Imagine a world of people deprived of modern conveniences - no telephone, television, radio or plumbing. Imagine a landscape stripped of trees, shrubbery, and fields, with only a scattering of grass desperately creeping out from between the rocks. Imagine living in a world where you can count every inhabitant with your fingers and toes.
Edwina Davis doesn't need to imagine such a place; she can remember it. Until graduating from Cape Elizabeth High School in 1927, Davis lived with her family in a series of lighthouses from Jonesport to Cape Porpoise. Did she ever look around her and say, "Oh my God, I'm out in the middle of nowhere"?
"We never gave it a thought," she said at her home in Cape Porpoise, where she has resided since 1971. "It was the only life we knew, and we enjoyed it."
Davis was born in 1907 when her father, Capt. James Anderson, obtained his first position as an assistant lighthouse keeper at the Moose Peak Light on Mistake Island off Jonesport, 35 miles east of Mt. Desert Island. She spent the first six years of her life on Moose Peak, until her family moved into a house on the mainland.
In 1915, the Anderson family moved from Jonesport to the lighthouse on Matinicus Rock, 25 miles offshore from Rockland. The head keeper and three assistant keepers, Anderson one of them, lived on the barren island with their families, totaling 17 people. The Anderson children - Kathleen, Robert, Edwina and Betty - amused themselves with the other kids on Matinicus.
"We did whatever nature would let us do," said Davis. "Even though we were 25 miles out to sea, we weren't lonesome. We didn't have to come ashore to be entertained because we could entertain ourselves."
While inside, they played various card games and read piles of books. Weather permitting, the children played outside, although the lack of open pastures prevented them from playing traditional ball games. Swimming was hardly an option ("The water was too darned cold"), so they explored the rocky terrain, which often got them into trouble, although not with their parents.
"There was no grass, so the Medrick gulls hid their eggs in the crevices of the rocks every spring," said Davis. "It was the kids' fashion to get down and get ahold of those eggs. The mothers protecting those eggs, well, they'd peck you all over, especially your head. By golly, your head would be sore!"
Another popular outdoor activity was squid-hunting. "We'd look between the rocks for them," said Davis, "sometimes for something to do, sometimes to sell to the fishermen."