Sister’s Island c. early 1950s

Sister’s Island c. early 1950s

Here is a continuance of the tales of Juanita (Swanson) DuLong. Somewhere around the early 1950s, probably after a year at Fiddle Reef lighthouse the family was moved to Sisters Island. Juanita says:

Sisters Island

Fiddle Reef’s plumbing was a cistern and hand pump. Cold water only. 

Sisters was a little tamer and had a bathroom. When we arrived we found the tub full of coal. The running water was cold only . A reservoir on the wood and coal stove heated enough water for small tasks.

At that time  the lighthouse tenders also burned coal. The smoke could be seen well off.

While on the subject of heat, Dad nearly took a finger off chopping kindling. Mom patched it up, and a doctor later told her he “couldn’t have done it better himself”.

Here there were more and bigger buildings. I actually had a bedroom instead of my little pallet in the angle of the hallway (on Fiddle Reef). I cannot remember much about the day to day station workings, but I do remember the foghorn had a very brassy sound.

Tidal pool

The Island had more room to roam and didn’t disappear at high tide.  Smaller islands were nearby, some with sea-bird rookeries. We made trips to closer ones to gather soil. Mom managed to grow a few vegetables in pots sheltered from the salt spray.

I spent a lot of time watching sea life and exploring tidal pools all around the Island.

Dad build box kites, some of them big enough to lift me! On a good windy day, they could get two or three up, flying at a good height.

Mutt and Jeff comic

All our books came with us from Fiddle Reef. My parents began to seriously encourage me to read. I expect all the reading aloud must have been getting a little tiring. The funny-papers were my favorites, and soon letters gave up their code. I could read! A lot of those comic strips are long gone now, but we all enjoyed “Mutt and Jeff”, “Baby Snooks”, and “The Katzenjammer Kids”, among others.

My favorite memory of Sisters, is of one bright morning in June. Dad, when at the end of a night shift, would wake Mom1. They would have tea and a chat. Then I was roused for breakfast, and after that I was set to quiet pursuits until Dad could fall asleep. On fine mornings my Mother took me down to the tidal pools. This routine usually had us down there around 7:30 am. I’d happily visit all my tidal-buddies for an hour or two.

First, this morning will be remembered for two things. A shark followed along the rocks, close enough to see very well. It was almost two metres long and the most beautiful fish. It showed no agression but Mom took me away from the edge.


The second reason involves the clock. We left the house at 7:35 am by the kitchen clock. When we came back and took off our dirty boots, that same clock said 7:25 A.M. Mom said “thats just crazy” and went to reset it.

Dad had stayed up to see the reaction to his experiment. He said he figured that we wouldn’t feel sleepy if we didn’t know it was earlier!

It seemed to work. And who knows, otherwise I may never had a chance to see the shark.

1 You may not have realized it in the telling of the tale, but there was no second keeper. The man was hired along with his family, and when he slept, the wife took over the station duties, without pay!

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Retired (2001) British Columbia lighthouse keeper after 32 years on the lights.

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