Three Skeleton Key – A Lighthouse Play

 

Three Skeleton Key is a one act play I have never heard about before today. It was written as a short story by George G. Toudouze and was first published in 1937 in English.

 

This is a short story about three men who operate a lighthouse miles offshore of the South American coast.  They love their job untill one day a strange ship arrives.  Suddenly they are unsure if they will survive to see the next day.

Setting

This story is set on a “key” or small island several miles offshore of French Guianna in the early 1900s.  Lighthouse operators whould spend months at a time isolated out on their tiny islands without any contact with the rest of the world. Continue reading

A Posting to Isolation – Pachena Pt. 1949 – 1955

– Betty Healey (Wife of Arthur Healey – Officer-in-Charge (OIC) Pachena Point Radio station (VAD) 1949 – 1955)
– forward by editor Tom Racine (from his website History of Spectrum Management in Canada

D.O.T.’er Arthur Healey was officer-in-charge at Pachena Point  Marine Radio Station from 1949 to 1955. With his wife Betty and three children, Ann, John and Michael who were then 12, 8 and 7 years of age respec­tively, he spent six years at this isolated post. He went from there to Alert Bay and last summer took over as officer-in-charge at Victoria Marine Radio. 

Access to Pachena Radio, which was closed down in 1958 after 45 years of operation, was by lighthouse tender, or Bamfield lifeboat, and then by workboat through the surf to the bonnet-sling; then highline up the cliff. If one was a good hiker, it was possible to trek the nine miles from Bamfield to Pachena, and that was how the Healey’s first got there. 

Today, living once again in a large urban community, Mrs. Healey recalls the rewarding experiences shared by the family during that six year period. The children are now young adults: Ann is married and the mother of four children; John received a Bachelor of Education degree last year and is now teaching at Burns Lake, B.C., and Michael, working towards a Master’s degree in zoology at UBC, plans to go to Europe for Ph.D. studies.  Continue reading

A Language Problem

– story from Candy-Lea Chickite

My grandmother loved to tell this one to me. I think she may have had the wrong name of the lighthouse keeper. She said it was her father, or maybe she said her father told her the story – I was young when I heard it but I think it may have been a Mr. Grafton who was the fellow involved. I believe the story is true . . .  (a Thomas Grafton was on Point Atkinson lighthouse from 1889 – 1910 and his dates are right for this story – JC)

Back before the days of radios, when a ship entered the Vancouver Harbour they would use a megaphone and call in the name of their ship to the lighthouse at Point Atkinson

One pitch black evening a horn sounded, the keeper hailed his welcome and asked the vessel to identify itself. 

“Wat-a-matta Maru” was the echoed reply in a heavily accented Oriental voice. 

“I say again, what is the name of your vessel?” hollered the keeper enunciating each work emphatically. 

“Wat-a-matta Maru!” 

“This is the Point Atkinson lighthouse, and I DEMAND you identify your vessel before entering the harbour!” replied the keeper of the light. 

Again, “Wat-a-matta Maru!” was the return call. 

Incensed now, the lighthouse keeper yelled back, “There’s NOTHING the matter with me, WHAT the HELL’s the matter with YOU!” 


Life on Kains Island 1933 – 1944

– Roy Carver (son of C. E. Carver on Kains Island November 1933 – July 1944)

Roy Carver told me he “was born at the Bancroft Nursing Home at 705 Cook Street in Victoria, BC in mid 1930s. This nursing home was set up for expectant mothers that lived in out of the way places with no doctors, like his mother Evelyn Carver. They could come to the home a month before the due date and stay a few days or a week before returning home.” 

Quatsino Lightstation c. 1930s - photo BC Archives

And Roy definitely did live in an out of the way place with his parents, and later his sister. His father was Clarence Edgar Carver who was the principal lightkeeper, fog alarm operator and radio beacon operator on Quatsino Lighthouse (aka Kains Island) during the period 1933 to 1944. Kains Island is located far up the western side of Vancouver Island on Quatsino sound. Nearest neighbours were six (6) miles (9.7 kilometers) away at the small fishing village of Winter Harbour.  Continue reading

Radiotelephone Frustration – McInnes Island c. 1970s – 2000

What a convenience! What an expense! What a frustration!

Radio telephone

Anyone who has used a radio-telephone on the BC coast will agree with me. It was great to have semi-private communications rather than using the government-installed ALAN (Automated Lightstation Alarm Network) phone which was not private, and also broke down. It was expensive to have a privately owned radio-telephone but so nice to be in contact with the rest of the world. 

But sometimes this convenience just added a few more gray hairs to my head. Here’s one example of a conversation! (there are probably many more if anyone wants to add one) 

**********************************

[heard over the radio-telephone speaker, a ringing sound of a telephone as I keyed the microphone (pressed the press-to-talk (PTT) button to get contact with an operator)] 

Operator: Swindle Island [our normal Telus stand-by channel to receive/place phone calls] 

Myself: Hello operator, this is McInnes Island  . May I have privacy please. 

[“privacy” allowed us to have some modicum of secrecy on the radio-telephone line as it blanked out our side of the conversation to other listeners so they could not hear our registration number or other personal details e.g. bank account numbers, etc.]  Continue reading

Website – Rough Radio – Wireless on the BC Coast

This is a promotion for my friend Frank Statham’s website Rough Radio – Wireless on the British Columbia Coast.

As I started off collecting lighthouse keeper names for genealogy records, Frank started with a collection of photographs, and with his past work as a radio operator, his interest was sparked into creating a website to help people remember the early days of radio on the BC coast. He also has been keeping a list of station personnel which you will find here.

The quotes below from Frank’s website show that lighthouses came first, but with the advent of radio, the two worked closely together, in fact sometimes so close together that they were on the same station – e.g. Estevan Point  or Pachena Point. 

“At the end of the 19th Century, the west coast of Canada was dangerous place for the movement of vessels.  There was little European settlement along the coast north of Victoria.  The only navigational aids for vessel traffic consisted of a scattering of lighthouses.”

“The 1907 Canadian Dominion Government, in an effort to provide some measure of safety for mariners, implemented a plan to provide a life saving trail along the Juan de Fuca Strait Vancouver Island, lifeboat stations, and wireless radio stations.  The first five wireless stations, Vancouver, Victoria, Pachena Point and Estevan Point were all operational by January 1908.”   Continue reading →

Some photo samples from Frank’s website below:

 

In Memorium – Robert H. W. Collins (1914 – 1993)

Bob Collins (February 06, 1914 -September 29th, 1993) was Principal Keeper on Kains Island (Quatsino). He ran a HAM radio rig with the call sign VE7AOI. Bob was known far and wide as the “King of Kains”. He was a very reserved man and at times very hard to get along with, but he had a heart of gold when you got to know him as I did over many home-brew beers! I learned everything about the operation and maintenance of highlines from him. This knowledge really paid off in later years. – John Coldwell (not a friend, but a student of Bob)

To include your memories in Bob’s memorial please click this link.