Keeper’s Log, September 24

A twofer, thoroughly ironic:

Outer Island Light Station, September 24, 1874

We left in our sail boat for Bayfield to get provisions. Arrived that night about 12 o’clock. I went over to LaPointe the next morning to get pork and hams as there was none in Bayfield. I got some there. It rained from Friday night till Sunday with heavy wind. Sunday night we left at ½ past 3 o’clock PM with fair wind, but soon died out with baffling winds, but finally set in with fair wind, so that we carried close reef foresail and mainsail with all we wanted at that.

Arrived at Outer Light about ½ past one PM. They was anxiously looking as they were about out of grub. Washing away again the dock, and also the RR track leading from the bank to the lake by the rains. I brot with me some currant bushes and raspberries. I set them out near the house.

Michigan Island Light Station, September 24, 1935

Did routine work. Skilled Laborer, Fred Wacksmith, left for Bayfield. Gonia brothers landed here with seven men looking over white pine and for parasites caused by Currant and Gooseberry bushes. They all came back this evening to listen in for the Baer and Lewis fight at the Assistant Keeper’s dwelling.

Ya catch that?

“I brot with me some currant bushes and raspberries.”

“…looking over white pine and for parasites caused by Currant and Gooseberry bushes.”

Oooops! Exotic species! Here you have one lightkeeper bringing them in, and another reporting the consequences of a predecessor doing the same thing. This is an issue that the NPS is still grappling with, sometimes well and sometimes maybe not. (One observer’s “infestation of exotics” is another’s  “historic landscape,” and discussions can get quite intense.)

But that’s a subject for another morning. For the moment, just notice the very different conditions reflected in the entries. When people ask what life was like at the lighthouses in the old days, I always reply, “Which old days?” Times changed at the light stations, just as they did in the rest of the world.

At Outer Island, several weeks before the station’s official opening, the Keeper is desperately scouring the mainland settlements for food for the about-to-starve construction crew, then struggling to get back in a sailboat. Sixty-one years later, it’s sports night around the radio for a comparable crowd at Michigan Island. No mention of beer and nachos, but you get the feeling they would not been out of place.

Incidentally, it’s hard today to appreciate just how big a deal the Max Baer-Joe Louis (not “Lewis”) fight was. Boxing was much more popular seventy-five years ago than it is today, and a major heavyweight fight would have been an event of Superbowl dimensions. Eighty-five thousand spectators packed Yankee Stadium (nominal capacity 56,000) to watch the up-and-coming black sensation demolish the former heavyweight champion in four rounds.

A couple of sidelights on that fight: though the prominent Washington Post sportswriter Shirley Povich (a dude despite the name) claimed, “They say Baer will surpass himself in the knowledge that he is the lone white hope for the defense of Nordic superiority in the prize ring,” I’m not so sure Max Baer really felt that way. A couple of years earlier, when he fought the German champion Max Schmeling, Baer wore a Star of David on his trunks. That’s the kind of guy he was.

Meanwhile, it is also said that Louis was especially eager to get Baer out of the way quickly that night. He’d just secretly gotten married earlier in the day, and was itching to get home and get busy.

The stuff you learn digging into lighthouse history!

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One Response to Keeper’s Log, September 24

  1. lisahgolden says:

    So we started with exotic species and the consequences thereof and we ended up with Joe Louis feeling anxious? Love it!

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