Digest>Archives> November 2004

Lighthouse Memories


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A 1920s photo of Arthur and Inez Ginn taken ...

Although lighthouse keeper Arthur Edward Ginn passed away in 1964, some of the memories of his family’s life in Maine lighthouses are remembered from stories told and passed down to his granddaughter Suzanne Clark.

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A Coast Guard’s old photo of Maine’s Mt. Desert ...

Ginn was stationed at a number of Maine lighthouses such as Boon Island, Mt. Desert Rock and Cuckolds Light.

Daughter Ethelyn who passed away in 1993 recounted some of her memories over the years that were vividly remembered by Suzanne such as the schoolteacher who went to the “Rock” for ten days at a time to teach the children.

The teacher worked with the children and left homework for them until she her return to the island at a later date. The children loved it when the teacher went to the island as it gave them the opportunity to learn new things and see a new face. They especially loved the fact that the teacher brought her own daughter along for the school visit, which gave the children the chance to play with another child from the “outside world.” During the times the teacher was absent from the island the children were home schooled.

However, one year it was decided that children Alice and Ethelyn Ginn were too far behind in their school work. Their parents located a lady on the mainland who agreed to board them so they could attend school. Most weekends, weather permitting, they returned to the island to be with their family. The girls had fun on the mainland as they had a number of games to play that were not available on the island. And, under the watchful eye of the lady who took care of them, they played with boys.

One time, keeper Ginn left the island for supplies. Shortly after he left, a typical fog bank rolled in. The other keeper on the island told all the children that they needed to keep ringing the fog bell so Mr. Ginn would be able to find his way back to the island or end up in Spain. The children took turns all day ringing the fog bell and were worried that the keeper might miss the “Rock” and head out to sea. Finally, he returned and thanked the kids for saving his life. It was many years later that he finally told them that he was very good with a compass and he could not have missed the rock.

Another year they brought a load of dirt out to the island to plant a garden. Everyone helped to get the garden going but never saw the results of their labor. The wind and the water took the dirt out to sea before anything could grow.

The children had instant swimming ponds each time a storm and tide filled the crevices between rocks. Sometimes the sons of the other keeper hunted for crabs and put them in the ponds to scare the girls.

The wife of another keeper on the island made rolled cookies while her pet bird stood at the edge of the counter and “did his job” in the cookie dough. The other keeper’s wife did not seem to mind this, although the girls never wanted to eat those cookies.

Apparently, keeper Ginn finally decided that raising his family on an island was too hard on them. So, he left the lighthouse service. He eventually took a mainland job working for the Coast Guard.

Many years later, his cousin Linwood Ginn visited the “Rock” to view first hand what life was like out there, many years ago for a lighthouse family.

Linwood went to the “Rock” as the supervisor of a crew that built a new lantern room for the lighthouse, which was flown out by helicopter.

This story appeared in the November 2004 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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