In 1999, I made my first trip to Oregon and visited several of its lighthouses along the west coast. One of those lighthouses was the Umpqua River Lighthouse. Upon arrival, I took the above picture of the lighthouse with the curtain pulled around its lens. Little did I know at the time, I would later return to the lighthouse and work as a tour guide for two consecutive summers. It wasn’t until my first summer there in 2004, I learned the curtain was pulled in order to prevent a possible fire from occurring to surrounding buildings and trees. Pulling the curtain was done at times when the Coast Guard shut down the lens for maintenance, otherwise that light operated twenty four hours a day seven days a week.
The opportunity to work as a tour guide enabled me to learn much about that lighthouse’s history and the tasks performed by keepers in doing their job. This knowledge, along with encouragement from my late wife, inspired me to write a book titled, “The Wickie.” In the book, my characters talked about working with a curtain in the lantern room. In my 1857 story and throughout years later, the lights had to be operational from thirty minutes before dusk until thirty minutes after daylight the next morning . Otherwise, the lens was covered with “the curtain.” Although the genre is fiction, the book is based on actual events that occurred in the life of lighthouse keepers. So, whether you’ve read my book or you will read it in the future, you now have a better picture in your mind of the lighthouse curtain.