernest Mathie. “Have been busy mowing lawns and trying to get the spruce green on the windows and doors. The weatherman has kept me mowing lawns on pleasant days when I should be painting. He is not at all cooperative.

“There are quite a lot of summer visitors around and the cottages on Fort Point Road are full. Colby Wardwell and family of Bangor are spending the summer at their cottage. The Robert Fosters and many friends are at their summer house for several weeks. The Clarence Costales and friends and the Mitchells and Hoyts will be along soon for their vacations at their cottages.

“Hoyt Chane’s three granddaughters made the headlines in Lubec, saving two young men from drowning. It took quick thinking and prompt work and much courage on the girls part to bring the victims safely ashore. He must be very proud of them and we are also. The time passes quickly and fall weather is here evenings. Our little garden has produced radishes, beet greens, and carrots with cukes to follow. The flowers have been beautiful, nature waters then.

“Our old dog, Cody, walked out and started pulling at the bell rope one day last week as a tanker was going in the river. She barked and seemed quite spry for an old lady dog when they saluted. She had an audience at the time and that is what she likes. Am looking forward to my fall vacation. Bye fellow keepers.”

 

A PIECE FROM MRS. MORONG

 

“We recently had more company all at once than we’ve had for a long time. First there was Mr. and Mrs. William Yost of Reading, Pa., and their daughter, Terry Lee. Bill used to be stationed here in the Coast Guard Station and lived in the house next to us, but now out of the [missing]

“On Wednesday, we spent almost one entire day on the beach in front of the lifeboat station, cooking our dinner of hot dogs and hamburgers over an open fire on the rocks. Present besides our own family were Mr. And Mrs. Gerald Morong, Mr. and Mrs. Bob Jones, Mr. and Mrs. Bill Hardy, Mr. and Mrs. McDonough, Mr. and Mrs. William Morong of Madison, Mr. and Mrs. William Morong, Jr, and four children of South Berwick, and Mr. and Mrs. Raymond Morong and three children of Peabody, Mass.

“A lot of people fish off the rocks, but I don’t think they catch anything. My husband has got a few traps out but lobsters are very scarce and so far we have only had one salad and one dish of stew. And there I thought we would have lobsters at least twice a week. Oh well, I can dream, can’t I?

“I would like to say hello to Mr. and Mrs. Wallace McLaughlin of Tenants Harbor. I hope you are both enjoying the best of health. I miss you and the games of “63” we used to have.”

 

 

Libby Island Light, Machiasport, Me.

December 1956

 

A WHITE CHRISTMAS

 

“Now that the Christmas season is here, the crew of Libby Island wants to wish all the readers of Maine Coast Fisherman a Happy Christmas and Happy New Year,” writes Walter W. White.

“Things are looking brighter, or should I saw warmer on Libby Island this winter. Uncle Joe Coastie has given us a new oil burner to keep us warm and cheerful this winter. We are waiting patiently for a new TV set, but we haven’t seen it yet. Maybe Santa will bring it yet, who knows.

“Now the weather is too cold to work outside and most of the inside work is done, how about a few suggestions of some hobbies to work on this winter from you or other wickies. There must be something besides duck hunting and reading, especially if you can’t read. There seems to be a lot of ducks, but they are flying far out of range for anything smaller than a cannon.”

 

ANNUAL FLIGHT

 

Editor, Maine Coast Fisherman

 

“I will make my usual trip over the Maine lighthouses and promise as in the past that every lighthouse keeper or Coast Guardsman who writes to me will receive a package.”

 

Edward Rowe Snow

 

 

February 1957

 

VETERAN LOBSTERMAN HEADS BAKER’S ISLAND LIGHT RENEWAL DRIVE

 

Southwest Harbor, Me. Clifford M. Robbins, veteran Southwest Harbor harbormaster and skipper of the lobster boat, Pansy L. Robbins, is heading a drive to have the Baker’s Island Light re-established. The light was discontinued in the fall of 1955, and a public hearing requesting its reactivation was held a year ago.

Petitions circulated among fishermen, lobstermen, and sardine boat captains have been signed and forwarded to the First Coast Guard District Headquarters, Boston, with the administrative details of the appears being handled by George B. Lauriat, Southwest Harbor lawyer. The CG commandant has reported that the matter has been forwarded to Washington for review.

Robbins has a special interest in having the light restored in addition to his concern because of its importance to navigation. In January 1900, he and his new bride took off for Bakers Island in a dory to set up housekeeping making the trip in the middle of a northwest gale.

 

 

Point Lepreau, N.B.

February 1957

 

FIRE DESTORYS POINT LEPREAU LIGHTHOUSE

 

The lighthouse on the end of Point Lepreau. About 30 miles from St. John, N.B., was struck by lightning during the story the last of December and was totally destroyed. The Black’s Harbour Fire Department succeeded in saving Keeper Donald Wilson’s home. The Point Lepreau Light, a few miles eastward of the village of Maces Bay, was an important Bay of Fundy beacon.

 

 


Machias, Me.

February 1957

 

SACK TIME IS HERE

 

“Now that I have moved into my winter home from Rocky Lake, will try to get a letter out to you each month, but there is so little to write about,” reports Ralph Demmons.

“Had a good fishing season and a poor hunting one compared with last year, although my partner and I cornered a 7-point buck which I shot. My old man got a 7-pointer also. The deer were not shot in their usual feeding grounds and when you did find them, they were mighty foxy. The partridge season was better. Hunted with a dog for the first time and did really well.

“Have my boat at home for repairs. Will put on new outside garboards next spring.

“I plan to use a 3.4-inch oak over marine glue and shellac to break ice with next fall. I powered the old barge with two 5 HP Sea Kings last summer and though it increased the speed very little, it sure gave power to go to windward.

“Will re-build my engines this winter and plan on going into business next spring. I’ll guide as long as I can make expenses.

“Will try to cut wood and ice as soon as weather permits, and move into summer quarters as soon as the ice goes out¾as usual.

“It is sure tough to have to sack in for these next three months, but may get ice fishing once in awhile.

“I hope all the wickies had a good Christmas and will have a prosperous New Year.”

 

 

April 1957

 

MORONGS TO TRY CIVILIAN LIFE

 

“Here were are all settled in our [missing] rent at Pond Cove¾have been here since the first of January,” writes Mrs. Clifton S. Morong, of Cape Elizabeth. “It is a cozy place but I do miss looking out and seeing the broad expanse of the Atlantic Ocean from almost every window, hearing the shrill cries of the sea gulls when I wake up in the morning and breathing in that invigorating salty air that comes off the sea, especially when it is foggy. Now that the snow has practically disappeared and the air is more spring-like, I would like to be able to walk along the shore picking up the odd pieces of driftwood or stuffing my pockets full of unusual rocks like I did when I lived at Two Lights, but I live too far away for that now. However, I do have some consolation. From my bedroom window upstairs, I can catch a glimpse of the ocean and Richard’s Island and at night I can see the flashing light of the Portland Lightship.

“Pond Cove is about four miles from Two Lights and the schools, town hall, library, fire station, drug store, two grocery stores and two filling stations are all here. It is also the end of the bus line from Portland, so the children and I are handy to everything.

“The light at Two Lights is certainly deserted now, with nothing but empty buildings there. It is too bad to see those nice houses falling to pieces and such an old landmark as Two Lights abandoned [missing].

 

 

Squirrel Point Light, Phippsburg, Me.

May 1957

 

NEW OFFICES

 

“All quiet along this section of the Kennebec,” writes C. A. Skolfield.

“During January, we had a lot of drift ice in the river; since then, very little. Now, it looks as though most of the ice above us would rot out, rather than break up and come down.

“Chief Sims of the South Portland Base installed an electric radiotelephone in what used to be the pantry here. Since then, we’ve taken out the old counter and closets and rebuilt the room for an office.

“It is a lot handier than having files in one place, books in another and desk and typewriter in still another, but the office work is still the same old headache.

“Haven’t done much hunting this winter; my partner couldn’t come over very often and I’m down to two dogs, one of those 14 years old. He still likes to go, but he can’t cover ground much faster than I can. The few fox I have seen this winter looked to be in good shape. Hope they have the disease wiped them out, and that they will stage a comeback.”

July 1957

 

MYSTIC MUSEUM PUTS OLDEST REGISTERED YACHT ON EXHIBIT

 

Mystic, Conn. The oldest yacht in Lloyd’s Register has joined Mystic Seaport’s fleet of exhibit vessels. In late years, this sleek white steam launch with her fringed canvas awning has been known as the Glory B., though originally named Nellie. George B. Lauder of Greenwich, Conn, her most recent owner, has given her to the Marine Historical Association. She is now on exhibit at the Mystic Seaport.

Nellie was built in 1872 at the Atlantic works in East Boston. She is 30 feet overall and powered by a single cylinder steam engine. For a time, she was operated on Lake Winnepausakee, NH, following an earlier history at Portsmouth, New Haven, and Guilford, Connecticut, waters which were more familiar to her in her later years as Glory B.

 

EPILOGUE: These letters, excerpts and articles demonstrate there was once a way of life that will never be experienced again. Gone are most of the Congressionally appointed Keepers, gone are the Coast Guardsmen that followed them, gone are the last vestiges of the U.S. Lighthouse Service. Memories have faded, articles and letters have yellowed and are difficult to read. The last memory of life on a lighthouse will soon be extinguished and fade forever into the past.

 

Seamond in New Bedford 1999

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