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Memories of Granite Rock - (Granite Island Light Station)

Note sent by Bob Mackreth, Park Historian, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore to Scott Holman, Granite Island Light Station, LLC after hearing Mr. Holman's presentation to the Historic Preservation Network - Lighthouse Project in Mackinaw City, MI on June 2, 2001:
"First, I thought I'd let you know that in our park files, we have a short, typewritten document called "Lighthouse memories," by Grant W. Kirkendall. Grant was the son of John Kirkendall, who served as assistant keeper at Granite Island. The essay only has about a page-and-a-half about Grant's childhood memories of Granite Island, but it does include some amusing information."

Lighthouse Memories, by Grant W. Kirkendall,
provided by Bob Mackreth, Park Historian, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore:

(The essay has been abbreviated to include only Mr. Kirkendall's Granite Island memories)

Growing up in and around lighthouses was a unique and wonderful way to go through childhood. There always seemed to be things to do including the normal chores, such as, mowing the lawn, weeding the garden and flower beds, or picking potato bugs. But the playtimes were the best. Playing pirate, frontier scout, swimming, hunting agates, or just waking through the woods or along the beach. Although there might not be other children around, if you had an active imagination, you were never alone.

Romayne, my sister, was two years older, but we would play together. I'd play dolls with her and she would play cars with me. We didn't always get along, but most of the time we were on good terms.

Of the six lighthouses that we lived or spent summers at, I think my favorites were Iroquois Point, Michigan Island and Rock of Ages. We spent only one night at Rock of Ages and the summer at Isle Royale in Washington Harbor on Booth Island.

Growing up in the lighthouses was fun and sometimes hard work, but looking back, I wouldn't change a thing (even the mischief that I occasionally got into).

I have listed the lighthouses that dad was stationed at and some of the things I remember about each place:

Au Sable 1925 - 19??, Granite Rock 19?? - 1931, Iroquois Point 1931 - 1933, Michigan Island 1933 - 1935, Rock of Ages 1936 - 1939, Superior Entry 1939 - 1951

Granite Rock 19?? - 1931 (Note: 1st year was June 20 to September 1, 1930)
I don't know what year dad went to Granite Rock (it's also called Granite Island). It's the first lighthouse I remember. The keeper's name was Taylor. I remember Granite as a very unique place. There wasn't much soil. The few places that held any dirt were thick with brush.

One thing that sticks out in my mind was the bell tower, which was the fog signal. There was a clockwork motor and counter weight, which had to be wound to the top to ring the bell.

I remember Mr. Taylor saying that the bell tower had to be painted. Being the favorite roosting spot for the hundreds of seagulls, I told Mr. Taylor that he wouldn't have to point it. The seagulls would do it for him. My parents were mortified that I would say such a thing and made me apologize to him.

Dad had a 24-foot open boat that he would use to make trips into Marquette for supplies. One trip going back to the island, it was raining. Dad put up the spray hood and covered Romayne and I with a tarp along with the supplies. It was a little choppy so Romayne and I got a little queasy. Every once in awhile one of us would pop our head out to throw up. Dad called it going to Europe.

Once some fishermen stopped at the island with motor trouble. It seemed that the water intake on the motor was plugged with horse manure. How it got there nobody knew.

Dad was always thinking of different kinds of amusements. One thing I remember was the toad picnic. He'd lay out a sheet of flypaper on the ground and then collected a bunch of toads and set them around the paper. Of course, the paper drew flies and the toads had a feast.

He cleaned out a rock pool alongside the launchway for Romayne and I to wade in. I had a vivid imagination. One time, I'm not sure why, but I thought I saw some kind of animal in the pool and I wouldn't go near it. There must have been a rock sticking up that I took to be the animal's head.

When the Amaranth came, the coal for the furnace had to be carried up the stairs from the dock to the house in canvas bags. They'd dump each bag in the coal bin and then go down to refill them. It was a long process. All the supplies had to be carried up those stairs.

When the inspectors came around it was a rather traumatic experience. Some of them would wear white gloves and run their hand over the top of the door frames and windows looking for dust.

Fall, winter, and spring we lived in Marquette. We rented a house from Mrs. Cleery, a widow, whose husband had been a lighthouse keeper. We lived close to the Marquette lighthouse.

One thing that slipped my mind. When the boat couldn't be landed at the dock and pulled up the launchway, they would land at the other side of the island where there was a concrete platform and a davit. They would hook up the boat and raise it and set it on the platform.

Outhouse junior size

Evidence that facilities were made available for the Kirkendall's stay at Granite Island.

(Junior Size)

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