Digest>Archives> February 2000

Lifestyle Change


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Milton Odell at age 78 from a 1937 newspaper ...

A young Milton L. Odell made a major career change, from being a cowboy to becoming a lighthouse keeper at Virginia's Cape Henry Lighthouse. Just how this dramatic change happened is unclear, but from a 1937 interview it appears the change was an unexpected thrill of a lifetime that greatly increased his standard of living.

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Milton Odell from an circa 1880 photograph ...

In that interview, he said that before too long his salary was $820 per year, plus he had a house to live in, fuel, and some of his food. As a cowboy, he only made $5 per month.

The interview, conducted by a local newspaper, was to honor him for returning to the Cape Henry Lighthouse for the celebration commemorating the first English settlement in America, a ceremony which he helped start many years before.

The celebration was originally created by the crew of the lighthouse and the life saving station when they decided something should be done in honor of the first landing of Jamestown settlers. They decided to hoist an American flag on a old flag pole near the lighthouse as a token of respect and in memory of those old Jamestown settlers.

The problem was . . the flag pole had not been used in two years and they didn't know if the pole would hold the weight of a man climbing to the top. So, since Odell was "light and wiry," as he described himself, it was he who climbed to the top with a halyard for the flag.

Odell remained in the Lighthouse Service for approximately 12 years and then left the service to pursue a successful career in real estate in Washington D.C.

This story appeared in the February 2000 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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