Digest>Archives> March 2008

A Long Time Ago At Long Point Lighthouse

By Norman Joseph Poindexter


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Norman Poindexter in 1949 in his floating playpen ...

It was the end of winter in 1949 when my father, Joseph Richard Poindexter, had about six months left in his stint in the United States Coast Guard. He was stationed in Boston, Massachusetts at that time. He was asked if he would be interested in finishing his Coast Guard career as a lighthouse keeper at the remote Long Point Lighthouse near Provincetown, Mass. Apparently it sounded intriguing to him, so he accepted and off we went.

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Although Norman Poindexter was to young to ...

My mother, Pearl Ann, my father and I arrived at the lighthouse in March

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At four months old Norman Poindexter rests ...

of 1949. I was four months old at the time and of course I don’t remember anything. However, my mother has recounted a lot of stories about the activities around the lighthouse.

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Long Point Lighthouse as it appeared when the ...

As with any remote light station the keeper’s wife would assist her husband with many of the duties and such was the case with my mother. Since this was the era when many lighthouses were being automated, the government wasn’t putting much money into the structures. When my parents arrived at Long Point Lighthouse, the station was somewhat run down and many repairs had to be made.

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After having to row for supplies, in 1949 the ...

Government regulations at that time and even perhaps now, can be strange. If my father wore his uniform while performing his duties he would get paid more at the end of the month.

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Pearl Ann Poindexter said living at Long Point ...

When my parents first arrived at the station they had a rowboat that was used to row across the harbor to Provincetown to get supplies. Finally the Coast Guard supplied them with an engine for the boat to make it easier for mother to cross the harbor. Then, as now, many visiting tourists are unaware of the changing tides and people would get stranded out at the lighthouse when the tide came in. So, my mother would load them in the boat and ferry them across the harbor safely to shore.

At the time there was a large keeper’s house at the station, which was connected to the lighthouse tower by an enclosed walkway. Mother and Dad worked as a team to paint the lighthouse, as well as the tower. General maintenance was needed to keep everything in good shape, especially in this area, which is exposed to all the harsh elements of wind, sand and salt air.

My father built a floating playpen for me. Mom would drag it down to the shore, put me in it and push it out a short ways into the water. With a rope tied to the playpen and the other end around her ankle she would sit there on the beach and watch me play. From the pictures, I must have loved every second of it.

Relatives from Boston came in the summer to visit us. It must have been like been like a private resort. We were only there until Sept of 1949. Dad’s tour of duty was over and we moved to Missouri, a long way from the Atlantic Ocean and Cape Cod.

We believe we were the last family to live there before it was automated. My Mom is 78 years old and to this day she says that the experience of living at the lighthouse was the best time she ever had. Interestingly, I actually didn’t find out that I even lived in a lighthouse until a few years ago when I found the old photographs. I ask Mom all the time about her memories of living at the lighthouse.

Last August we took a trip back to Cape Cod to visit the area. Mom didn’t recognize too much. After all, nearly 60 years had passed and a lot had changed and sadly, the keeper’s house where we once lived was gone. But it was still a thrill for my mother to see that the lighthouse itself was still there and now under the good care of the Cape Cod Chapter of the American Lighthouse Foundation.

Hopefully we will make another trip back to Cape Cod in the near future and actually get out there to the lighthouse and be able to walk around it.

Jim Walker, Chairman of the Cape Cod Chapter said that he believes that I am the youngest surviving person to have lived in the Long Point Lighthouse. The house was torn down in 1952 when the light was automated. I’ve been told that the foundation of the house can still be seen in the ground.

I am working on a plaque dedicated to my father for being the last lighthouse keeper at Long Point Lighthouse. Jim Walker has assured me that he would be honored to display the plaque on an interior wall of the lighthouse to preserve my family’s heritage and history at the historic Long Point Lighthouse.

This story appeared in the March 2008 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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