Monday, February 27, 2012

Children & Lighthouses

Blanche has told me several times that Wesley Austin, Ocracoke Lighthouse keeper from 1912-1929, enjoyed giving people tours of the lighthouse. That, of course, was in the days before Ocracoke became a popular tourist destination. He especially liked showing the tower to island children. Lela Howard (Blanche's sister) and Lela's playmate, Virginia Howard (both were born in 1911), would visit the lighthouse every Fourth of July after they were about eight years old. Wesley greeted them and invited them to climb to the top. From the lantern room the children would crawl through the access door onto the balcony, then sit on the ledge with their legs hanging over the side. What a spectacular view they had!

If the above story makes parents cringe with fear, consider the following account by Dorothy Gaskill from the book, "Lighthouse Families." Dorothy Gaskill is the daughter of Vernon Gaskill, Sr. who was Principal Keeper of the Bodie Island Lighthouse from 1919-1939.

"We used to climb over the railing [of the catwalk] and walk on the ledge -- six or seven inches wide at the most -- and lean out hanging onto the railing. Of course this was without our parents' knowledge!"

How times have changed.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the Civil War on the Outer Banks, Josephus Daniels, Jr, Secretary of the Navy during WWI, and his connection to Ocracoke. You can read it here:


  1. debbie s.9:55 AM

    as a mom who was a daredevil child many moons ago ... this made me smil and i could SO see my kids (ok, my son, my daughter is a fraidy cat!)doing this if they could! lololol

  2. Anonymous9:58 AM

    I agree, Debbie.

    The picture Philip painted of two young kids sitting on that balcony, legs dangling, enjoying what must've been a spectacular view, evoked such a strong sense of that...whimsy...that makes for rich childhood memories.

    Always a pleasant read here, Philip. Thanks.

  3. Anonymous11:33 AM

    Has anyone ever jumped off the lighthouse or fell from it? What was that guy thinking why was he willing to be responsible for the lives of those children. a fight could have broke out someone could ave developed vertigo At that point in time what entity would have been responsible if an accident occurred? Was it coast guard property Navy was it in his job description to give tours in his capacity as a light house keeper? I find this story incredible.

  4. To my knowledge, no one has ever jumped or fallen off the Ocracoke lighthouse. The only case I know of where someone jumped off the Cape Hatteras lighthouse was in 2003. You can read the story here:

    Years ago one of the lightkeeper's duties was to give tours of the lighthouse.