Grade 9 class photo of Hollyburn School, West Vancouver.
West Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada


Life at the lighthouse was hard work but there was some time for play.
Point Atkinson, West Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada


Even though until recently Point Atkinson was a long distance from the more settled areas of West Vancouver, young people were not completely isolated. Often children's friends would come for a sleepover. Both Laurence Grafton and Jean Odlum remarked that visiting the lighthouse overnight was quite a thrill for many young people.


Laurence Grafton with fish.
Point Atkinson, West Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Courtesy of Brian Grafton.


There were some downsides to growing up at the lighthouse.

Norm Dawe remembers:
One thing that life on the lighthouse shorted me on, was my interaction with people. It made a loner out of me. You couldn't play [sports] in school. We got out of school and onto the bus and home. We didn't have radio, so you wouldn't listen to games as they do today or how the kids, they were always talking about the various hockey teams and so forth. My knowledge of that would be zilch. Today's kids, even on the remote [light] stations, television is right in the front room.


Sometimes, being the child of a lighthouse keeper was a lot of work.

Larry Grafton remembers collecting wood for the foghorn and the house:
Primarily all the wood came off the beach. When we were kids, we had to pack ten loads of wood off the beach on Saturdays. We had a boiler, washday on Monday. There were six tubs in the back shed. We had to fill the tubs with water, of course. One tub had a steam pipe right into it, for boiling clothes. Monday morning was quite a do!


Lightkeepers were required to keep the lighthouse in good condition.
Point Atkinson, West Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada


Norm Dawe remembers:
You would paint the house one year and the tower the next. We weren't that modern. That was even before the paint roller was invented-all brushed. From the top rail, you would rig a stage and clock and tackle on each side. You would haul it up to the top, and then climb on over the rail and get down onto the staging and lower your way down. Coffee time was when you got to the bottom-that took a while. Two of us would work, and in three days, we would have half a building done, as well as ourselves.


I Married the Keeper!

Light keepers' wives shared the life their husbands had chosen. Some took to the lighthouse lifestyle quickly, while others found it isolated and difficult. Lighthouses are often in isolated locations, which discouraged and disheartened some keeper's wives. Ann Woodward's distaste for lighthouse life led to the Woodwards' early resignation of their post.


Lighthouse boat used by keepers. Built in 1886.
Point Atkinson, West Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada


Norm Dawe remembers getting supplies:
At Atkinson, we rowed to Caulfield and there was a little Red & White store there. A.B. Cox, proprietor, he was quite a character. Then, of course, his prices were pretty high. Once in awhile, maybe once a month, dad would go … would go into Woodward's and get what they could carry. There was no such thing has having a car in those days… You would row to Caulfeild and from Caulfeild, you would walk up to the highway, Marine Drive, and you catch a Pacific Stage Bus into Vancouver. Before [the bridge] you would go … as far as Ambleside and then you would take the ferry…. In '39, when the bridge went over, then you would go by bus right into town. You would bring what you could in a shopping bag… Mostly canned food. There was no way, especially in the summer, no way of keeping anything remotely cool… we would fish to a certain extent.


Chicken house and garden.
Point Atkinson, West Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada


Others were not bothered by the isolation.

Jean Odlum remembers that Point Atkinson was not so different from other stations:
Because you are still isolated, nothing ha[d] changed except the location…. [You were still] in a situation where you can't get out… for a month at a time. Up north, our boat supply trips were once a month if the weather allowed. If the weather didn't allow, well, it was later…. We never minded that particularly. My larder was usually full of things that were usable, even if something else was lacking. There was always lots of coffee and tea and butter and that sort of thing…. We had a good garden at Atkinson and a fruit tree or two. We liked to grow our own stuff if we could. Besides, it's more reliable than once a month.


Keepers' wives took on many of the duties of an assistant in addition to the housework and mothering they were already responsible for.

Larry Grafton remembers his mother helping out:
Oh yes, that was part of her job. She just had to fill in whenever she was needed. I think she did [wind the lights].

Norm Dawe remembers:
Dad was without an assistant a lot of [the] time and he had to sleep, so mother would keep an eye open…