A keeper of the light

Lewis Carmichael communicating via CB radio in the lighthouse keeper’s pantry

A recent communication from Mrs. Roberta Carmichael excited the volunteer staff at the Marshall Point Lighthouse. Roberta’s husband, Lewis Carmichael, Jr., served as the keeper at Marshall Point Lighthouse in Port Clyde from 1968 through 1970. He and Roberta moved into the lighthouse with their young son, Thomas. Their daughter, Elaine, was born during the time they were living there.

Lewis joined the Coast Guard right out of high school. He served out of Rockland on a 65-foot ice breaker and search-and-rescue vessel where one of his duties was cooking. He was transferred to Whitehead Light in Penobscot Bay. During their service on Whitehead Island, the Carmichaels lived with two other families, traveling to and from the light station from Spruce Head in a small boat. Roberta took her cabinet sewing machine in the boat. The boat landed at the far end of the island from the lighthouse and all supplies had to be carried to the lighthouse residences. Roberta recalls that they had a large cistern in the basement to supply water.

When Lewis and his family moved to Marshall Point Light station he was 22 years old. Lewis asked to be assigned to the Marshall Point Light because his extended family lived in Rockland. The Marshall Point station consisted of the light tower, keeper’s house, summer kitchen, barn, stone oil house, bell tower and a storm signal tower where weather flags were flown.

During the Carmichaels’ tenancy, a fog horn replaced the bell, sounding every ten seconds during bad weather. Complaints were made by some of the neighbors, who thought the horn was too loud and preferred the bell, but most of them understood that the fog horn’s sound could be heard much farther, and made it safer for boaters coming in or out of the harbor in foggy conditions. An interesting article on the change is available in the resource books in the Dana Smith room at the lighthouse.

As keeper, Lewis kept the light working, brass polished, proper warning flags flying, the house and grounds maintained and ready for inspection at any time. Everyday work clothing consisted of bell bottom jeans and a blue work shirt.

Roberta remembers the keeper’s house fondly. “The summer kitchen was mainly used for storage because it was too cold to use as living space most of the year,” Roberta says. “It snowed a lot that winter. The kitchen stayed so cold, we moved the table into Lewis’ office.” The kitchen was located where the gift shop is now. The round room served as Lewis’ office and the living room looked out toward the light tower. Bedrooms were upstairs. At the time they lived there, the upstairs balcony didn’t exist. They had a car and were able to get supplies more easily than on Whitehead. Milk was delivered in glass bottles. The lighthouse attracted many visitors, including a pair of moose who once strolled the grounds.

In his spare time Lewis enjoyed communicating with fishermen and others via a CB radio that resided in the pantry. He also made lobster traps for local fishermen in the barn and put his training as a cook to work, hosting barbecues for family and friends.

Lewis served four years with the Coast Guard. At the end of his service he had several jobs before taking a position with Pine State Trading, were he remained until retirement. He passed away a couple of years ago.

Roberta Carmichael has donated a number of interesting articles to the museum, including a Coast Guard dress uniform and hat which belonged to Lewis. We are grateful to Mrs. Carmichael for sharing her memories and treasures with us.

The Marshall Point Lighthouse grounds are open daily from dawn to dusk. The museum and gift shop are open Sunday through Friday, 1-5pm, Saturday, 10am-5pm, Memorial Day through Columbus Day.

—Laura Bettancourt (Bettancourt is publicity coordinator for the Marshall Point Lighthouse Museum.)

PHOTO: Courtesy Roberta Carmichael

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