A collection of blogs and musings from the people that work at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum - Florida's Finest Lightstation.

December 2006 Archives

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December 29, 2006

Painful New Year

Posted by: Rick Cain in From the Lens Room

Took my parents to the airport yesterday. Came home and had a kidney stone attack. Two hours in the emergency room last night, home in agony today. This is not how I wanted to spend the New Year holiday weekend! Hope all is well at the lighthouse. No news is good news I guess.


December 24, 2006

Starting to Blog…Speaking Directly

Posted by: Kathy Fleming in Speaking Directly

Why do I choose to be an Executive Director (ED)of a lighthouse? I ask myself that sometimes. I really have to say it is truly as good as you think most days. Some days it is frustrating when you can’t get everything done that you want to in a day, but then what job isn’t that way?

Shall I introduce myself? I’m Kathy Fleming. I’m a girl from the mountains of NC. My mom taught social studies and my dad was a mechanic. Those skills they had and that unique perspective helps me every day.

Since I am a mountain girl, I sometimes think I do this because it’s the high spot around here. . The lighthouse is a vantage point from which to look out and off to view the world. I like the “space” here and the light itself. But inside, I’m an artist. I have a degree in painting from Wake Forest University (The little school that could.)

I think really I fell into lighthouses by accident. No pun intended. I loved museums and wanted to be part of one again. I started out as a PR person at a big Southern Art museum. I left because I had a great life, but no money. Lived on a chicken farm in a beautiful farm house in Pelzer, SC and then moved to NY State. Culture shock. There I was promoted and eventually directed a small historical society. I wrote a column for the paper, taught a class at Skidmore college.

One day my college crush left a note on my mail box. He was working in a nearby state. I married him not long after. I moved to Florida and watched the Palm trees sway in Ft. Lauderdale. I swam in November and thought Floridians were nuts not to. I would never do this today.

We moved to Brevard county where I raised money for people with disabilities. I have a grandmother who was disabled from birth. But, I wanted to do get back into my profession -museums. As it happened, my husband’s family were/are Thompson’s from the Bahamas and his great grandfather was William Frances “Papa” Thompson of the Hope Town Lighthouse. When we were pregnant with our first we came to St. Augustine as tourists. We saw the lighthouse, but did not visit it. I saw an add in the AAM Aviso for a museum in St. Augustine. It did not say which museum. I sent a resume

So…here I am. It may sound like so much hooey, but I love what I do. I think lighthouses are powerful too. They represent more to me than just remarkable and interesting engineering. They represent a desire of mankind to venture forth and to overcome obstacles. That’s remarkable don’t you think? It’s something we all share. It makes them worth saving. Happy Holidays to All!

December 22, 2006

Merry Christmas

Posted by: Rick Cain in From the Lens Room

My sister drove in today from Nashville and my folks are already here. My brother and his wife come in on the 24th. They decided to stay in a hotel on the beach since we will be crowded at the house, which is a huge help. I brought Sis up to the station while I checked on things, as I do frequently after hours. It was about 8pm and things were quiet. She drove through some bad storms coming down here and it was sprinkling while we were out by the tower, the moisture in the air giving great definition to the light coming through the Fresnel lens. It was spectacular watching the rotating beams against the low, dark clouds. While I would have liked to have better weather for their visit, they will get to see the prettiest Christmas light ever lit in St. Augustine.

Merry Christmas!
Light at Night

December 15, 2006

Cramped Christmas

Posted by: Rick Cain in From the Lens Room

I am gearing up for the holidays at my house. All of my family will be coming to Florida for Christmas. First time that has happened… ever! It should be interesting since I have moved from a large home in the country in Wisconsin, to a small beach house here in St. Augustine, just a mile south of the tower. We moved here five and a half years ago with two daughters. I almost bought a house on the mainland that was larger, but my girls wanted to live close to the beach on the island, and so decided to put up with more cramped spaces until they went off to college. My oldest goes to college next year. Wow, it went by fast.

So there should be nine of us in 1800 square feet of space for Christmas. The Keepers’ House at the station is a large duplex. The Head Keeper lived on the north side and the First Assistant lived on the south side. Each family had two bedrooms upstairs and two rooms on the main level for living space. Most had five or six kids in those days. When you consider that the U.S. Lighthouse Service put a Second Assistant Keeper here, and he got two of the bedrooms to live in, there could easily have been 15 folks living there at any one time. I guess I can’t complain about few guests staying for a few days during the holidays.

P.S. The supply ship “Fern” came to the island once a year. The light station was the only thing on the island… The Keepers lived off the land just like any other frontier family in the 1800’s, plus had to take care of the tower and all of the markers in the inlet and the channel between the island and the mainland. And we think we’ve got it rough!

December 8, 2006

Bright Lights

Posted by: Rick Cain in From the Lens Room

Once again in recovery mode after our big holiday event called Luminary Night. If you have never seen it, we put about 2000 luminaries (you know, those little paper bags with sand and a candle in the bottom) around the streets below the lighthouse. Santa comes and we open the tower for free to all our guests. We serve hot cider and cookies, have the local high school kids come and perform Christmas music on the lawn. We also have a string quartet playing music in the base of the tower. They sit around a Christmas tree that sits in the weight well and the music drifts up the tower as people climb. Once at the top you look down on all of these lights spread out below the one big light above your head. Combine that with all of the lights that you can see downtown, and the lights on the shrimp boats fishing offshore, it is a pretty special time.

The story here though is not the event itself but all of the volunteers here who make it happen. Monday night we had the “bag party” and enough volunteers showed up that it took only 40 minutes to make 2000 luminaries. Everyone usually stays after for snacks and drinks. Then, on the night of the event, the volunteers set them all out, light them, and pick them all back up. It is back breaking work! And they do it all to help out the lighthouse (our staff works hard at this too). The St. Augustine Classical Guitar Ensemble plays in the visitor’s center as well. But the real story of sacrifice is from the string quartet that plays in the tower. You see, while they are playing, people are climbing above their heads. Now we have a lot of sand on our trails here on the island, so that means that while they are playing, sand is dropping on their heads from above while they play… and they never miss a beat!… for three hours… and they don’t complain! We probably had 2500 people here that night. That is a lot of sand!

Our volunteers RULE!