In the March/April 2017 edition of Lighthouse Digest, we published this art work that had been found in the 1970s rolled up on the floor of Alaska’s abandoned Eldred Rock Lighthouse by Coast Guardsman Paul Christian.
The drawing shows a young Coast Guardsman and a depiction of Eldred Rock Lighthouse with these words:
Welcome to Eldred Rock
Bar & Grill
The artwork was signed by J.L. Garrick, SN and it was dated May, 1969.
With almost no information to go on, and after a little detective work, we were able to track down the artist of the 1969 drawing. Needless to say, he was quite surprised when Lighthouse Digest historian Debra Baldwin contacted him about the artwork he had drawn 48 years ago.
The artist is Joseph L. Garrick, who, as a young man, enlisted in the United States Coast Guard on August 1, 1969, and was first stationed at the Westport Radio Station and Lighthouse in Westport, Washington (Grays Harbor Lighthouse).
After serving a stint on the Coast Guard icebreaker Staten Island, he was sent to Juneau, Alaska to serve as a relief lighthouse keeper at three different lighthouses: Cape Spencer Lighthouse, Point Retreat Lighthouse, and Eldred Rock Lighthouse.
Joseph L. Garrick spent four months at Eldred Rock Lighthouse where had lots of spare time on his hands. Although there was plenty of reading material around, reading put him to sleep, so he spent his spare time doing other things, such as teaching himself to play pool on the lighthouse pool table and doing some wood working. But he also liked to draw, and whenever he saw something he liked, he would try to draw a photo of it. Often times, without art paper, he would draw on anything that would be suitable. In the case of the “Eldred Rock Bar and Grill artwork, it was drawn on the back of a large brown government envelope.
One day a boat had some engine trouble by the lighthouse and the crew asked for help. The engine man assigned to the Eldred Rock Lighthouse offered to make repairs.
The folks on the boat had liquor onboard, so Joseph Garrick offered to throw some steaks on the grill and make some fries in exchange for their sharing some alcohol with the lighthouse crew. To the delight of the young Coast Guardsmen stationed at the lighthouse, the wife of the man from the boat was quite attractive. With the three female-deprived Coasties fawning over her, the man had his hands full protectively looking out for his wife. It didn’t take long to fix the boat, and soon the couple was on their way.
That night while thinking about the interesting day he had, Joseph Garrick came up with the idea of the artwork, which he appropriately titled “Eldred Rock Bar and Grill – Island Paradise” because, for that brief time in 1969, the lighthouse, to the three young Coast Guardsmen, truly was an island paradise.
Whether on purpose, or by accident, when Joseph Garrick left Eldred Rock Lighthouse in 1969 he left the print behind. When the lighthouse was destaffed in 1973 and boarded up by the Coast Guard, the print was left behind, rolled up, lying on the floor in the abandoned lighthouse until it was found in the 1970s by Paul Christian, who picked it up and saved it for the next 40 some years. He recently donated the original to Lighthouse Digest.
When the Eldred Rock Lighthouse was closed, the Chilkat Valley News (a newspaper in the nearby Haines, a community of about 1,800 people) wrote, “Haines has been made more isolated than ever before from its nearest neighbor to the south. A cold lifeless lighthouse stands guard amidst the whims of wind and weather in the Lynn Canal. The most important facet of this facility in gone: the human observer.”
But back in 1969, to three young Coast Guardsmen, for a very brief time, Eldred Rock Lighthouse was an “island paradise” memorialized forever in a print by Joseph K. Garrick, a young Coast Guardsman with some artistic talent.
This story appeared in the
Jan/Feb 2018 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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