The keeper was responsible for lighting the lamp at sunset, ensuring that it remained lit throughout the night, and extinguishing it at sunrise. The lamp needed to be filled with fuel daily, and the wick trimmed regularly. The Fresnel lens and lantern room windows had to be cleaned and polished every morning. Keepers were required to shine and polish all of the brass, sweep the floors and stairs, and clean tower windows and sills as needed. They also cleaned, painted, and repaired all of the buildings, including the keeper's dwelling, chimneys, privies, outbuildings, and the tower itself. In addition, keepers were required to maintain all mechanical equipment, weed walkways, paint and maintain the fence, and see that the grounds were presentable. They kept a log book, recorded weather readings, and kept an inventory of all equipment. Keepers were forbidden to leave the light station without permission, and were considered to be on duty 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They even provided visitors with tours of the lighthouse as needed.
And, as Cheryl Shelton-Roberts & Bruce Roberts point out in their book, Lighthouse Families, "One of the biggest jobs in maintaining a lighthouse [was] painting the tower...." In the book John Gaskill (1916-2013), son of Vernon Gaskill (1889-1984), principal keeper of the 170' tall Bodie Island Lighthouse (by comparison, the Ocracoke Lighthouse is 75' tall), relates climbing into a "paintbox" attached to the lighthouse's catwalk by hooks and ropes. The painters worked their way down, scraping and painting (white and black paint mixed with zinc, lead, linseed oil, and turpentine). It "took as much courage as they could muster."
It was not a job for the faint of heart!
|Photo by Jarek Tuszynski*|
*Jarek Tuszynski / CC-BY-SA-3.0 & GDFL [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Common.
This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is an article about one of the early July 4th Parades written by Alice Rondthaler in 1953. It is accompanied by vintage photos.You can read the Newsletter here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news062116.htm.