Digest>Archives> May/Jun 2017

Light Keeper’s Tomfoolery

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Thomas Frank Faulkingham is shown here wearing ...

Thomas Frank Faulkingham was born to John F. and Lucy (Lowell) Faulkingham on November 16, 1890 in Jonesport, Maine. Frank Faulkingham joined the U.S. Lighthouse Service in 1919, and he first served as a lighthouse keeper at Saddleback Ledge Lighthouse, followed by stints at Great Duck Island Lighthouse, White Island Lighthouse, Moose Peak Lighthouse, and finally at Baker Island Lighthouse in the Cranberry Isles, where he ended his lighthouse career in the early 1940s. Frank Faulkingham and his wife, Olive, had three children: Mina R., Myrtle Louilla, and John Riley.

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Olive Faulkingham, wife of lighthouse keeper ...

Throughout the annals of time, there are hundreds of stories about the lighthouse keepers, but the actual number of stories about much of their personal lives have either been overshadowed by their lighthouse exploits or simply been forgotten over time.

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When the Coast Guard took over the Lighthouse ...

But this is not the case with some unusual personal recollections that were shared with us by Ralph Stanley about lighthouse keeper Thomas Frank Faulkingham, who was known most of his entire life as Frank Faulkingham.

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Frank Faulkingham’s close friend, Bert Birlem is ...

“For many years, Frank Faulkingham’s drinking buddy was a guy named Bert Birlem who worked for a Miss Underwood, a summer lady of Southwest Harbor, Maine. Ralph recalled, “Bert sailed her in his motorboat and I say ‘his’ as I am not sure if she owned the boat or not. She also had a 1940 or ‘41 eight cylinder Packard automobile that Bert also used as his own. When he sailed her boat he wore a captain’s uniform and when he drove her car he wore a chauffer’s uniform. Bert was fairly old at this time and he was not the best driver. He would race the motor and ride the clutch. Needless to say he went through a lot of new clutches. I was 17 years old at time and Bert with Frank would often get me to drive them to Bar Harbor to the State Liquor Store. After they made their purchases, I would have to drive them somewhere outback while they had a drink. On the way home they would have me pull over so they could have another drink.

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Moose Peak Lighthouse, off the coast of ...

“Bert’s daughter lived in Brewer and one day she called Bert to get someone to help her move some furniture so, of course, he got Frank to come along and help. On their way to Brewer they had to stop in Ellsworth at the State Liquor Store, and have a drink or two to get them on their way. At North Ellsworth there was a very sharp corner. Bert didn’t make the corner and drove off into a field. He tried to back up but the wheels would just spin in the mud. So, they decided the best thing to do was have another drink and try again. Each unsuccessful try warranted another drink. Finally, someone noticed the motor roaring with smoke billowing from the clutch burning and called the Maine State Police. The nearest state trooper was about 30 miles away and by the time he got there Bert had fallen to sleep but Frank was pretty stubborn and refused to get out of the car. In the process Frank kicked the trooper with his one of his fisherman’s boots. The State Trooper finally got both men into the police car and brought them to the Hancock County Jail in Ellsworth. Bert’s daughter came down to bail them out, but they had both gone to sleep so she left them there till the next morning.

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1940 Packard.

“One time Miss Underwood called Bert to come to Boston about some business matter. It was winter so he got Frank to come along and they took the train to Ellsworth. Of course they stopped at the liquor store in preparation for the trip. By the time they got to North Station they were pretty well over the bay and Bert met with an accident in his long drawers. Frank got him into the men’s room and washed Bert’s drawers in the lavatory and hung them over the radiator to dry. They didn’t have much time, so Bert put them on, still pretty wet. When they got to Miss Underwood’s house, there was Bert in his captain’s uniform all wet and Frank was in his light keeper’s uniform with his rubber fisherman’s boots. Miss Underwood exclaimed, ‘“Did you have a rough trip down Captain?”’ She thought they had come down by sea in the boat.

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Maine’s Baker Island Lighthouse where Thomas ...

“While Frank Faulkingham was the keeper at Baker Island Lighthouse he had a house built in Southwest Harbor. I believe that his wife, Olive, did not live at Baker Island because their daughter, Myrtle Louilla, went to school in Southwest Harbor. At some point, after retiring from the Lighthouse Service, Frank worked for a summer family at Sutton Island with their boats and caring for their cottage. Eventually he had a lobster boat built in Jonesport but he never did much fishing.

“About the mid-1950s, Frank Faulkingham and his wife operated a lunchroom at Clark Point near the boatyard and the Coast Guard base in Southwest Harbor. I think they did pretty well with the business. They leased the building with the stipulation that no liquor would be sold there. Frank would open the place early on Sunday mornings and some of his buddies would gather and have coffee and doughnuts, but it wouldn’t be long before some adult beverage would appear. Somehow, Frank’s daughter, Myrtle, had found out what was going on. She burst through the door and tore into him about having liquor there. One of the fellows, who had left shortly before that to get something special for Frank, arrived back during her lecture and stood behind her holding a glass. Frank reached over her shoulder, took the glass and started sipping it. Myrtle was so intent on her lecture that she didn’t even notice.

“Later in life Frank and Olive joined the Mormon Church and he never drank another drop.”

This story appeared in the May/Jun 2017 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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