Digest>Archives> Nov/Dec 2020

Singing Sam Fuller


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Lighthouse keeper Octave Ponsart is shown here ...

Lighthouse Digest subscriber Sally Chetwynd recently came across a book by Kristen Kingsbury Henshaw, who had recorded her father’s stories when she was caretaking him in the last few years of his life, then transcribed them verbatim and published them in Craig Kingsbury Talkin’. Much of the book is an oral history of Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, from the 1920s through the 1950s. The island was Craig’s home for most of his adult life.

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Vintage image of Gay Head Lighthouse on Martha’s ...

These excerpts are from the chapter about nicknames of local Vineyard characters, including Samuel L. Fuller, assistant keeper at the Gay Head Lighthouse in the late 1930s and early 1940s, and then at West Chop Lighthouse, also on Martha’s Vineyard until as late as 1957. (He had previously served at Sakonnet Lighthouse in Rhode Island, Execution Rocks Light in New York, and Faulkner’s Island Lighthouse in Connecticut.)

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West Chop Lighthouse on Martha’s Vineyard, ...

“Singing Sam Fuller was the lighthouse keeper. Every time he got drunk he thought he was an opera star, and you couldn’t shut him up for singing. He’d sing anywhere. They usually threw him out of the barrooms, so he’d go over to Banana Nose’s and they’d get together with Captain John Ivory. What a trio! Their pension checks came in at the same time, and all the cops would be squared off for one big headache, because the old boys would circulate. They were harmless – they wouldn’t hurt anybody, but Jesus, the noise! Their idea of fun was singing “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” at three o’clock in the morning on Main Street, waking up Vineyard Haven. The cops’d tell them to shut up and go home or they’d take them to Edgartown for the night, and they’d get fined $5 apiece the next day. They were amenable old roosters, but they didn’t always behave. If the cops had to come out a second time, they’d take them down and just let them out in the morning. No fine – just let them out. They just wanted to get them off the street so people could sleep.”

“Banana Nose was a painter and a hell of a nice guy. He had a schnozzle there that was so remarkable, Zeb Tilton said a nose was born and about 8 days later the little boy grew on the other end of it.”

This story appeared in the Nov/Dec 2020 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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