Digest>Archives> Jul/Aug 2018

A Little Light Romance: Courting Lighthouse Style

Chapter 2, In Which Orlo Hayward is transferred to Cape Flattery Lighthouse and meets “old man Cowan”

By Debra Baldwin

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The Courting Couple (Courtesy Jean Hayward ...

It had been several months now since lighthouse keeper Orlo E. Hayward and his “friend” Estella Woodard began writing each other. During that time, Orlo had been serving at New Dungeness Lighthouse in Washington which was far away from Florence, Oregon where Estella lived. By the beginning of 1923, their letters settled down to a regular routine of five or six pages every week or less.

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Before Orlo E. Hayward transferred to Cape ...

Orlo was looking forward to his leave when he could go home to Oregon and see Estella again, but in the meantime, he wanted to move to a bigger station that would afford more luxury and benefits. Cape Flattery Lighthouse on Tatoosh Island sounded like just the place. However, Orlo ended up being sent to Ediz Hook Lighthouse in Port Angeles, Washington for a few months first as a substitute keeper until another keeper could be appointed to replace one who had been transferred.

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This second lighthouse at Ediz Hook was ...

Ediz Hook Lighthouse was a two-man station and Orlo didn’t like the increased workload in addition to being very bored as his fellow keeper, Arthur J. Woods, had just gotten married four months earlier and was totally absorbed with his new wife. Orlo writes that they were “awful funny, pretty mushy yet,” which at least made him laugh.

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When second assistant Orlo E. Hayward finally got ...

There were also several mechanical problems happening at the station. On Orlo Hayward’s very first watch, “the clock cable broke at 3:45 AM and I had to turn the blooming lens til 7 AM. And the weight when the cable broke went clean through the floor on down and broke an air pipe and bust [sic] up two water pipes pretty bad. And now, our fog chart clock has stopped and we can’t get the blame thing started.”

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This photo of Cape Flattery Light Station shows ...

When the new keeper finally arrived, Orlo didn’t get along with him very well because he was so “ornery.” He had second thoughts at that point about leaving his permanent appointment at New Dungeness to go to Cape Flattery because, “Dungeness is home for me and I’ve got the best keeper in the district and if I left, I might run into a crank!”

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When Orlo E. Hayward was substituting at Ediz ...

But eventually Orlo E. Hayward did move ahead with the transfer to Cape Flattery Light. Coincidentally, Arthur J. Woods and his wife were also transferred to Flattery from Ediz Hook, so Orlo was eager to go since he had found them so “jolly” before. Here are some excerpts from his “settling in” letters to Estella.

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The 66-foot tall lighthouse tower at Cape ...


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This photo of 1st assistant Phillip W. Hansen (l) ...

Feb 8- 16, 1923

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This early photo of Estella Hayward may be the ...

Tatoosh, Wash.

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Orlo E. Hayward poses for a photo while on the ...

Dear Estella,

“Well, here I am at Tatoosh safe and sound. I believe I am going to like it here fine. It seems good not to have such long watches here. We have three watches and when the new third assistant comes we will have four.

“Talk about bum weather, Mr. Cowan my keeper has been here twenty-three years and he said this last snow storm we had was the worst he ever saw here. We had to blow the diaphone about 40 hours for snow and heavy rain. It snowed 15 hours steady. The wind blew from 72 to 86 miles an hour. It blew our meat house upside down. All our pipes froze and busted and put the radio out of commission for a few hours.

“A big ship caught afire about 10 miles from here and burnt up. Sure was a pretty sight. All the crew was saved by Coast Guard cutter Snohomish. Two ships went on the rocks not far from here the same night and one ship lost its rudder. The Coast Guard was out all night long in the storm. Everyone was saved. Some excitement we have here.

“Mr. Cowan is a fine old man. Every time he calls me for watch, he has coffee made and a fire going over at his house and has either cake or pie for me. Tonight he had canned strawberries and cakes for me.

“Mr. Cowan thinks it won’t be very long before they’ll want to promote me to some other station as 1st assistant. As long as it will be a three-man station I would take it but will never take a two-man station.

“Well, it is about time to put out the light so will close for this time hoping to hear from you each mail. Lovingly, Orlo”

Feb 21 – Mar 25, 1923

Tatoosh, Wash

Dear Estella,

“I received your letter today. Well, you have a heart after all, haven’t you? I’ve looked at your picture a hundred times. I never really expected to get a photo of you.

“My keeper Mr. Cowan is a fine old fellow, a father to everyone. He is jolly and likes to cut up. When he called me tonight he saw your picture sitting on the shelf and wanted to know who it was. I said it’s a girlfriend of mine. The old fool thinks I’m going to get married now. Pretty good, isn’t it. I will keep your picture hid from now on.

“You know Estella, this is a fine place. No chance to get lonesome here and just think- 72 days vacation a year any time of year I want to go. I am going to take some pictures of this place and a snap or two of myself to send you.

“The tender is at Neah Bay now waiting for the sea to calm down so that it can get out to the Swiftsure light vessel and I hope they have a man aboard for here. I sent for a motor called a motor-go-something like an Evinrude for our lighthouse boat. We are planning on many trips this summer. It is only seven miles to Neah Bay, a small one-house [sic] town.

“I am on first watch tonight. It is about 10:45 PM - won’t be long before I can tumble into bed. Today I scrubbed my house, some job. I’ll be glad when I’m married. Then I’ll have carpets on the floor and no scrubbing but sweeping I suppose.

“As soon as my engine comes, I’m going to the Bay and get a setting of goose eggs and raise a few geese for eating. I will get some chickens from my father. I have a good chicken house here, but I’ve got to put up a new fence. Well, three more weeks here and I’ll start into spading and make a garden.

“Took in the show last night. It was pretty good. There are 8 young married couples here and one old couple, Mr. & Mrs. Cowan. Then there are some young bachelors. The whole population now is 30. Not so bad is it. There are two couples just been married and talk about being mushy, they sure are.

“Why, I expect to stay here 15 or 20 years, why did you want to know? Naw! I’m just joking, but I really can’t say just now. You see, Mr. Cowan retires in July 1924 and Mrs. Woods, 1st assistant’s wife, is beginning to howl at him to move off of here already, and he told me himself that he would leave here when Cowan left, so don’t you see girl, I’ll get keepership here, so I’ve got to hang on here for a while, but at the most, I wouldn’t stay here longer than three or four years. You see, I would stand a good chance for keeper here, then transfer.

“Well I’ll close, don’t forget me. Lovingly, Orlo”

~ To Be Continued ~

This story appeared in the Jul/Aug 2018 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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