By Sandra L. Brickwedde, Daughter of a Lighthouse Keeper
Lighthouses hold a special place in the hearts of my family, especially me. My mother, Doris L. Southworth, was the first daughter born to Lighthouse Keeper, Toney Ryan, and Emma Ryan. She was born on July 3, 1930 at the Sabine, Texas lighthouse. When she was around 3 she moved to Pensacola, Florida and lived at the Pensacola Lighthouse with her family. Her father, Toney Ryan, was lighthouse keeper at the Pensacola, Florida lighthouse; Sand island, Alabama and Mobile Point lighthouse also.
But the favorite stories I love to hear her tell about are as a child growing up at Fort Morgan, Alabama where her father was the lighthouse keeper of the Mobile Point lighthouse for many years. She told how she would sometimes help him clean the lenses. She also speaks of how her father and brother would meet the large banana boats in their small boat and that sometimes huge bunches of bananas were thrown to them. The bananas were real green so they had to be hung up for days to ripen for her and her five brothers and sisters who lived at the fort. They used to play hide-and-seek in all the great places at the fort. They rode the school bus for 33 miles to go to school. They played by the hours on the beach there and never got bored as they found many things to entertain themselves. During WWII they had to move from the fort so that the Coast Guard could occupy the Fort and protect Mobile Bay. They moved back to the fort again after the war.
But the best story of all is how she met my father, Edgar T. Southworth. My father was stationed at Sand Island lighthouse in Mobile Bay. He would phone the Mobile Point lighthouse keeper each day for the mail. My Mom would answer the phone and tell what mail had arrived. At first she thought that my father was married as he received many letters from Alice Southworth and presumed that she was his wife. She later learned that Alice was his sister. My Mom and Dad spoke for many hours over three months on the phone before my Dad came ashore on leave and was able to meet the woman whose voice he had fallen in love with over the phone. After several months they were deeply in love and were married on April 10, 1948.
The Sand Island lighthouse stands in the entrance to Mobile Bay and on a clear day is easily visible from Fort Morgan. The existing Sand Island lighthouse was built in 1873 and is still standing but on the endangered lighthouse list. It has withstood many a hurricane. My grandfather was also stationed at Sand Island lighthouse - once for 7 years and several other times for various amounts of time.
The Mobile Point lighthouse is now an automated lighthouse and the old lighthouse of my grandfather's keeping is now part of the museum at Fort Morgan. His Coast Guard uniform now hangs in the museum as well. Fort Morgan is a delightful place visited by many tourists each year. I must say that my family is regular visitors to the Fort and we all reminisce what it might have been like to live there like my Mom so many miles from everything. We look at Sand Island from the fort and call it the “Light of Love” as it was for my parents.
This story appeared in the
July 2007 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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