Terrible Tilly tales


Another blast from the past, a story about Oregon’s most intriguing lighthouse, Tillamook Rock, from Friday, May 3, 2013:

Ever wondered what it was like to live in the Tillamook Lighthouse when it was still operational? Thanks to Jim Furnish, who invited the Ear to lunch with Lon Haynes , a former lighthouse keeper on “Terrible Tilly” (pictured, lower left), the Ear had a chance to find out firsthand. Lon and his wife, Lavina, are pictured, upper left.

Coast Guardsman Lon was 18 or 19 when he was offered the post, and was taken aback when he realized it was on top of a rocky island. He had to get up to the lighthouse by breeches buoy, i.e. put on rubber pants attached to a line dangling from a boom attached to the island that jutted out over the boat. Then Oswald Allik, the last civilian lightkeeper, would swing the boom to hoist the hapless visitor onto “The Rock.”

Oswald got a bit slower as he got older. “One time I went into water with a cigarette in my mouth, hat on my head and a duffle bag, with Oswald on the boom,” Lon recalled, “and that’s the way I came out.”

Pictured right, from left, Oswald, Alan Richards and Lon, in a photo taken in front of the lighthouse.

Lon was stationed there for six weeks on and three weeks off for 20 months. “During storms, the waves came,” he said. “You’d hear a thump, count to four or five, then you would see the green water. Every third one or so came over the lighthouse.”

Sometimes the waves would even pick up rocks from below and hurl them through the light tower. Even so, Lon admitted that he’d go out for a quick look between waves, not even thinking of the danger.

Two of the highlights of his stay were the attic full of magazines to peruse (dating from the 1800s through World War II), and having a cozy private room with 3-foot thick walls that kept out the sound of the foghorn.

Lon’s detailed account of daily life on Terrible Tilly (with photos) can be found at http://tinyurl.com/tillyrock. The lighthouse is now both dark and silent, but fortunately, Lon’s memories help keep its history alive.

— Elleda Wilson