Digest>Archives> May 2002

Lighthouse Children’s Diaries Series: “Grandma Loves Lighthouses”

By Janet Bauer


Sitting in the RV after we finished packing, Grandma said, “Well Chris tomorrow is the big day.” I didn’t say anything and she asked me if I was happy about going to visit a lighthouse. I thought that it probably wouldn’t be as exciting as my airplane ride from Phoenix or watching a baseball game, but I told her I thought it would be all right. After all, I’m visiting my grandparents and I guess it is only polite to go along with what they want to do. Since Grandma loves lighthouses I suppose she thinks that I would too. I really don’t know much about them except what she tells me about the people who lived and worked in them a long time ago. She even mentioned that some have stories about ghosts. I’ve seen the pictures she paints of lighthouses and my mother has grandma’s paintings at home in a room full of ocean things. I’m only eight and I haven’t seen much ocean. Maybe Mom caught loving the ocean from grandma and now they expect me to catch it too.

Grandma said, “Come in the house, I have an idea that may make your trip more fun.” She searched around in the closet and found a scrapbook. It was filled with drawings and notes that were made by my mother, aunt and uncle on one of their vacations. Since I like to draw, I decided that it might be fun to start a diary like theirs of our trip. Grandma put together a bag where I could keep crayons, paper and anything else I might collect on the trip. I’m beginning to think I might enjoy this “adventure” as grandma calls it. I will start my diary tomorrow.

July 17 - We got up early and drove a long way from northern California, where my grandparents live, to Bandon, Oregon. It was more interesting than what I usually see in Arizona where I live. About all I see there is just desert with a lot of sand and rocks. Here there are big mountains with pine trees and lots of streams and lakes. One huge mountain we passed even had snow on top of it. My Grandpa told me it was Mt. Shasta and was about 14,000 feet high. I looked at my foot and tried to imagine 14,000 feet. It was hard to imagine even 10 or 20 feet. I’ll bet it would take a long time to climb to the top but it would be worth it, because you could probably see all of California from up there. When we arrived in Bandon we ate in a restaurant at the harbor and looked out the window at the fishing boats. There was a lot of seafood on the menu but I felt safer having a hamburger. I’m not real excited about fish except for tuna sandwiches. Grandma said I should try new things, but thank goodness she didn’t push the fish on me. Grandmothers usually are easier on you than mothers. After eating we drove to the RV Park. We crossed a bridge over a big river. The RV Park was near the ocean but we couldn’t see it because of all the trees. My Grandma told me that the RV Park was part of 11 acres of land that originally belonged to the lighthouse. Now they are telling me about acres and I don’t even have the feet straightened out in my head. I suppose it will make a little more sense to me when we drive to the lighthouse tomorrow. My Grandpa and I made a campfire and we all roasted marshmallows after dinner. When we were quiet we could hear the ocean waves and I think it even smells different here. I can’t wait until tomorrow when we will see the lighthouse and the ocean.

July 18 - Today we visited the lighthouse. It is right on the Coquille River where it meets the ocean. That is why they call it the Coquille River Lighthouse. It seemed like it was a long distance to drive to the lighthouse, so I decided that 11 acres was a lot of land. As we wandered about the sand dunes, we looked across the river and saw Bandon where we ate yesterday. I tried to imagine what it must have been like to be a child and live here. I looked at the lighthouse and couldn’t imagine a family living in that little building. Grandma explained that there used to be other buildings where the families lived and that this building only had the light, a foghorn and equipment that kept them both working. The house and barn were no longer here, so we looked around the dunes to see if we could find any proof of where they had been. I was disappointed since we couldn’t find anything but I had a lot of fun climbing on the huge driftwood that storms had washed up on the shore. I wish my brother and sisters could be here to play. We could make great forts with the driftwood. The wind and ocean must get pretty wild here to push all that driftwood up so far onto the land. Even today there was a lot of wind and beautiful big waves. Seagulls were everywhere. Grandpa took a picture of one standing on one of the pieces of driftwood. They did not seem to be afraid and allowed you to get close to them, but not close enough to touch. I found some pretty stones on the beach. I’ve always liked rocks and stones. When I started picking up the stones, my grandma told me how I used to fill my pockets with rocks from her garden when I was very young. I would bring them in the house to show everyone. Grandma said my pants would be hanging down to my knees and she was always fearful that they would fall off and deposit the rocks on the floor around my ankles. I still collect rocks and will take some home to my brother and sisters and of course some for me. After we had looked around outside we went up the stairs and into the lighthouse. I’m glad the lighthouse wasn’t the keeper’s home as it was very cold. There were pictures on the walls that told us about the lighthouse and shipwrecks. We couldn’t go up in the tower. I figured that the tower was where there would be a ghost, if this lighthouse had one. I wasn’t too scared as it was daylight, but I did feel weird when we went in the building and the wind made some strange sounds. I asked my Grandma if this lighthouse had a ghost. I was disappointed but also a little relieved to know it didn’t. I did learn that a light remains in the tower, but it is automatic and doesn’t need a keeper to light it anymore.

July 19 - We visited a museum today and learned more about the lighthouse. I saw a picture of the house where the lighthouse keeper lived with a barn and a boardwalk from the house to the lighthouse. I’m still trying to imagine what it would be like to live so long ago with no TV or movies or Little League. Grandma said it just took longer to do everything that we take for granted. They had to grow their own vegetables and saved food for the winter in jars. They even had their own chickens for eggs and cows for milk. She told me that the people who lived at this lighthouse were very lucky because they were close to a town to buy supplies they needed. The children were taken across the river to school in a boat and families would take it on Sunday to go to church. That sounded like more fun than taking a school bus or driving to church. I suppose it wasn’t all fun since the girls had to help with taking care of the house and the boys helped their father with lighthouse duties. I guess you can’t get away from chores and I’m sure they must have had homework from school. In some ways their life was like mine but without all the modern things we have. I also wondered how much work it must have been to keep all that sand out of the house. Whenever I’ve been at a beach or playing at the park near my house, I always come home with sand in everything. Mothers do not like sand in their houses.

July 20 - On the way home Grandpa drove and Grandma read to me from a book called Bandon By-The-Sea that she bought at the museum. It told about all the shipwrecks that happened because of the dangerous water near the lighthouse. It’s a good thing they were smart enough to build a lighthouse to prevent some of those accidents. Not only were there shipwrecks but also there was a terrible fire that burned up most of the town of Bandon. The keepers and their families helped many people during this fire. They certainly had a lot of interesting things happen to them. Except for this trip, I haven’t had many exciting things happen in my life. Although I like excitement, I suppose it is easier to read about other people’s lives especially if they had to live through a fire that destroyed their homes and town.

Grandma asked me what I thought about my visit to the lighthouse. I told her I had never thought much about all the things that happened before I was born. This visit made me think about all the different jobs that people used to have that aren’t here anymore. I wondered what lighthouse children would think if they could come and see all the things we have now. Grandma told me that there are some people who lived in lighthouses who are still alive today. These people have told their stories so that we would understand what lighthouse life was like. I asked Grandma if she would take me with her when she visits other lighthouses. She laughed and said it sounded like I had caught “lighthouse fever” too. She surprised me by telling me that I had just written a story in words and pictures with my diary. Now I can go home and share my trip with my family and maybe they will start loving lighthouses like grandma and me.

This story appeared in the May 2002 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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