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Three Beams of Light: Chronicles of a Lighthouse Keeper's Family Paperback – August, 1986
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Octavo, [20cm/8in], paperbound with pictorial covers, pp. xi, 276. Fully illustrated with b-w halftones
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Top Customer Reviews
The book is written from the point of view of the children in the family once they are born and from that of the husband and wife prior to that. They also get their two cents in later in the book in an off an on fashion
The book starts when the keeper is a newlywed at the Oakland Station Lighthouse. The newlywed Husband, in his eagerness to please his new wife, had purchased oversized oak furniture for the bedroom and the dining room. This station was less than 1000 square feet; though, it had a mold filled attic that hearty souls attempted to use as sleeping quarters from time to time. There had to be two light house keepers at any station at any time in case one could not go on duty. The hours they pulled were outrageous. Six hours on the light; 6 hours taking care of the station and 6 hours back up to the man coming on duty. Then there were the 6 hours the man was to sleep. Gratefully, the two men and the newlyweds with babies coming, did their best to get along. Gratefully, at some point this station caught on fire and a new one was built, but as slowly as the Government moves, it was a wonder this ever took place.
The first part of the book is a congregation of facts helping someone like myself, who knows practically nothing about light houses, find their way around the station and quit being such a landlubber that it is ridiculous. I probably this part of the book the most. It started prior to the beginning of wwI and ended in the 50's or 60's when the Keeper passed.
Once the children began telling the tales, this book was stories of pets acquired, an almost "Ricky and Lucy" entourage of tales where the Keeper got himself out of trouble, and stories written by the youngest child, a girl about the many foibles of her older two brothers. One of the most interesting of her stories was of her finding a very odd fish in the San Francisco Habour. The three children of the family could swim, and pilot boats from a young age. They were as safe in water as they were on land. Their only restrictions were that they must tell their parents where they were going and how long they would be gone.
One afternoon the young girl found a new animal in her Garden of Eden. It was in the water, about 6 inches long and a dark color, with Diamond designs on its back. It had a bud on the rear end that ratteled when shaken. The youngster took this to her father, who was doing something involving a knife at the time. He took one look at the small rattler and hacked it to pieces. His daughter was totally woebegone and in tears until the reality was explained to her. I am not certain how the rattler got there, but it made an interesting anecdote.
All the years just prior to the First WW, during it and afterwards, including the great flue epidemic were comvered. This could probably have been more informative had it not been done through the eyes of a child. Soldiers who could not muster because they were too drunk, who bought broken motorcycles, and senior officers with spoiled children were the predominant types of stories here...along with the time that the Keeper made home made beer in the Light House which was against the rules....reasons obvious.
In total, I enjoyed this book and it was a good book for some basic light house information. It has led me to look up more serious type books on this subject and read stories from around the world which are either, all about Light House Life, or partially about it, or in general, life on the ocean. One truly enjoyable book about 2 young boys traveling alone to England from India can be fouind in THE CATS TABLE BY ONDAAT.IE. These books are light hearted and for fun, not so much deep reading. (Right now I am reading ISIS, which is a whole different ball game!
If you are looking for something along fun loving lines with some basic history and information thrown in then THREE BEAMS OF LIGHT is a good book to choose. With the children being narrators, there are some unanswered questions and untied up ends....for instance, why is Mom sick so often and how did she accumulate horrendous hospital bills, but she could still stand on her feet all day to cook and use a washboard for cleaning filthy clothing day in and day out. I also gained some insight on how an 8th grade education was considered quite adequate at that day and time and children got along pretty well without high school or college which is almost impossible in this day and age.
Lots of information is contained herein and riotious stories told, so pick this up for a good read.