I must begin with a day in the Spring of 1937. Dad, Herman Erickson, had taken the Civil Service exam for the Lighthouse Dept. and was waiting daily for word from them. One day in June he came home for lunch and Mom was watching him from the window; he was reading a letter. All at once he threw it in the air, flopped on the grass, kicked his feet in the air and yelled "Whoopee". He had received his appointment to the Lighthouse Dept. and was to report for duty at South Fox Island, MI. July 1st. The family could not join him there. Dad must have been lonely, having left his wife and five children and a busy life in Sister Bay, WI. I know he enjoyed walking on the beautiful sand beaches and I'm sure he spent many evening hours reading and playing Solitaire. In the book "Living at a Lighthouse" James Goudreau referred to a man who knit socks while on watch and I'm sure he was speaking of our Dad.
The commercial fishermen would stop at the island and give Dad trout, which he always enjoyed, and canned some to share with us at home. The fishermen also taught him to make a fish booyah, perhaps the forerunner to the famous Door County Fish Boil. They made it aboard their fish tug and invited him to eat with them. It was made with the trout, potatoes, onions, spices with a tomato base and served in bowls like soup. Dad made it on special occasions for the family for years after. A real treat.
After one season on South Fox, Dad transferred to Plum Island, just off the tip of Door County Peninsula. My first visit to the Lighthouse was a weekend in April 1938. Dad arranged for me to ride to Northport with a Coast Guardsman whose family was living in Sister Bay and after along wait the Coast Guard arrived and we rode over to the Island on the "Bull", a Coast Guard work boat that is now on display at the Fishermens Museum at Jackson Harbor, Washington Island, WI. Dad met me at the dock and together we walked through the woods across the island to the lighthouse. The dwelling had quarters for three families. Clayton Kinkaide was keeper, Otto Lovig, first assistant and Dad second assistant. Dad had upstairs quarters, sparsely furnished. There was a kitchen with a wood burning stove for cooking and a kerosene stove for summer. He carried water from the hand pump outside for drinking and cooking. There was no refrigeration. I remember a pantry, a bedroom and living room that served as a second bedroom, with a coal burning space heater. In one corner was a round oak dining table where Dad always had a bouquet of wild flowers in season and in the fall a few thick red stalks with clusters of white berries and a black eye, the fruit of the baneberry. We called them "doll's eyes" and they dried and lasted all winter. From the living room window we had a view of the flag waving in the breeze, the dock and the boathouse, and the mainland across Death's Door Channel. There was a sturdy leather covered rocker and perhaps a chair or two. That was all. The wainscoting on the walls was varnished, the plastered walls above were painted with government regulation clay colored paint. The hardwood floors were varnished to a high gloss. The lights were powered with a Kohler generator and the light was not constant but switched between dim and bright, very hard to read by. Dad had supper ready but all I can recall was the strawberry gelatin he had prepared with sliced bananas.