Groceries and Mail on a Lighthouse

Groceries being loaded at Coast Guard Base - photo John Coldwell

Some of you may wonder why the number of stories about re-supplying the lighthouses exceeds the others on this site by a large margin (lots more coming!). Next to the family and job, the arrival of the mail and groceries was the most important event in the life of the lightkeeping family. 

Imagine no telephone, no television, no two-way radio, possibly no AM radio, and no contact with the outside world except what you saw going by your window. The post was and still is the most important contact to the real world.  Continue reading

Forward to “Groceries and Mail”

Loading groceries onto the helicopter at the CG base

On my old website I wrote the “forward” below for a serious of stories about our groceries and mail – especially the mail! I’ll reprint it here to emphasize the importance of mail again, even in this day and age of computers. Right now I am staying in a small northern BC town. You should see the people going in and out of the Post Office after the mail plane arrives; but they can do it every day that the Post Office is open – on the lighthouse we could not.

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Groceries stuffed into the helicopter

“Some may wonder why the number of stories about re-supplying the lighthouses exceeds the others on this site by a large margin. Next to the family and job, the arrival of the mail and groceries was the most important event in the life of the lightkeeping family.

Imagine no telephone, no television, no two-way radio, possibly no AM radio, no computer, and no contact with the outside world except what you saw going by your window. The post was and still is the most important contact to the real world. 

Unloading the helicopter . . .

Next think of no refridgerators, no freezers, and on some stations, no room for a garden, probably no hunting, and fishing only if the weather is good and the tide not too strong. 

In the early days (1920s – 1950s) food sometimes had to last for six months or more and could arrive damaged. In the early days the ships did not have freezers, so your fresh side of beef could now be many weeks old and growing green as the ship could not deliver the goods because of bad weather, malfunctions, or search and rescue. Even in my years on the lights (1969 – 2001) when we had monthly delivery, supplies would not arrive because the store did not have the item in stock and never thought to substitute another, or they would get soaked in the rain, or seawater.  Continue reading