Pregnancy Provides Problems

Langara lighthouse

A month or so ago, Richard Crawford wrote me to say that he had been on Langara Point Lighthouse as a radio operator back in the late 1940s. I asked about his duties there and he wrote me back . . .

“My Langara story  is short as we were not there for long – March 1948 to July 1950. I started as a radio operator in Prince Rupert and was sent out to Langara to run the radio beacon and send weather reports.  I should mention that we were married before going out (some honeymoon, eh?).”

“Anyhow the light keeper left just after we got there so I applied to do both jobs and was accepted. For some unknown reason my wife became pregnant and had to leave the station, so she went back to Manitoba to stay with her parents. So then I was a bachelor. I did have an assistant from time to time but they never seemed to last. I survived the winter and the wife arrived home, I believe in March 1949.”

“Things went fairly well but the following spring [1950] she became pregnant again! These were the days long before the pill. We decided this was not a good way to live and resigned effective later in the summer of 1950.  We moved to Victoria as I was supposed to go on board the first weather station boat  off the west coast but when I learned the full story  I decided that was not the answer.”

Upon further questioning Rich filled in a few more details . . .

“First  off, all radio ops at Digby had to rotate for nine (9) month tours at the Langara Radio Beacon.  We were responsible for the weather reports (every three (3) hours) and ensuring the Radio Beacon was operating. The Beacon was automatic and operated every hour for three (3) minutes.. I used the same radio to send the weather reports which were all done by Morse Code as we had no voice radio.”

“The power for the radio was provided by two gasoline generators which came on automatically for the beacon and kept the batteries charged.”

“The Fog Alarm was a diaphone and operated on compressed air from two large  tanks. These were filled by two Fairbanks-Morse single-cylinder 360  RPM vertical engines which were sometimes a real beast to keep operating. and required constant care during periods of fog.”

“Our regular supply boat, the “Alberni”, operated on a three (3) month schedule ) except for one time when she had to go in drydock because of a small accident and we were six (6) months without supplies. Needless to say we were getting a bit short of some things, but most important was that we were down to our last can of milk for baby formula.”

A further email got the rest of the story. . .

“Re your question about the weather ships, when we arrived in Victoria I learned that the rumored six (6) weeks at sea and ten days ashore was not entirely true, so I decided to change careers .”

“If you remember the first ship on station was the “Stonetown” which was supposed to be my ship. It suffered through a tremendous storm and came back with rigging pretty badly smashed. I can only imagine the seasicknes some of the first-timers must have suffered, I have never been seasick but my wife  certainly has and I guess it is no fun.”

“As far as pay is concerned , it was so long ago I don’t remember for sure. It seems to me the lightkeeper allowance was in the range of $700 per year out of which we were to pay our own assistant. We received a small amount from the Hydrographic Service for water sampling and also another small amount for weather reporting and beacon operation, all of which was deposited in the bank in Prince Rupert.”

“The lightkeper ahead of me was a man named Vic Deschenes and I never heard what happened to him. About the only other  keeper I knew was the famous Gordon Odlum. He was the keeper at Triple Island while I was out there at Langara.”

Rich told me jokingly at the end:“Every time I hung my pants on the bedpost she was pregnant!”

– Richard (Rich) Crawford – keeper at Langara March 1948 – July 1950

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