Digest>Archives> August 2009

Wickie’s Wisdom

20 Years Plus 200 And Counting

By Timothy Harrison

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It’s hard to believe that it has been 20 years since the big celebrations around the county on August 7, 1989 were held to honor the 200th anniversary of the federalization of our nation’s lighthouses.

Probably the largest event held at that time was at Portland Head Lighthouse in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. The event included the removal of the last lighthouse keepers and automation of the tower, turning the lighthouse over to the local community. The big event included a flotilla of ships, Coast Guard vessels, the Lightship Nantucket and many local and national dignitaries. However, with all the planning that went into the event, the former lighthouse keepers and descendants of the keepers or their families were not invited to the event. Obviously, this upset many in the lighthouse community.

Since then great strides have been made in this country thanks to many dedicated people who have founded many local and national groups dedicated to saving lighthouses and their history.

While most of these lighthouse groups operate openly with member participation and communicate their efforts with others within and even outside their groups, there are still some that remain overly protective of their territorial bounds or are fragmented from the rest of the lighthouse community. Such was the case, again, at a recent event held at Portland Head Lighthouse, when a nonprofit, two federal agencies and a State of Maine agency, held a dual lighthouse event where only a select few of the media and a few people were invited. Not invited were the general public, including lighthouse aficionados and even members at large of their own organization, or other lighthouse groups, who are the real people who support this group and all lighthouses nationwide.

Even though we’ve come a long way in the past 20 years since that event on August 7, 1989, it appears we still have some way to go.

In the meantime let’s keep alive National Lighthouse Day to honor the men and women who made a difference staffing our lighthouses since the founding of our nation and before and now those who continue in their volunteerism at all lighthouses everywhere. They are the ones who are really making a difference.

This story appeared in the August 2009 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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