Digest>Archives> Sep/Oct 2016

The Beer Barrel vs. The Big Brass

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Cape Blanco Lighthouse as it once appeared. The ...

Editor’s note: There are perhaps hundreds of interesting and humorous stories that have been passed down about life at the lighthouses. This one was told to Jean Hayward Wilkinson by her mother, Estelle, and took place at Oregon’s Cape Blanco Lighthouse where her father, Orlo E. Hayward, was the lighthouse keeper from 1933 to 1943. Here’s the story. Dad came running into the keeper’s house where Mom was in the kitchen.  He was pretty frantic and in a hurry to tell her “The Big Brass are Coming, The Big Brass are Coming today, so pour that beer out cause they will be here soon.”

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Some of the U.S. Navy personnel who were ...

And then he left to go make sure his log books were in order and everything else was ready for inspection. 

Mom said she thought a minute and then said to herself that this beer is ready to bottle today or tomorrow at the latest and what a waste it would be to pour it down the drain, especially with the money and time invested. 

The beer was in a wooden barrel with metal stays around it, so Mom found a large bread board that fit perfectly across the top of the round barrel, then she covered it with a big white sheet, which draped to the floor, covering the entire barrel. 

The beer smelled very “yeasty” and it permeated the kitchen, so Mom started making yeast bread and let it rise so that the yeast smell from the bread blended in with the yeast smell from the beer. 

Well, the Big Brass arrived and inspected the lighthouse and went through the recordkeeping books with Dad.  When the inspection was complete, Dad brought them into the house for the keeper’s wife to provide them with coffee and cake or something, which was customary to do.

Mom had chairs around the sheet-covered beer barrel and the Brass and Dad were seated as Mom filled their coffee cups and brought out the fresh baked bread, home churned butter from the cows at the lighthouse, and huckleberry jam that Mom had made.  When the Brass finished with their first helping, naturally Mom asked if they would like more, and they did.

The Brass stayed much longer than they usually had in the past, and all that time they kept complimenting Mom on the wonderful bread, butter, jam, and great coffee too.  Mom was extremely pleased with the compliments and the visit.  Finally, the Brass gave their thanks and said they had better get going, and they left. 

As soon as they were off the grounds, Dad told Mom “I’m sure glad you got rid of that beer, I’d have been a nervous wreck if you hadn’t gotten rid of it.” Upon which Mom proceeded to clear off the breadboard table, removed the sheet tablecloth, and then pulled the breadboard off the barrel and told Dad to “go get the bottler and let’s get this beer bottled!”

Mom and Dad thought that the enlisted boys would enjoy having a bottle of home-brewed beer this coming Saturday, talking about how they believed that they were hard working fine men and deserved a Saturday night treat. 

Obviously, Dad told Mom that he was glad that he didn’t know anything about the beer still being in the barrel at the time of inspection or he wouldn’t have been able to control his nervousness with the Brass, which just might have caused further inspection of the keeper’s premises. 

The beer was bottled and, come Saturday night, it was enjoyed by all.

This story appeared in the Sep/Oct 2016 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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