Flying Santa began visiting Lighthouses and Coast Guard stations in 1929. We welcomed here to Cedar Point today around 2:30 this afternoon. A great crowd was managed perfectly by the Scituate police and fire department and no one went home with out a smile. Julie's photographs are below. I will be adding in some video taken from the ground and from the Tower later. You will want to check back to see the sweep of the helicopter as it delivered Old Saint Nick to Old Scituate Light.
Santa arrived roaring out of the sun from the south and circled Lighthouse Park and the Light twice before swinging into place in the center of the parking lot. He was met by Betty Kincaid and Dave Ball of the Cedar Point Association, and then Julie, Haley and I were feted with glorious gifts just as the keepers of the most remote Lights once were. A bag filled with fruits and nuts and sweets to tide us over through the long winter ahead. I can guarantee we will not fall prey to scurvy here! I also received some amazing photographs and documents connected to the history of the Light. That package was signed Ebenezer Osbourne though. He was last seen serving here in 1849. I will need to figure out if I have a ghost story here after all.
Attending to Santa was Dolly Bicknell, the daughter of the New England icon Edward Rowe Snow. She shared some thank you notes that her father held onto, including one from Scituate Keeper Jamie Turner. I was even more thrilled when she passed those on for me to scan for the Historical Society. You see Dolly with Santa in the second to last photo above.
The kids were in awe of the helicopter as much as they were celebrating the visit of Father Christmas. It was one elegant bird. Below is a shot I got where you have the technology of today in the foreground and the technology of the past in the back. There were more dials in there than you would see in a nuclear reactor. Some kids were able to climb in for a minute or two and have a picture taken. I doing that next year for sure.
Curiously we ended up with a zillion candy canes once again. Either Haley has sticky fingers or Santa was even more generous than last year. Stacked together you would have one very long barber pole.
Check back in a day or so when I get the video edited and see for yourself the rush that this event brought to Cedar Point once again. Every day here is a gift and this one had many, many bows on it.
I noted last week that I had my hands on a wide angle lens to take a shot on behalf of Google. I took some others too that will give you a peek at the Cottage layout.
Remember that you can click on any image for a larger shot.
Next Sunday we have the annual visit from Flying Santa taking place here at 2:30 in the afternoon. An earlier notice had said the date was Saturday but the rendezvous has been put back a day. This is always a thrill for anyone who visits Cedar Point or who lives here. Cross your fingers that good weather will welcome the Jolly Old Elf to the Jolly Old Light.
Last week Google's Cambridge office contacted the Historical Society with a request for a photograph they could duplicate for a wall size poster.
I looked through what I had and I sent a shot on. The response was a request for a wide angle, high definition image. I set out to get one.
First I had to visit our neighbor Linda who had the wide angle lens I needed. A trip to the top of the Tower though revealed that I had some work to do to make that lantern presentable. Birds get in there from time to time and they leave their mark.
I started by disassembling the lantern. I brought it down stairs where I gave it a scrubbing. This set of images shows you the before and the often asked question about the size of the bulb. The next set you see is the lens apart and reassembled.
With the lantern back in place I turned my attention to the windows. I have cleaned them all four or five times now and it was a perfect day to go outside for that chore. The wind was down and the squeeqee/towel combination took the brine right off. The prize here was this great shot of First Cliff in the reflection.
Working up there also let me adjust the web cams and rework the wires. I wrote about moving the cameras in the last post and you will want to check in there when a storm is on. The look North is a great shot that includes the ocean and the drive off up Rebecca Road.
The three shots I sent to Google are below. Let me know which you would choose in their shoes.
The final chore of the weekend was to meet my obligation to hang a Christmas wreath on the Tower and on the house. I am pleased to say I was able to do it on my own this time and do it right the first time. A photograph of the Tower with a wreath was described to me as an iconic Scituate image. Come on down and get one for yourself.
Thanks to Ronny and Cindy Simon of R&C Farms for the beautifully assembled wreaths. Consider them when you are shopping all year round. Drop by the Little Red Schoolhouse too and check out the cards, books, and other items for the holidays. Each purchase helps the Historical Society in its mission of education and historic preservation. The Schoolhouse is open 10-4 Monday to Saturday.
Have you checked out the web cams lately. I have made a move.
Taking the suggestion of a neighbor, I took the Harbor Cam and pointed it north. The harbor has emptied out for the winter and the action in the upcoming season will come from the northeast the way it always does.
Just today there has been a significant spillover and the road is once again filled with seven or eight inches of rocks. Fred Flintstone time again here on Cedar Point.
The camera is set so that it is possible to watch the clean up that just began. As I was typing I heard the sound of a front end loader begin its scrape across the roadway. If you were clicked into the camera you could watch it live.
To give you one last look at the harbor I have put together a time elapse video that begins in April and ends in early November. Watch the moorings fill up and empty out again by clicking this link.
I have done some research into a camera that could be controlled on line to pan and zoom. I hope that just after the first of the year I can bring something like that on line.
I would love it if the word went out that checking in with these camera was the way to check out the waves. About a month ago now I saw five people knocked off the seawall by a rogue wave, all of them older than I am. Drenched and embarrassed, but thankfully not hurt, they made their way back to their cars. One woman may have voted for Truman in 48. She should not have been where she was. The cameras are a remedy for that. I get queasy thinking about the day when someone does get hurt out there.
My father regularly described his academic success in these terms, "I belonged to the half that made the top half possible." Watching people watch the waves makes me think he would have a great deal of competition today. The bottom half gets bigger with every storm. Tell them about the cameras before someone, especially a kid brought here by a dense parent, finds him or herself in the water.
Back in August the Utility room here at the Lighthouse went under the surgeon's knife. Needing more than just plastic surgery, this room had been the neglected Cinderella of the house since 1930.
Take a peak at this link to a You Tube video to watch the transformation. Then click back to read the rest.
The project had a great number of challenges. There needed to be a coordination of efforts on the part of the general contractor, the plumbing contractor, the electrical contractor, and the heating contractor. Working around an historic site was another. Each party had to be aware of the potential to discover a relic or a clue to how the room was used over the years. We had evidence of the store on site in the records from the twenties and thirties. We eventually found a LaSalle Club Orange Soda bottle cap and a advertisement for Schraft chocolate. The Schraft sign was an astonishing find as I was digging below the floor. It somehow survived there more than 70 years. There was also evidence as I noted in an earlier post that the room had been a cobbler's shop.
I also found several names carved into the wall boards and the studs. Iggy and Belz had a dart board and Vareika's ace foreman cut out those boards for me while working on the shingling of the western wall. You will see that next time you visit along with a piece of sheet rock I cut out from the years that George Downton was marking the storms and the cats here at the Lighthouse.
The name Roy was also carved into that same wall and a little digging revealed that in the 1920 census Roy Spear lived here with Captain Cushman. Roy was the brother in law of Cushman's daughter and he and his family were listed alongside the Captain's as boarders. I am thinking the Belz noted above was a nickname for Ellsworth Spear.
The biggest find of all came when Wood Electric needed access to a stairway that had been blocked off when insulation was added to the cellar floor in the mid 90's. I had been told to leave that door alone, but when we had to open that path for the project I jumped at the chance to take a few pictures.
While taking my snaps of as old a door as there is in this place, I noticed that the stairwell walls were lined with cardboard. Peeling a piece back I found printing and my adrenalin began to climb. Retrieving a staple puller, I popped out light nails to reveal movie posters from the Satuit Playhouse. I eventually uncovered seven of them, four in pretty good shape. A quick trip to the Google machine uncovered that the August in question was 1945. These were posters from the week the Second World War ended.
In the last few weeks that stairway has been reworked into a closet. My brother in law took on the task for us and gave us a way to tuck a few things behind a door when the need arises. Deciding to retrieve the last of these movies posters I found another one. A week earlier, different movies, and a date that no history teacher forgets: August 6, 1945. Hiroshima. The Atomic Bomb.
Though not in as good a shape as the prior finds, this one will share a spot in the renovated room. The stories we have to tell are growing still.
A major part of this project was the replacement of the heating system. Shawn Harris Enterprises arranged for the donation of a boiler, an oil tank, and an indirect water heater for the Cottage. We are ever grateful to Shawn and to Smith Boilers and Roth Tanks for their generosity. 190 feet of copper were used in the rebuilding of the heating system. Having researched the burst pipes that Betty Foster and her family lived with here, this upgrade was 30 years over due. What had been a mess of crossed and corroding pipes is now akin to a perfect copper sculpture.
I can say the same about the work Tom Galligan and his plumbers did on their side of the job and Charlie Wood and his right hand, Charlie B. on the wiring. There was Knob and Tube in the walls of this room. Prior to this project I would have told you Knob and Tube were an 80's Punk band, but I found out that it was an old and currently (pun intended) dangerous kind of wiring. The junction box that was created to clean up this mess is a plain masterpiece of organization and efficiency. I was dazzled as I watched him work on it. We were very fortunate that Charlie was available as our neighbor Jerry Houghton originally was awarded the job in the bidding and had to withdraw at the 11th hour when he broke his wrist.
The room also had the floor taken up, planed and finished and reset in place. Above is the diagram that the star of the whole project, Vareika foreman Chuck, drew early on and worked from as the floor came back in. The floor is amazing now and a review of the video at the top of the post would prove me out. What was a blueish gray painted floor, in part covered by a white vinyl tile and an odd navy mesh rug, is now a glowing in the afternoon sun pleasure to slide across in your stocking feet. If the restoration did only that it would have been stunning. The ceiling was raised roughly 6 inches, light fixtures were found that fit the period when the room was once a store, new wall and trim colors went up, our washer and dryer were united side by side in a new spot, as at the start the washer was against the shingled wall and the dryer in the corner by the electrical panels. Current codes have that as a no no and I was thrilled to bring them together as a Siamese match.
What had been an eyesore and a hazard is now a room we can enjoy, work in, and use to teach the story of this amazing place. I have already brought a bunch of books into the house that I had dragged away to storage. Through the hurricane of late August and the subsequent power outage, through the looney tune wedding guests who came strolling up the walk to use the damned Porta Potty, through the unexpected need to replace half the roof when we discovered ceiling boards drenched through like sponges, through the search for a plasterer who could abide the regulations that came with the job, through the who knows how many welds it takes to snake 190 feet of copper and the patience of pulling wire after wire to a new destination, through the fun of speculating just what secret the place would spill in a given day, the project was never boring and always teaching. What's next in year 201? Check back here to find out.
Late in August Carolyn Bearce approached the Historical Society with an idea and a painting.
Mrs. Bearce offered the painting as a prize in a fundraiser for the Lighthouse. Sales of tickets began with the Lighthouse Anniversary Dinner and continued through the last Open House last Sunday. My sister Lee gave the jar a shake and pulled the ticket just before 4:00. Marie Sullivan of Scituate was the winner and she picked up her prize on Tuesday afternoon. Julie did the honors with the camera while I made the hand off. The Society wants to thank all who participated and offers its collective congratulations to Mrs. Sullivan.
Preparations began early for the last open house of the season. Running the vac, hiding the sweatshirts, laying out the few things we put on sale each time, setting up the renovated Utility room to serve as the gate, these things take time and as a result we missed the big crash.
This was the scene at 12:40 when I finally made it out of the house in an attempt to drop Haley off at the Bates House on Jericho Road where she was going to volunteer today. An errant driver, (ya think), had put his car up on the seawall and it became the event of the day. He was not hurt badly as when he was removed from the car there was not the sense of urgency one might sense if there was a critical injury. He can be seen here on the right of the frame, his neck immobilized and the EMT's readying to move him to the ambulance. I was only a few feet away as they rolled him down the sidewalk and would describe him as a 50 plus gentleman who had one of the worst days ever. And wait for the bills to start rolling in.
Black humor emerged along with speculation as to how one could have arrived by car in such a spot. "Maybe he needs a new GPS." "Doesn't he know you can't drive to Dublin?" "Is that the new Ford Escape commercial?" The truth of the matter is likely to be a lot less funny. The fence that forms an angle with the handicap parking spot was clipped by the car before it did its Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang act. This could have been much worse if the usual crew of bicycles and baby carriages had been in the neighborhood. I don't know enough physics to figure it out, but he had to have been flying.
The story then shifted to how in the world were the authorities going to remove the car from the wall. Our tours had begun by then so I was cut off from most of the on the spot reporting. Julie and my sister Lee picked up the slack.
Having decided that the first flat bed truck sent to remove the car would not be adequate, those in charge shifted to the heavy lifters. Here you can see them rigging the car.
And at last it was up and off the wall.
Kudos to Julie for working her photojournalistic magic.
The highlight of the tours today was a visit from a couple related to the third light keeper Ebenezer Osbourne. They brought information that indicates that one of Keeper Osbourne's sons was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his service in the Civil War. William Henry Osborne was wounded at Mulvern Hill, returned to the battle despite his wounds, and was wounded terribly a second time. While the couple were here I was able to check the census records for 1840 and saw there that Osbourne had a son of the appropriate age. It is another example of how each day this building pulls out another remarkable Scituate story or connection. I thank Ms. McKenna for her contribution.
With luck there will be a heating system in this cottage once again on Tuesday. The renovation is quite close to its finish and I am eager to get the giant pod out of the driveway.
I am even more eager to be rid of the Porta Potty. Last weekend, while Julie and I ran out to move the laundry from washer to dryer, an entire wedding party came up the driveway, turned the unit in order to use it, (I had turned it so it was blocked from use,) and rattled Haley with the racket they made.
I came back and thanked them profusely as they sat in their bus waiting for the bride and groom to head onto the reception. I thanked them again and again for ignoring the four different signs that mark the property as private, and for having the nerve to move the unit, and mostly for thinking nothing of spooking my kid. I told them they were a wonderful bunch of guys who probably thought of themselves as brilliant.
It was not the first time I thought that some members of a wedding party were only invited in order to be sure that they weren't going to break into the house of the betrothed. What happened to being a class act? Three weeks ago a young man walked into the house at 3:30 in the afternoon, in a tuxedo and with a beer in his hand. I turned him around and muttered down the driveway that there are all kinds of stupid out there.
I wonder if any of those guys owns a Ford Escape in need of some repair.
The blog has been on the back burner for three weeks as one project after another has captured my time. The clubs I advise have been put on their feet at school, a new responsibility there has required some attention, and the ongoing renovation of the utility room coincided with preparations for the Lighthouse Anniversary dinner.
150 interested friends gathered at the dinner on Friday September 30, 2011 at the Barker Tavern. I was especially pleased to have so many of the former Lighthouse families have their work and affection for the Light acknowledged by an audience. Representatives of the Bates, Waterman, Prouty, Cushman, Cole, Abell, and Gillis families were presented with Certificates of Gratitude for their service. Other families not in attendance will be sent theirs through the mail as soon as we can get solid addresses.
One of the highlights for me was having Haley offer a toast.
I started with a lighthearted look at the many carvings you can find in the Tower. It was an icebreaker that worked. Who knows maybe Jennifer Lopez has visited the Light?
From there I was off on the history I have researched. I will offer the same thanks here that I offered last Friday night as this project was very much a pyramid and was built by many hands.
"First, to Dave Ball who handed me this ball and has let me
run with it. He is the expert and I am
To Betty Miesner and to Carol Miles I am grateful for their
digging into things I could not get to or did not know existed at all.
To Chris Hall, Jesse Morrell, Connie and Laurie Abel, Betty
Foster, and the local history belles of
the Town Archives and Town Library. I hope
that they recognize that by their sharing of their personal memories all of us are
To my cousin Joan who came through with more gifts from
To all the Trustees and Volunteers of the Society for
putting up with my learning curve.
To my own Army of Two - They have given their time and put
up with me talking to myself. No good
thing happens without them."
I have considered all sorts of things I would have liked to include in the talk. I should have done more on the Blizzard of 78. I should have asked if any of the other families had anything to share. I might have offered some of the unexpected stories I have shared here, of singing Light Keeper songs and being sea sick in bed for instance. Coulda, shoulda, woulda, is not really my style but I think a great deal is still out there to be said at another time.
Several noticed that I said little about the Army of Two. In 2014 we will remedy that.
We had the unexpected happen in the midst of the talk when an audience member was taken ill and the Scituate Fire Department was called in response. They were the epitome of professionalism as always and the audience managed to be enormously sensitive to this misfortune and to my presentation at once. Kudos to Paula McCloud who managed the evening for the Barker Tavern. She was a smiling grace under fire throughout the episode.
Another highlight of the evening was this photograph of former Light House residents gathered in front of the Barker Tavern fireplace. All those years ago the land for the Light was taken from Mr. Barker. You could say we gathered at his house to celebrate all the events and people that followed from that. Thanks to Kate Leary for this photograph.
The other track I have been following is the renovation of the utility room. I have a battery of photographs that cover that story and I will be posting them when there are no more trips to the laundry mat, no more tourists eager to use the porta potty brought in for the construction crew, no more twists in schedule that push back the completion date. The work looks spectacular and I can't wait to revise the manner in which we introduce people to the Cottage during the Open House days. I have learned a ton about that wing and a great deal has been unexpected. Some things I have shared earlier but there are a few new turns that for now will be left mysterious.
We have been extremely fortunate to have a great guy here throughout the project as foreman for Vareika Construction. He is extremely averse to having an attention turned his way and as a result I won't name him here. What I will do is state as clearly as I can that this guy is the best of the American working man. He earns every dollar and the work is going to hold up a long, long time.
We have been doing without heat as the new boiler is to be installed late in this coming week. There were a few nights this past week when we were truly roughing it here. The efforts of the turn of the century Jetty Light Keepers, Prouty and Cushman, became that much more admired when you could see your breath in the bathroom while shaving. Could that be why they had beards?
The last Open House date for the year is next Sunday, October 16, 2011 from 1:00 to 4:00. All the Society sites will be open. Of particular notice is the opening of the Stockbridge Mill for the first time in 20 years. This is the oldest working mill in the United States and millwright Andy Shrake is making a special trip to Scituate to help the Society run it. You will not want to miss a chance to see one of the most basic of technologies, and one of the most important, in action once again.
A year ago I offered a brief video of a brilliant day here on the Point. Today I offer this sky.
At the other blog I posted some remarks I was asked to give to the faculty and students of my high school. Check them out for a lengthier treatment of some fundamental ideas.
We will not forget and our ability to marvel at the sky and laugh with our families and share this place in all the ways we do is more evidence that even when our hearts are broken we find a way to thrive in our day to day joys. No enemy can take that from us and each day we live so well we reveal those fiends as liars.
Are you planning on attending the Lighthouse Anniversary Dinner?
If you are and will not be able to get to the Little Red Schoolhouse between 10-4 Monday through Saturday, drop me a line at email@example.com to let me know how many tickets you would like to reserve and what you menu choice might be. You can choose from rump steak, chicken marsala, or herb crusted haddock.
Send your name, a contact phone number, and your choices. I will take it from there and get back to you to figure out how we can exchange your check for these oh so valuable ducats. You don't want to be left out of this birthday extravaganza for Scituate's favorite historical site. Lets hear from you today.
I have been watching some real dummies here in the last few minutes.
One guy was texting as his daughter kept skirting toward the waves. He was not paying anything like attention.
Another couple took their dog a third of the way out on the Jetty. She had flip flops on. On Friday I had to call 911 when a gentleman took a fall out there on a perfect day. He had New Balance on. Just a dumb move on her part to event think about being there. If either one of them had gone in there was nothing to be done.
Lots of cameras have arrived. The wind is making focusing impossible but they are trying. The surf is starting to go sideways and more of it is airborne than before. Parents continue to walk up with 45 pound children. Not the best of ideas today.
The web cams are working. There is a limit to how many people can be viewing them at one time though so you may have to check back. Right now the Harbor does not look all that stirred up and the Jetty is where the action is. I may go up and make an adjustment to them to get more of the show on camera.
We are several hours from the big wind. There are people all around the Light and the parking lot. I have seen at least two kids in their pajamas and one lady who nearly had her dress whipping up like a reversed umbrella. It was not Marilyn Monroe and the Subway from Seven Year Itch; it was more like Karen Allen fighting her way through the cob webs and the mummies in Raiders of the Lost Ark. I am sure I will see more like it and I am waiting for the TV trucks to return.
Channel 5 gathered a crowd in front of the Tower last night. I was working at the desk when I noticed all sorts of people stopped and milling around on the seawall in front. Haley had gone out to retrieve the cat (one of these days I need to write about the cat)(Inexplicably, I have a cat.) and she filled me in when she got inside.
Not as many cameras as I expected from the crowd gathered now. A few holding on to their hats and their families as they navigate the sidewalk. I have reporter in the the little courtyard taking notes with a mother and daughter and he is getting a few frames. Former Selectmen Andy Zilonis just went up and back too. Julie tells me the parking lot is pretty full. A red hat just came flying back towards this window from the area of the Tower. And there is the guy who was wearing it scuttling along trying to catch it. High Tide is about 90 minutes away. I'll be back later to report.
Thanks go out to the many callers and guests who have expressed concern during the last few days about the upcoming storm and our prospects here. We are prepared.
The flags came down two days ago and the lightest of the furniture in the yard has joined the grill in the runway. Water and batteries and a new crank flashlight/radio (with an alarm button Haley seems to enjoy) have been stock piled. Anything that needs to be charged up has been charged up, phones, computers, Ipods, electric screwdriver. I have planks if I need planks. We are good to go.
An usual twist has been that there is a great big storage container in the driveway for the household items that normally are wedged into the Utility Room. That came in handy for rafts and the like. The renovation of that room began this week and so far so good is the summary. The archaeology of the project has revealed a painted on dart board with the names of Belz and Igge, a bottle cap from a LaSalle Club Orange Soda, several pieces of old leather and a boot heal nailed to the wall above. The other items are pictured below.
I had never heard a word about the Utility Room being used as a cobbler shop, until Monday morning when plumber extraordinaire Tom Galligan threw it out as a given. He said one of his brothers told him. We did know of it being a store and I went to Town Hall Wednesday and tracked down all the store licenses from 1925 to 1939. The 1928 license is below.
Notice the list: "Ice Cream, confectionary, soda water & fruit." Bernice Cushman held the license until 1937 when Cora Cobbett took it over until 1939.
Another story confirmed is that the wing once took fire. At several points charring was discovered and this confirmed a story told to me only a few weeks ago. A one time neighbor, Joe Arena, shared that his father once got Jamie and Jesse Turner out of the Cottage after a lightning strike. The boards are on the floor behind me as I write. Between that and the old wire in place, and countless other opportunities for the match to have struck, it is a flat out miracle that we are having this birthday.
One last note on being prepared for the storm ahead while construction is taking place. Tonight, in what was a first for me, I used ratchet straps to lash a Porta Potty to the Storage Container to offer some protection against it tipping over in the wind. Ratchet straps and Porta Potty; I never dreamed I would ever use them in the same sentence.