Thursday, July 29, 2010


There have been 8 ships christened USS Enterprise.

I got a history lesson in the last few days as I prepared to write this post. I looked up the history of ships named Enterprise and found out about balloons and blimps and America's Cup winners. I read about the "Old Gray Lady" of World War Two fame, seemingly on the job at the most important moments of the Pacific War and victorious in those moments. On humanitarian missions and in battle, an Enterprise has served the citizens of America going back to the Revolutionary War. The name might prompt thoughts of a star ship or of the space shuttle but it was an old and honored name long before those references gained hold.

This research was prompted by a visit from the family of a sailor who comments regularly on this blog and is currently serving aboard the Enterprise out of Virginia. Patrick grew up in Cohasset, had the good sense to marry a Scituate girl, and in each note his appetite for the stories of this place has seemed to grow. I love that I can bring a glimpse of home to someone who clearly has it on his mind all the time. When Stacey, Ryan and Emily visited they brought me the hat you see pictured below. We loved having them and watching them drink the place in to share with Dad later. The hat will find a happy home here and I look forward to the day when Patrick and I can have our pictures taken wearing the matching lids. We loved having this family visit us and look forward to their return soon.

Anchors Aweigh, my boys, Anchors Aweigh.
Farewell to foreign shores, We sail at break of day, of day.
Through our last night on shore, Drink to the foam,
Until we meet once more. Here's wishing you a happy voyage home!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Glossy Paper

Hot off the presses.

Julie discovered that our long awaited appearance in South Shore Living magazine is on the shelf today. There are several amazing photographs from our friend Jack Foley and I was given the chance to write the article. I haven't had a byline since I was in college so this was a real thrill. The issue also contains an article on local fishermen including Frank Mirachi. John Galluzzo has an article on walking around the South Shore in the spirit of Thoreau and there is focus on all that Scituate has to offer commercially.

The photographs are spectacular. Jack is a genius who was able to capture the joy of this place for us in print. We thank him and the South Shore Living editors for the glossy paper treatment.


Houses can be archaeological sites.

In the past week I have opened up three windows long painted shut here at the Cottage. I started with the window in the room we use as a TV room. Once a part of the original west wall of the cottage, this window was painted shut at least three colors ago, perhaps four. Currently yellow, this window gives evidence of blue, green and white paint and those clues send you back in time.
I highlight this window on Open House days as it was a part of the story that I did not know when we first arrived. (I had thought it a decoration Ruth used to make the room seem bigger.) I never gave it a thought that the house as I had known it had been built in phases.

The second window was the window at the new west wall, next to the chimney for the oil burner. I had opened a window in that wing last summer on the door side of the utility room but thought I could get a true cross breeze now that the interior window had been opened. This project took some patience. There can be no hurry in an archaeological dig. I worked at it slowly with razor blade, paint scrapper and the tap, tap, tap, of a hammer. Half way through I found that it was nailed shut and that the cord on the left looking out had been cut away. This window had the white paint that matches the others currently, a brownish tan interior and hints of green and a dark brown at the lower strata of paint. More evidence of time and work in a room that is a great number of colors.

The third window is one of the living room windows. I had opened the right most last summer and chose to dig in on the left Sunday. Again patience was the key. This window was heavily weighted with silicone to insulate it and I needed to take off the aluminum storm window to get at it. The razor was the chief tool and then the scraper was used to break the paint seal. A drop in screen tucked into the freed storm window completed the job.

Along with the investigation of the paint colors what I was really doing was using our experience with the winds here. This has been a relentlessly hot summer. We have seen temperatures in the sun of over 120 degrees. But we have also learned the winds and now it is possible to get a breeze from the east, south, and west and to have that breeze sweep through the downstairs. The north breeze is only available through the bathroom window which always opened but was blocked by a pull down shade. I swapped in a mini blind and now there is a wind chime in the kitchen that tells us if there is a north wind. You can check the flag and figure out which room will give you the most relief. As I write the wind is from the south. The curtain in the living room is pushing at the back of the bench and I can feel a little of it on my legs.

One thought I had while I worked was that opening these windows moves The Cottage closer to its original condition than it had been for a while. In the early 1840's this cottage was criticized by Keeper Osborne as a, "miserable, leaky, smoky, and uncomfortable tenement." I have made it leaky again but it is far from miserable or uncomfortable and no one smokes inside. Two hundred years and a lot of paint later there are still stories to uncover layer by layer. There are two more windows to open too; a little one in the kitchen and another in the utility room by the oil tank. The kitchen is on deck for the weekend.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Who Needs Vegas

A Jackpot, a historical jackpot has come in.

Yesterday morning Julie received a call from Virginia Bates Hale, the great, great, great, granddaughter of Simeon Bates, the first Light Keeper of Old Scituate Light. Rebecca and Abigail Bates had twin brothers named Ruben and Joseph and Joseph was Virginia's great, great grandfather.

Virginia called to say that her family wanted to donate a spyglass that had belonged to Joseph and Julie arranged the time. At two o'clock promptly we met Virginia and began to unravel the connection. Duncan Bates Todd joined us and she and Virginia caught up with each other and clarified the tie to the Cottage and to Simeon, Rebecca, and Abigail. Virginia brought photographs of four generations of Bates men, beginning with Joseph's son, Joseph Irving Bates (1832-1905), his son, Louis Frederick Bates (1864-1956), his son, Clinton Irving Bates 1895-1995, (Virginia's Dad) and ending with Virginia's brother, Clinton Irving Bates (1925-), a New Hampshire resident now and a true genius in wood working judging from a magazine article Virginia shared with us.

Then we got around to opening the package. Closed, the glass is 21.5 inches long. The barrel is wood and looks most like walnut. Open, the glass is 36 inches long. The optics aren't perfect but there is no problem bringing a boat passing the end of the small jetty completely into view and having it fill the eye. There is no obvious maker's mark on the barrel. The glass weighs about 4 pounds using a bathroom scale. There is a heft to it. You can almost smell the salt air and feel the waves crashing, while imagining Master Mariner Joseph Bates using it to check for whales at a distance or simply for home port. It is a remarkable thing to have been donated back to Scituate where as a young man, Haley's age, Joseph Bates would have played and worked and perhaps, slept, in the very room I write from now. Who needs Vegas? There is treasure enough here in a Monday morning phone call.

Our deepest, most heartfelt thanks go out to Virginia Bates Hale of Quincy, Clinton Bates of New Hampshire, and especially to Marjorie Bates Harrington of Colorado Springs, Colorado who received this glass from her father and with staggering generosity has returned it to Scituate.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


First a bride.

Julie took these photographs yesterday and promised the bride I would put them up. This couple managed to dodge the rain that finally arrived offering small relief to brown yards and sunflowers that are so close to opening.

This week reversed the adage - it went from hottest, to hotter, to hot. There were some tough nights for sleeping, even here where there is always some sort of breeze. Early in the day Monday a thermometer in the kitchen read 122 degrees outside. The bulb sits just outside the kitchen window and the sun pushed it toward melting. Getting a hose out across the parking lot to all the islands was a priority and I had help from several neighbors. These gardens continue to prosper and the perennials that have been mixed in look like they will make it. The second year will see very hardy plants along with the potential to split some down and get greater yearly coverage. Five of six new rose bushes have shown terrific growth. The sixth still has a chance if I pare off some old growth. The sunflowers along the runway are getting very close to bloom. If I can keep them watered the fall brides will have the back drop I was shooting for when those seeds went in the ground.

Sunday afteroon I was in a kayak 125 yards off shore looking back to the beach. Haley was out there with me chatting up boaters at anchor. As I looked back to the beach I saw a young man running onto the beach from the parking lot. My first instinct was that there was trouble of some sort and I began scanning the beach for what it might be. There are falls on the jetty all the time and there is always the risk of someone diving unaware of the shallows. I then noticed the young man looking up and taking pictures.

It was the flyover arranged by the Legion Post to commemorate the Fourth of July. Amazing, astounding, thrilling, moving, and more than a little frustrating as I routinely bring a camera with me when we go out to paddle. I had left it ashore knowing that the battery needed to be recharged. I was in the perfect position to capture these four fighters as they passed over the Tower. All I could do was join the boaters and the beach goers and offer my applause.

The good news is that the young man I saw running was part of a photographic team that was covering the event for the Ledger. There are photographs and some readers will have seen them this week in the paper. The Legion Post will be offering this image for sale shortly. It will be a must have as who knows when such an opportunity will be afforded again.

In the middle of the week I worked on an ongoing project for the Society. Julie and I began an inventory of the artifacts here at the Lighthouse. The shot included here is a detail from the Bates Family bible.

A catalog is being created for a number of reasons and we get to play our part. The next stop is the GAR Hall and then it is onto the Little Red School House. I will be bringing some of those photographs back to a later posting so check back. There is one image from the School House that I have been dying to post here. It is a shot of the Light from first cliff that predates the building of the small jetty.

On Thursday I had a chance to fufill two wishes, one of some guests and one of my own. My aunt let me know that there was a group of visitors from Kansas who had a tremendous interest in Lighthouses and asked if I could take them through. I met the group and found that tremendous was an understatement. The day before they had taken a cruise out of Newport where they saw ten Lights in two hours. We had a great visit and one of the girls had her yearbook photo taken here. All day long I had lines from the Wizard of Oz going through my head; "We're not in Kansas in anymore..."

Later that afternoon I go to go to the top of Lawson Tower and help wind the clock. Haley came with me and these are her pictures that follow. Trustees Steve Litchfield and Tucker Paterson have been part of the team that winds the clock for several years now and they offered an opportunity I have wanted since I saw the Peter Whitfield production on Lawson Tower three summers ago. I had only been inside Lawson Tower once before, when the late Paul Miles took me up and showed me some of the elements that make it unique. The Society has done a tremendous job creating and developing a landscape project that includes a plaque describing Mr. Miles contributions to maintaining Lawson Tower. There is even a Lawson Rose in the mix. That plaque will be unveiled on July 18th at noon prior to the Society opening the Historic sites generally for the first time this year.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Difference

Last Saturday I figured it out.

The Lighthouse cruise took off from the Town Pier loaded with enthusiasts that included Haley and me. There were stops at Minot (more on that down the page), Graves End, Boston Light, and the Nantucket Lightship at anchor in Charlestown.

Graves End was spooky and we witnessed the laws of nature with a seal diving for and munching back a fish for lunch while we took in the Light. There was a brooding quality - the name gets you there - and I had a sense that this was a place you could set a credible mystery and make the setting a player in the story.

The Nantucket Lightship was just plain cool. In my childhood I had a post card of it framed and hung in my bedroom. I can't tell you why I thought this was fitting. I just know I liked it then and like it now. The imagination can put you on that ship in a storm. The tinging of the hull, the bounce side to side, sailors holding on, maybe lightning. It is good to see the ship getting some attention and not being lost to time.

Boston Light is placed on the most amazing colored stone. Our guide for the day, true expert Doug Bingham, shared that this light sits on a geological fault line. It is hard to believe anything could move that beautiful stone. For forty to forty five weeks a year the Keeper there, Sally Snowman, lives cut off from shore, her groceries delivered by boat along with everything else she needs to work and to live. This is a quiet place, stolid; it must be brutal in January and February.

Though I am getting to it last in this post, it was Minot's Light that really fired me up when we visited. The captain was able to get us amazingly close to the Light and I found it incredibly exciting. The Historical Society has shown interest in the Light since the Federal Government put it up for sale. Part of that process was supposed to include an inspection of the inside. Some images of the inside have been shared and Minot is a granite silo separated by levels with grate platforms. I want very much to be in the group that gets to inspect it further but safety concerns make that unlikely. We were so close the other day that the ladder was calling to me like a Siren. I was ready to jump right out and swim over.

I found out that very few of my fellow cruisers wanted to make that trip with me. To them the ladder looked treacherous and the idea of being alone inside terrifying. I would have gone up there in a second and posed like King Kong on the Empire State building. (I love Photoshop) Maybe someday.

On the ride back to Scituate I figured something out. These other lights gave off an air of mystery and of danger. My light, Old Scituate Light doesn't. While across time there were surely dangers here, Scituate Light is not off putting; it is welcoming, encouraging, beckoning, a far more powerful Siren to far more people than Minot was to me. The number of visitors daily and weekly and monthly are beyond counting.

In any given hour there might be someone sitting on the wall in front of the Light. Last Sunday as I got up to get ready for the Open House there was a father and child walking up the walkway at 5:00 am. I know I had heard voices at 2:30 am when I got up to to check windows and doors and lights. (Insomnia is a blessing for all the things you can get done) People are there now and will be there tonight at midnight and that is only part of what sets this Light apart.

You can get here, you can learn the history of the place, you can talk to Jules or to Haley, you can walk your dog, check out the flowers, (Thanks to Erin for watering by the way), maybe see a news crew checking out rumors of a shark, (Haley had an exchange with a very witty man that had them speculating about the stories they could fabricate for the news; Haley got it to the point where the shark had come up on the beach and eaten a dog), we had three neighbors helping another with a flat tire last night, car shows, parades, photographers, videographers and wedding parties, (same sex and mixed), there was a man dressed as a woman taking pictures last week and saying that they would be shared on the Internet. We have swimmers, fisherman, kayakers, bikers, joggers, the romantic and the reflective and the party hardy.

I know none of the other lights have this bustle, this traffic, this life. That is the difference, the special nature of Old Scituate Light.
The first Open House of the year was last Sunday and we were as pleased as can be to once again have Donna Elias and her husband Les join us. Many people visited and enjoyed Donna's work and many will be hanging new pictures or receiving new pictures as gifts. We got a waste basket, a tooth brush holder and a shower curtain as our upgrade. For those of you who might have missed Donna and her work check out the link on the right side of the blog. We hope to have she and Les back next summer, hopefully for Heritage Days.

We had a great number of very young kids come through Sunday and it was a blast to interact with them and move them toward an appreciation of the historic. One of the points I try to make regularly when we have the tours is that with technology what it was it is something of a miracle that any of our old places have survived. Placing coals under a straw bed to stay warm at night is a risky business and that I am able to sit at this desk when night after night that was done here by all the different residents until relatively recently is pretty amazing.

I was also made a gift of a CD by the recording artist Greg Cherone - The Songs of Scituate - I did not get a chance to thank him properly but I was thrilled to get it. Greg has a song about our Army of Two and about the Old Oaken Bucket. All the profit from sales of these CDs goes the the Scituate Historical Society.

Let me use this space to thank my cousin Susan for stopping by and bringing her wonderful friend Eleanor. The tried and true Peter and Barbara Whitfield helped out and Peter put in overtime for which he will receive no pay. Maureen Upton took her post selling raffle tickets for her legendary quilt and helped us sell some T Shirts, books and postcards. They all have our most heartfelt thanks for making the day fly by and getting the stories told.

Getting the Work Done

A lot is in place for the summer and that is the result of many having put in some time. Lets start with the boardwalk. It remains a very ...